We are at the losing end

The public deserves an answer about the money and resources wasted on ill-conceived schemes.


Mohammed Rizwan August 29, 2012

Raja Riaz, the leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, has written to the Speaker, requesting that a medical board be constituted to examine the mental health of the chief minister.

The abysmal language used in the letter demonstrates that its three authors – Riaz, Shaukat Basra and Zulfiqar Gondal – did not receive a good education. The letter also lists the Punjab government’s initiatives that, according to authors, are examples of bad decisions of a ‘mentally unstable’ chief minister. The statement itself is not worthy of being taken seriously but nor do Shahbaz Sharif’s four and a half years in government support the view that he has been “the best administrator since Ashoka”, something his cronies would have us believe.

The list of his failures is long. The public deserves an answer about the money and resources wasted on ill-conceived schemes like Sasti Roti, food stamps, Danish Schools, laptops and yellow cabs. Billions were callously spent, and lost, in these schemes without any accountability. The last five budgets saw the chief minister using an increasing proportion of Annual Development Plans – amounting to approximately Rs10 billion – as block allocation (the funds he can spend at his own sweet discretion). Education and health facilities have continued to deplete under his charge and the law and order situation has deteriorated.

Had the money been spent wisely, it could have made a visible impact on people’s lives but all that people got was images of him smiling.

Enough about the Khadim-i-Aala. What made things worse was the opposition in the Punjab Assembly. Its leader Raja Riaz is a cruel joke played on the people of Punjab by the PPP.

The gentleman is unpopular and unknown. His manners are unpolished and he lacks political acumen. Legislation, parliamentary business and house debates are not his forte; he does not come to the assembly regularly and when he does, he finds a pretext to walk out.

After reading his letter to the Speaker, it is evident that English, the official language, is not one he is comfortable with. That of course does not discredit him as a politician right away. Politicians like Arif Nakai, Ghulam Haider Wyne, Manzoor Wattoo and several others were not known for their command of English but they did possess good political sense and leadership skills, which are missing in Riaz.

So who’s the loser? Not Shahbaz Sharif, who has enjoyed a full tenure as chief minister, and certainly not Raja Riaz. The real losers have been the people of the Punjab.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2012.

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