Demographic changes in parts of Sindh, ushered in by the seething turbulence that followed the devastating floods, have heightened ethnic tensions and produced bucketfuls of new-age anxiety in its largest city. While wheat production may not be affected, there is a lurking danger that shortages of other kinds of food caused by depleted harvests might in the near future trigger off a string of protests and riots — unless the government steps in and ensures that adequate supplies are procured from abroad and the supply pipeline is not snapped.
Karachi has had a taste of what a rampaging mob can do when on a mission of destruction. Each strike exudes its own freshly minted terror, and law-enforcement agencies display a remarkable flair for arriving after the killing and looting has taken place. One thing is, however, clear. The idea that the privileged class will continue to live like nineteenth century crofters is intellectual silage. They will be as vulnerable as the other classes.
A state of functional anarchy has existed in this country for a number of years, and there is precious little that the president, the prime minister and the battalion of MNAs, senators, MPAs and other beneficiaries of the system, can do to stem the tide. Unless, of course, they suddenly wake up to the fact that they were elected or nominated for a specific purpose, to serve the people and not to sit in parliament and exchange barbs and question each other’s credentials.
If anybody is wondering why the finance minister has said that the country is on the brink of bankruptcy and should stop borrowing from the State Bank, they should take a peek at the cost of democracy. In five years, 342 MNAs will cost the exchequer a minimum of 5,472,000,000 rupees. One shudders to think what the tally will be when one throws in the cost of senators and MPAs. The sad thing is that the people no longer have any expectations from parliamentarians. These functionaries appear to be trapped by routine and ritual and while some aspire to a kind of antiseptic political correctness, the defining characteristic of the overwhelming majority is a vaunting self-regard without the merest glimmer of insight.
While the National Assembly reaffirmed at lightning speed their resolve to continue with the democratic system, not a single person in the senate, not even the ones with genuine academic degrees, has gotten up, grabbed the mike, thumped the table and said, “Whatever happened to rule of law?”
So what are the assemblies, which are costing tax payers billions of rupees a year, going to do when they have a corrupt feudal elite, a corrupt and ineffective bureaucracy, a lack of infrastructure, a weak civil society, and the presence of radical religious extremism and terrorism emerging from the rage and despair of a people betrayed by its leaders?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2010.