A wider net

It is time net is cast wider not for political point-scoring but more for a genuine attempt at bringing guilty to book

Kamal Siddiqi June 21, 2015
The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

The decision by the law-enforcement agencies to start raiding offices of the Sindh government has not been taken well by our former president and his party’s leadership. Media reports suggest that his recent outburst against the security establishment comes at a time when there are fears that a wider net will be cast.

The PPP leader has accused the establishment of tarnishing his personal image as well as and his party’s image, threatening to bring the country to a standstill if the “character assassination” does not stop. This is the second party that has been targeted under the present operation.

There are those who suggest that this is a last-ditch attempt by the party leadership to reinvent its image in the eyes of the electorate. Some have argued that it is a matter of principle. One can only wonder what principles are at stake with a party that has bent and broken rules at whim.

While the prime minister has cancelled an initial meeting with the PPP leadership, other parties have rallied behind. There is still the fear that what was once the most popular party across the country may now not only be isolated but may also become irrelevant.

Already, the PPP has suffered electoral losses — whether in the recently concluded Gilgit-Baltistan elections or the more chaotic local bodies polls in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The way things stand, the party has been restricted to Sindh, where it has ruled uninterrupted for over a decade. If one is to look at its performance over this period, it is a wonder that the party is still standing.

There is very little sympathy at this point for the party leadership or what it calls character assassination. The threat to bring the country to a standstill also remains to be seen — given the lack of popular support for the party, with the exception of Sindh where the voter has no other choice.

For those who are in any doubt about what stand to take, the best thing to do is to take a trip to Sindh and see how the party has destroyed its own home province over the past several years.

The vibrant city of Karachi, from where yields a sizeable amount in federal and local taxes and is supposed to be the economic hub of the country, has been reduced to a dysfunctional and chaotic slum. People fondly remember the days of Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal who helped re-energise the city and made it somewhat functional. He may have not done all that he claimed but at least people were hopeful things would get better. The PPP government came and reversed all that as if to teach a lesson to the people of Karachi.

Over the years, under the PPP government, crime and corruption are at their peak. Everyone who gets a chance wants to milk the city for what its worth.

Take, for example, the shortage of water in Karachi. Not because there isn’t enough to go around but because someone powerful wants to make money. The traffic police as well as the local police force extract millions in bhattas and bribes from the hapless populace, not only for themselves but for their elected representatives too.

Some police stations have more personnel dedicated to VIP duty than they have to regular policing. The only thing that goes in favour of the city is the will of the people to survive. But how long will the people live on optimism?

In the smaller towns of Sindh, things only get worse. In parts of the province, roads which were once functional have all but disappeared. Hospitals, clinics, schools and BHUs have vanished or have been taken over by the rich and powerful.

Thousands of children have no school to go to. It is a government without shame. It denied that there was a famine in Sindh and forcibly stopped doctors from a medical college to go and assess the damage. They were actually beaten up. Hundreds of children have died but the CM says that all is well.

Things need to change for the better. The political alternatives, in fact, may be worse. It is time the net is cast wider not for political point-scoring but more for a genuine attempt at bringing the guilty to book. That should be the first step.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd,  2015.

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S.R.H. Hashmi | 6 years ago | Reply @Tariq: Of course, for the sorry state that Pakistan and Pakistanis find themselves in has been brought on them both by the over-ambitious military dictators and corrupt politicians, and indeed military personnel have not proved to be just saints and angels. This was Ayub Khan who started the rot by overthrowing a civilian government and through his mistreatment of Bengalese, created circumstances for the dismemberment of Pakistan which was presided over by another Gen. Yahya Khan, though Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s refusal to accept Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s overwhelming mandate, and Yahya Khan pressure on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and not on ZAB proved to be final cause. And we are now seeing the harvest, the seeds of which sowed by another General Ziaul Haq . And through National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), Gen. Musharraf imposed back on us the corrupt and inept politicians who have been enriching themselves at the cost of the country and the suffering masses. However, Gen. Musharraf gave us strong local governments which, under the able leadership of young Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal brought spectacular improvement in Karachi which earned him the title of being the Second Best Mayor in the World. And the civilian government reversed the progress by stripping the Sindh Local Government Act of all powers (and the accompanying financial resources) and has not held the local government elections even under this much diluted SLGA. Just fancy a city like Karachi with population of over twenty-five million by some estimates deprived of an empowered local government and being run by remote control from interior Sindh. I believe that democracy is the right system for Pakistan, though in order to achieve the real benefits of it, we have to ensure that the right type of people enter the assemblies, and the known offenders are screened out. And my comment clearly spells that out. The present apolitical army chief seems to have a strong desire to clean up Pakistan at all levels and also has the necessary powers to make that happen. I did not request the army chief to take over government but to purge the system of corrupt, inept, traditional offenders and then hand over the government back to honest and capable elected representatives. Karachi
Tariq | 6 years ago | Reply @S.R.H. Hashmi: In any country or society where there is no punishment for crime, lawlessness will prevail. Problem is not just with civil politicians, but also with military dictators like Musharraf who ruled for over 8 years and did nothing concrete such as providing clean water flowing through taps in Karachi. Remember Tanker Mafia originated in DHAl long before it spread to other parts of city. In DHA Karachi it were their officials involved in Water Tanker Mafia.
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