Saturday, 3 August 2013

Political Stage - Curtain Raiser


The mayhem of Election 2103 can be sung in to the songs of heroes - whose melody fades away into the cascade of “elected warriors” – battling for forsaken ground and then claim to be our parliamentarians! We were fooled in the name of ECP’s transparent electoral system, like a desert’s mirage, quenching the thirst of citizens waiting for a change! Henceforth, who would want to accept the “true spirit of democracy”, where we pay taxes to the government, but in return do not get a peaceful night’s sleep!

The citizens being oblivious of the past, present and future where they hold faint memories of pre-poll rigging, dharnas, ECP confused statements, corruption at its zenith to mould the results, returning officers given a free ride ticket to “engineer” the results and by and large, irony being that the election process is still un-complete. Though common man has lost interest now, as to “who is who”, all he yearns for is “who will solve the problems of our country?” The incessant power crisis, tax burden, clean water issues, lack of health facilities, ever rising unemployment, literacy rate at lowest ebb – a common man’s dream to own a house of his own, shall remain an impossible path to follow on this political stage happenings!

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;  William Shakespeare, As You Like it, 2/7

The exit of the past PPP government and the entrance of the PML (N) government have set a stage for the players of the political market. As soon as 1st June 2013, Saturday, dawned – one could see a parade of politicians walking on the aisle of the red carpet of the parliament house for their first session. The glitz and glamour posed to reflect the Lux Life Style Awards, with only “differed cost” of the clothing, watches, hand bags, pens on the desk, smart phones and a trail of personal secretaries with each MNA. It was a rare sight to see all MNAs in full attendance, all in the “who is who” syndrome! But in heart looking out that some one interviews them and also look at their wardrobe selection! Alas, if they could be serious about “parliamentary legislative business” as they were about their 1st day curtain raiser session. If you ask anyone for their future plans, they either said “follow my secretary” on the phone or “give us time to think” we have just come, it’s our 1st day!” One MNA boasted that she has a line of TV talk shows till whole week, so she does not have time to speak!

The 2nd June 2013 was Sunday and most of the MNAs were found lounging with their outstation guests and family members in murree or enjoying their space in the parliament lodges. The exit players still in possession of few accomodations, have left the Habib Rafiq builders to carry on the “extension of the parliament lodges!” Do you think our parliamentarians need lodges or a mind set to give common man means of survival and housing schemes? – We do not need bahria towns on the stage, but a spirit and will by the parliamentarians to build common man towns!

The 3rd June 2013, Monday, saw the arrival of Speaker and Deputy Speaker – with a wave down to Dr Fehmida Mirza. Indeed she looked graceful, yet thoughtful (as if her thoughts encircled around being the First Female Speaker of the Assembly). The resounding of the claps in the parliament house for her, showed the respect she had earned in the eyes of the public. And not to forget on 5th June 2013 - Wednesday, when Javed Hashmi claimed that “PM Nawaz Shareef” was his leader yesterday and even today. It was beyond any sane mind’s comprehension that how could he even take care of his constituency, let alone struggle for our country- when he can’t even watch his words in Live NA session. Same day on 5th June, 2013, evening - The PM Oath taking ceremony was fabulous and a treat to watch!

Beyond the trumpets being blown, a fleet of protocol uniformed men - welcomed Mian Nawaz Shareef as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. President Zardari shook the hands with such warmth, that PM Nawaz Shareef must have thought “Am I really in the Presidency House for the oath?” As soon as he was sworn in, it took a while to raise the curtain of his “kitchen cabinet” and the people seen in it – were mostly a predetermined clan of “grand dad” politics.The political stage is now at the zenith of “changing hands” where last minute projects are handed over to the highest bidders of under the table cash inflow. The Chairmans’ and the MDs’ of various organizations are appointed on a “HR Transparent basis” which is counter signed with the “political pen.” The jumps are seen in the capital city, mainly in the bureaucracy set up, which gets a “blended shakeup” as the curtain is raised of the PML(N) government. The greatest high jumps are see in the State TV (PTV) and long junps in the State Radio (PBC). The classical strategy is to “freeze” the hiring and then to “shuffle and change” the designations – with an aim to appease the “political players.” The Ministry of Finance takes the 1st segment in lead acting (Budget for the people, of the people, by the Government actors) - assigning the role of lip movements to various bureaucrats, where in case of any slip of the tongue, the supporting actors – still carry on the political drama on the stage: with the rest awaiting the “intra-credit” budget allocations to respective ministries.

Let us assume for a moment that the best ironical part of curtain raiser will be witnessed on the political stage, when the bounce back of “General pendulum” will strike out the kings of the “political chess”. So PM Nawaz Shareef should be on “red alert” from the lessons learned from “Strikes of the Generals.” Also, removing the WAPDA chairman- will not solve the power crisis, the Federal Minister Khawaja Asif, needs to look over and above the WAPDA and KESC as now the “trust deficit” existing among the minds of citizens wait for a solution- not a press conference! And what will happen back in the Scotland Yard will surely be the cause of more strikes in Karachi. Whatever hatches or is made to hatch on the political front on the scenario of Karachi – PM Nawaz Shareef should not ignore it and say “we are coming with a bullet train to launch “metro buses” in Sindh”. The thunder of Bolan Medical Complex will be a noise maker in our terrorist feat- only to remind us that the parliamentarians that day were too busy to even notice what was happening- till the electronic media shook them out of their dome! The rubbles of Ziarat Residency is a slap on our faces that we all are passer bys of what is going wrong will be more wronged – until we all stand and be a reflection of our “conscience revolution!” 
As ramzaan and price hike will keep citizens occupied, the parliamentarians will be busy in holding iftar dinners and discussing on how to “blind fold” the public on various issues! The permanent blind fold being the power crisis which is just a number game of “Watts” for the policy makers. Behind the curtain remain the upcoming issues in darkness: baldiati nizam, how to say “no to drone attacks”, making water available for public and the ever green issue of “yes, who will curb power crisis and when?”  If they could hold more discussions on good governance and implement it, then the wishful thinking of common man to have a 24 hrs water / electricity in their homes will be realized. But alas- this is not so and we are left alone to re-think the definition of “democracy” in imperfect economic environment – where left wingers have become sizzling zingers!

However, we are accustomed to accept whether we cry, shout or protest (beautiful example of inelastic democracy) is to humbly say: “Aye, Aye Sir! - You are, our respected Parliamentarians” – the fact is that senators and elected members are here to stay at the parliament lodges (mostly on our cheques without any checks)! So we need to look into the aspect that “world is a stage” and our politicians and parliamentarians are merely players (who plays with the emotions of the common man) and then vanishes at eleventh hour (like Cinderellas searching for pumpkins), before the clock strikes midnight!

A half- hearted, democratic led nation only yearns for a “solution!” They look towards the parliament house for constructive “legislative business” so that they can flash “green passports” with pride (only if they get printed on time!). The fact remains that they are here to stay to raise the curtain as mere players, whether for 5 years or lesser or a period chosen by Generals’ - we as citizens of Pakistan can only wait for another show case of our parliamentarians talent.



Kanwal Abidi

* Freelance Journalist / Political Analyst, Associate Chartered Banker (UK) and a Social Activist (Founding member of Mishal Welfare Trust)