Sunday, November 14, 2010


Young Abdur Rahman held forth at length on what he perceived to be hopeful happenings that occurred last month in the Islamic Republic.
He opened up with the wild rumour brought to us courtesy a couple of Musharraf-freed television channels which had informed a wide-eyed nation, ever on the lookout for juicy tidbits, that the federal government was about to revoke the notification appointing the chief justice of Pakistan and other judges of the Supreme Court.
He was impressed with the manner in which our wooden prime minister had dealt with an awkward situation — appeared on television, flanked by members of his party and coalition, and called for the country and judiciary to respect the office (if not the person) of the prime minister.
This led to the backtracking of the judiciary on what he termed its `latest offensive against the government` and the consequent death of the issue. The usual channels did not come into play, and in his experience this was the first time that an elected government had used the media as a basis to convey its position to the judiciary, the first time that parliament had not attempted to browbeat the judiciary and had treated it as an equal — a step forward.
To many, was my response, the reaction of the judiciary had left much to be desired as its members had rushed to their panic stations rather than holding back and cogitating.
He continued by praising the Supreme Court for having honoured the institution of parliament and rather than striking down portions of the 18th Amendment, whilst hearing the various petitions brought against it, simply passing an interim order requesting parliament to reconsider the thorny issue of the appointment of judges.
The court, instead of appeasing the bar associations, treated parliament as an equal. Fine, but the Supreme Court has taken to doing a bit of pussyfooting when it comes to dealing with constitutional issues and seems to be shying away from taking decisions.
How long will these cases linger, I asked, for how long will the court be tied up with amendments and the most unlawful and despicable NRO without finishing off matters so that it can get on with giving some relief to the hard-pressed public? As long as it takes for this young court to establish itself in letter and spirit under the constitution, he replied.
Next came his feeling that through various innocuous statements the prime minister (who can but follow the line taken by his party chief) ignoring the provocative sayings of the opposition in the form of Mian Nawaz Sharif, who it must be admitted these days seems not to know whether he is coming or going, nor exactly where he is, had embarked upon an election campaign with the completion of the five-year term in mind. This was difficult to swallow as one must wonder as to what will be left of this country come the next round of voting if this present government continues on its merry way, sinking us deeper and deeper into a morass of misgovernance and corruption. The concentration has to be on survival rather than on future action.
Happy was my young friend with the withdrawal of the controversial IDP tax imposed on the service sector to the exclusion of all others so as to allow the federation access to money to rehabilitate those displaced by the army action up north.
This was a popular move with the failing industrialists and business people — a tax refund being a `first` in living memory, said he. So be it — but the government is planning to wallop us few taxpayers with a GST and a flood surcharge and heaven knows what else, so it is difficult to wax lyrical over that one. No, said he, the opposition will not let it happen. That is the magic of democracy!
We must all agree with Abdur`s final burst of optimism — the rather startling admission by the prime minister that the nationalisation of schools by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had been a mistake. The most progressive statement by any politician for decades, and one that could have aroused the wrath of his party — but then the PPP-Z has little to do with the party of the 1970s. He saw it as a continuation of an apparent election campaign.
Now, just what does the prime minister intend to do about this? Will he act, or will it remain one of those off-the-cuff remarks? A start would be to develop a policy to denationalise higher education across the country — institutions such as the Punjab, Karachi and Peshawar universities, Habib Public School, Burns Hall, are just a few that could as soon as possible be denationalised and regulated towards standards rather than intake.
Against all this, to be cited is the prime ministerial pronouncement that each parliamentarian, regardless of how many plots, houses, land acreages, bank accounts he/she may possess is to be given a plot of land. Was it a joke? What is not a joke is the news that the prime minister has spent Rs74m on the renovation of his house — in keeping with the obscene lifestyles our begging-bowl-in-hand politicos go out of their way to project. n
To we who have lived long enough to witness the annihilation of Jinnah`s Pakistan, the wickedness, the bigotry and the political wasteland that surrounds us leaves us little scope for hope.

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