A pathetic showing

256
Zaheer Bhatti

RATHER than be seized of the hybrid war being imposed upon Pakistan and heed the caution put forward by the Army Chief and demonstrate unison, the so-called people’s representatives yet again displayed their distinct lack of political maturity in the ruckus they created on the floor of the Upper House, which was to deliberate over the Amendment Bill relating to the Senate elections tabled by the Treasury Benches recommending an Open rather than the Secret ballot presently in vogue; no wonder the Government resorts to Ordinances when even a debate on National Issues besides regional and global socio-economic and political challenges being faced by the Country, is thwarted.

Regardless of the Government experience where Asif Zardari’s manoeuvring had cost PTI the Senate chairmanship, which with its numbers it ought to have won hands down, secret ballot is an enigma and a blot upon freedom of choice and expression in a true democracy where like in the United States one commonly witnesses dissent and crossing of the floor according to individual conscience on matters of national interest without any hindrance from one’s own Party; former US President Donald Trump’s impeachment and expression of disagreement with him by several Republican Congressmen with him on various Issues, being recent examples.

Both sides of the political divide are to blame for this ugly impasse; the Government by its conduct of traditional bulldozing and rubber stamping its requirement through Presidential Ordinances rather than following the Parliamentary course; continually shrinking space for the Opposition with a clearly partisan Speaker in the National Assembly, although a relatively balanced Chairman of the Senate, and the Opposition pushed to the wall by constant bashing on account of corruption which the Government has all along alleged carrying out only media trial but failing to prove in a Court of Law or through its infamous National Accountability Bureau which has been criticized for its scores of fault lines including biases pointed out by the media, the general public, the Opposition and even the higher judiciary which has severally lambasted its performance, while its Chairman keeps gloating about its unsubstantiated mission of cleansing and peanuts recovered compared to enormity of the loot.

Amid this unfortunate stalemate, national issues are relegated and ignored; be they reformation of the Accountability Body to make it potent, raising productivity or proactively addressing the core issue of Kashmir, over which in order to give it meaning and substance, both Houses of Parliament on that day the 4th of February, instead of indulging in foul-mouthing, mudslinging and slander blaming each other, ought to have jointly ironed out a comprehensive Resolution and a Dossier for the UN Security Council to be presented the following day the 5th of February, which was to be observed as the Kashmir Solidarity Day; reminding it of its obligation of a plebiscite to alleviate the suffering of Kashmir.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Sheheryar Afridi’s declaration that day amid presentations by a galaxy of noted analysts at a Seminar on ‘Emerging dynamics of the Kashmir Issue; predicaments and prospects’, that the Parliament would act at the new Centre to push the Kashmir discourse, although well-intended and focused on the Pakistani youth efforts, looked a far cry in the backdrop of the pandemonium witnessed in the Upper House the other day, which must have gladdened Pakistan’s detractors.
Occasions such as these have time and again gone by default while India despite criticism has gone ahead with unilateral annexation of its occupied territory of Kashmir unleashing a reign of terror over Kashmiri Muslims and going ahead with its planned demographic change by forced settlement of non-Muslims and Pakistan which ought to have immediately scrapped the Tashkent and Simla Accords and pressed for implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions of a plebiscite in Kashmir, has done nothing concrete except the Prime Minister raising the issue at the UN General Assembly and the Opposition blaming the Government but failing to look themselves in the mirror having shoved the issue under the carpet during their own tenures.

Worst still, our people’s representatives are oblivious of lethal developments even on the home front; the Opposition bent upon rolling back democracy and the Government mortgaging national assets to raise desperately needed funds which it has failed to generate through productivity, narrowly saving itself of embarrassment when it warded off using the F-9 Fatima Jinnah National Park in Islamabad as collateral for a loan. Despite the economic crunch, the Government like all previous ones refuses to cut down on its non-development expenditure over re-employment of retired favoured individuals on unthinkably fat salaries with excessive perks and privileges while they continue to draw pension and superannuation benefits. That while prime national assets such as the Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Railways and the Pakistan Steel Mills are going down the drain, the State machinery finds privatization the only remedy, shows rank inability of the Government to get them going.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan having to remark that rather than dole out heavy wages to non-performing officials and politically-appointed workers delivering nothing in the non-functional institution why not shut it down, would be tragic for Pakistan Steel Mills which is the largest Industrial Complex of the country. Such assets, no less important than Atomic Energy, Heavy Complex and aircraft rebuild establishments require selfless dedication, employing the very best on a war footing. The Pakistan Steel Mills Counsel having the cheek to depose to the court in defence of the Mills Management that the daily administrative expenses on the PSM had been brought down from a whopping 20 million per day to 10 million, raises the cardinal question that if this saving was possible now, why not all these years when it was allowed to go into the red. Making all sensitive assets functional and viable, besides controlling prices should be on top of the agenda of every sitting Government rather than abdicating responsibility and indulging in mere rhetoric.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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