OUR national Airline –the one that boasts of ‘International’ as its middle name – appears to be on the way to extinction, if not worse. One recalls the news item some years ago that disclosed that our public representatives had expressed serious misgivings about the service provided by the ‘national airline’ and requested that they be allowed to use private airlines instead for their paid travel. This is a sad commentary on the sorry state to which the national airline – once the pride of the nation – has been reduced, mainly due (as is generally believed) to a bumbling set of senior executives. Pakistan International Airlines is not the only victim of the ham-handed approach of the powers- that- be towards the public sector assets of this blessed land. Instances abound. Other public sector enterprises like the Railways and Pakistan Steel have fared no better. If one were to look for a plausible explanation for such failures one could perhaps draw a parallel with the history and ‘demise’ of the dinosaurs of yore.
Examples abound! A look over the shoulder may be in order. When the devastating earthquake struck in 2005, the authorities were caught totally unawares. There existed no mechanism and/or machinery that could be called to service at short notice. Not even a plan that could be brought out from the archives to serve as a guideline. No wonder, then, that the Armed Forces and civil society were the first to spring into action. The same scenario was repeated when the floods struck. One would expect that some lessons had been learnt after earlier natural disasters. But no such luck! Invariably, the only organized effort visible was the one by the Armed Forces. All others ran around like headless chickens treading on each others’ toes. The affected persons were, meanwhile, left at the mercy of the elements. The question that presents itself begging for an answer is: why do we not learn from our experiences and why must we always start from square one?
When disaster strikes, our reaction invariably takes the form of launching appeals for funds, left, right and center. This gives rise to the question: why don’t we have seed money stashed away in a safe account for urgent relief measures in emergencies? This brings us to the dubious role of the many dinosaurs in our midst that may be in imminent danger of collapsing under their own weight. The NDMA (of the Attabad lake fiasco fame) for one! Was it not the responsibility of this murky organization to immediately spring into action, commence and coordinate relief efforts after the floods struck? Harking back to the earthquake disaster, one finds that after sufficient funds had been collected from local and foreign donors, a brand new dinosaur by the name of ERRA emerged out of nowhere. It immediately took charge of the finances and went about its business much like any top-heavy Multinational Organization!
There exist several other ‘dinosaurs’ that are living off the fat of the land. Among these must be counted all the Regulatory Authorities that have sprouted like (poisonous?) mushrooms after the rains. It may be asked, with good reason, why the need was felt for these regulatory authorities when the bureaucratic machinery is mandated to perform these very duties. If the setting up of these Regulatory Authorities amounted to a vote of no-confidence in the efficiency of the bureaucratic machinery, then why not dispense with the latter? Keeping both at the cost of the poor tax-payer is nothing but an overkill, to say the least.
The Higher Education Commission – to take another instance – has been doled out funds by the sack-full on the basis of a hare-brained scheme to produce a handful of PhDs on the wooly premise that this would take the country into the ‘promised land’ of Developed States. All this in a state of affairs when children by the hundreds of thousands are being denied admission in public sector schools, ostensibly due to paucity of funds! Then, there are the several NGO’s being run by mysterious entities, funded through questionable means by shady Organizations both local and foreign? Now that one thinks about it, this is one issue that calls for a thorough probe if we as a nation have any intention of holding on to the shreds of respectability. It is a pity that, as things stand, there is hardly any evidence to show that the nation cares one way or the other.
It may not be out of place here to draw attention to the fact that it was the unbalanced development of the dinosaurs of yore that ultimately led to their downfall. What appears to have happened is that the development of the brains of these gigantic creatures failed to keep up with their ever-expanding girth. The lack of proportion this unbalanced development created in the species under discussion contributed (among other factors) to their downfall and ultimate extinction.
The moot question that presents itself, begging for an answer is: How long can this blessed land afford to keep on fattening such dinosaurs at the cost of basic national development schemes? A decision one way or the other would have to be taken sooner or later. The sooner the better! Due assessment would need to be made of the efficacy, or otherwise, of these ‘dinosaurs’ in our midst. Or must one wait for the advent of another meteor from outer space to obliterate this crop of outsize creatures? The choice is for our worthy intellectuals, and/or planners, to make.
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.