Wrong-footed government operations

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Zaheer Bhatti

ROTI for Rs 10/-, Nan for 15/- and sugar selling at Rs 80-90 per kg with the Inquiry Commission Report failing to make profiteers cough out the pocketed subsidies and normalize sugar prices not to talk of wheat flour, raised prices of virtually everything under the skies and no one around to rein-in on the middle man and regulate prices except the usual stereotyped ‘Notice Taking’ by the PM and the various Chief Ministers, which by now people have started to abhor. I doubt if the PM ever listens to the woes of the man in the street aired over various TV Channels, which his courtiers must be painting to him as an Opposition campaign.” This is the disappointing feed-back one gets about insipid wrong-footed Government Operations souring the cherished dream of its well-meaning leader to transform Pakistan into an Islamic Welfare State. Far from that it has rendered Parliament dysfunctional, which has time and again been pointed out by the Judiciary including in the Corona Pandemic case where no legislation but mere Press Statements by opposing factions have been considered sufficient and for which the blame squarely lies with the Treasury Benches.
Price Control being the main factor which matters to the common man ought to have been top priority of any government and not development indexes, international surveys or ratings of which, various governments take cover; like Pakistan’s one notch improvement in peace ratings as against surprising two of India despite its visa refusal to an American religious freedom group into India. Such indexes are misleading and do not fill people’s tummies. Surely, if prices do not automatically come down despite a colossal fall in world oil prices upon which all price escalations in the past have hinged, is what points to abject failure of the government machinery to deliver. Should the government wish to give substance to its ‘Tiger Force’, one would wish to see it bring down and control prices of daily consumables.
In stretching the mandate of the sugar crisis probe back to the 80s and letting the main offender flee abroad instead of first booking the current culprits, it is sadly turning out to be another eye-wash. And rather than reinforcing the existing infrastructure and regulating its functioning, the government seems hell-bent on experimenting with impulsive antidotes in virtually all sectors of public domain. Insisting with fashioning a so-called Tiger Force accused of being a hurriedly assembled PTI political outfit with its composition yet to unravel, and which has delivered next to nothing, it is a bit of a joke to credit following of SOPs in the mosques to these nobodies.
This Government not only unnecessarily locks horns with its adversaries, but also lets its own functionaries shoot the Government in the foot every now and then, as it marvels in creating issues by itself; the most recent ones being sighting of the Moon over which Fawad Choudhry stuck his nose out with the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee; the officially assigned Body to the task. True, that this country has seldom found unanimity over the matter except accidentally this year, and required resolution of the issue once for all. But rather than let it become an irritant at the nick of time with the Minister embarrassing his own Government, this sensitive religious matter ought to have been settled long before Ramazan even if it meant reconstitution of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee. The current Chairman of the Committee did no better by delaying the conclusion until 10.30 pm when people had already offered Namaz Traveeh, whereas in this age of internet, two hours after Maghrib ought to have been enough to authenticate information from across the country. Fawad Choudhry among several others in PTI who need to be firmly disciplined and reined in, has now urged re-probing Nawaz Sharif’s medical reports enabling the PML(N) leader to leave the country, which had been dished out by his own government; not to mention his criticism of NAB’s incompetence. The National Accountability Bureau was an Instrument touted as an Independent Body which has indeed been a great disillusionment, as not a single case of corruption in over two years of PTI Rule has matured despite the entire government machinery being at its disposal. Serious lacunae in the Accountability Instrument have in the process surfaced which require immediate rehashing, but the government is found at bay since instead of cultivating the Opposition for matters of national concern where in order to carry out legislation it would require a two thirds majority, it has only antagonized it.
Giving the devil his due nonetheless on Corona handling, one must correct some perceptions over the media denigrating all government effort, and wrongly attributing confusion to PM’s rhetoric about the pandemic. Imran Khan from day one has been unambiguously against total lockdown in Pakistan which it could ill-afford economically even when anticipating the yet to come spike. He in his regular reviews of the situation always advocated measures ranging from smart to partial lock down with intermittent relief, in order to keep the already hampered economic wheel somehow afloat. He has been quoted out of context about his repeated pleadings to the people that the inevitable rise in affected numbers of the silent menace would be incontrollable if the people would not follow the prescribed SOPs, though belatedly warning offenders of strict action. But the Prime Minister missed the opportunity to prove that he represented the entire country when he ignored Sindh while visiting all other provinces in this hour of National crisis; more so when invariably following suit in rest of country over measures adopted by that Province. As for Ayaz Ameer; he would rather measure his words when discounting God’s mercies as attributed by Imran, over relatively fewer casualties in Pakistan which indeed as promptly reminded by veteran Analyst Salman Ghani, is an article of faith with all Muslims; something the former politician from Chakwal must never lose sight of.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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