It’s a hot brick that can drop and burn anyone if mishandled. How will our TV talking heads and their owners investigate the massive tax evasion committed by Arsalan Iftikhar, son of the chief justice, and Malik Riaz, ‘best’ friend of the ruling government and its sidekick, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)?
New York Times op-ed writer Bill Keller describes his media tribe as “the jaded scribes, the blogging sages and caffeinated cable chatterers” who “run out of patience, poor babies” when they find themselves in a corner.
Turning to our desi ‘caffeinated cable chatterers’ back home, in the dying days of Zardari government, these bombers will strafe their viewers with analysis lacking real substance. Why is that? Because most of them will not have given a close read to the manifestos presented by Zardari, Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan.
Do manifestos matter? Why have them if people merely thumb through them or worse discard them instead of giving a thoughtful, disciplined reading of the text.
We remember the brilliant election manifesto penned by J. A. Rahim for the newly formed Pakistan People’s Party, which elected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as its first chairman (December 9, 1967.) Titled ‘Islam is our Religion; Democracy is our Politics; Socialism is our Economy; Power Lies with the People,’ it seized our attention by promising to achieve an ‘egalitarian, classless society’.
Forty-five years later, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s son-in-law President Asif Ali Zardari and chairman of PPP, has violated and defiled the basic tenets of the manifesto presented by Chairman Bhutto. From day one, when PPP formed the government in spring of 2008, it has appointed scallywags and knaves to run the affairs of the state and to represent it abroad.
But the caffeinated cable chatterers on the side of the government will never admit that this government has been a disaster, starting with its president. Let me share a story with you that shows an anguished and “depressed overseas Pakistani” taxi driver who came to America at age 15 in the hope of earning enough money to send home to his family.
Let’s call him Aziz. We don’t know his real name.
With a wife and three children to support, Aziz saves $250 a month that he devotedly sends to his widowed mother, two widowed sisters (their husbands died in bomb blasts) and their six children. His mother recently wrote back to her son asking for more money as the $250 (Rs24,000) was not enough to support a family of nine. The family had already cut down on essential items to survive: The kids were told to go without breakfast; the three youngest were enrolled in a madresssa; the older three (aged, 9, 11, and 13) were pulled out of private schools and are preparing to join the younger three at the madresssa where everything is free. Despite all these measures, the family is unable to cope. They have no money to pay the house rent, and meet the gas and electricity bills. “Since there are millions of such families in Pakistan, help from the government cannot be expected,” Aziz says, “I was determined to work day and night to be able to send my mother more money”.
Out of the blue, the working stiff cab driver heard something that “broke his heart”. A Pakistani friend told him that while China has 14 ministers with a population of 1.35 billion; India has 32 ministers with a population of 1.27 billion; USA has 14 ministers with 320 million people; UK has 12 ministers with 130 million people, Pakistan has a fauj-aur-mauj of 96 ministers with 170 million people! Only four minus one hundred parasites! God Bless our country. Just one Pakistani minister gets paid about $1.9million per year.
Apart from the above expenses, there are further freedom passes given to these blue-eyed ministers of Pakistan, says Aziz. According to his information, a Pakistani minister has yearly free use of 50,000 units of electricity with no load shedding at all.
He has 45 VIP free air tickets and free Rs1lakh mobile balance per month. Having not revisited Pakistan in decades, he says, “I have also heard that the rich and powerful people do not follow the normal law of the land”.
He hopes the media and judiciary know how to calculate?
Politicians, judges, generals and bureaucrats, the cabby discovered, they have their own businesses, factories, lands and expensive buildings in Pakistan and huge savings in foreign banks. “They are people not born with a golden spoon in their mouths but live like nawabs, sardars, and jagirdars who are far removed from ordinary people.”
If the above information handed down to Aziz from his friend is false, the cab driver vows “I will work harder and send more hard currency to Pakistan, but if this is right, I will not send a penny, not even this $250 to Pakistan. Let my folks go to madressas or to hell.”
Aziz feels “The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” These words were first uttered four centuries ago by Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher. He warned that human life in the absence of a political contract between the rulers and the ruled would allow the ruling elite freedom to “plunder, rape, and murder.” It would be an endless “war of all against all”.