Why is Pakistan such an unfair place? It is not that other countries are models of egalitarianism, for inequalities exist in the richest and most advanced of societies, but the question is one of degrees. How much inequality can our collective conscience tolerate?
On the one hand, we hear of entire families resorting to suicide because they do not have enough to eat and on the other we hear of lunches for parliamentarians where nothing less than 15 dishes, from mulligatawny soup and dumpukhti biryani to mango mousse, is served on taxpayer expense. I heard of this lavishness on “Capital Talk” where Babar Ghauri, who was confronted by Hamid Mir for having partaken in a grand meal, had the decency to acknowledge that it was wrongful expenditure. Fauzia Wahab ,on the other hand, could not see the difference between spending state funds on such extravagance and paying for them by private means. Parliamentarians on the show laughed off the allegation and instead spoke of the prime minister’s concern for austerity.
Austerity may be too far removed from the psyche of our rulers. But is common sense and just a little bit of concern for the teeming masses who try to sleep on hungry stomachs without the electricity to fan away their sweat too much to ask for? Surely none of the people who attended the government banquet are those who cannot sample these exotic foods on their own. Why the greed then? Surely every penny saved by the government is money that can be used for the uplift of an extremely downtrodden population. Why this obsession with government handouts and freebies then?
Speaking of freebies, it is not just the parliamentarians who try to wheedle out what they can from the taxpayer. We suffer from a system which nurtures patronage to the point that relying on favours and extracting privilege extends to all manner of government service. It is thus with great disappointment that I read a newspaper report on June 23 which stated that the Sindh chief minister had sanctioned the Sindh chief justice’s overseas medical treatment at public expense. It is not that the amount sanctioned (Rs1.8 million) is exorbitant or that the esteemed justice does not have a medical problem, but if such discretionary powers are used to sanction out-of-policy expenditure, the approval does become subject to expecting a quid pro quo from the government functionary for whom this allowance is made. Moreover, although Justice Osmany’s high office should entitle him to good medical care within Pakistan, to cover treatment abroad would be exceptionally unfair to those who cannot avail of any medical treatment on public expense. Not only would such cases open the floodgates for cronyism, but they would also further reinforce the idea that for some citizens the state is willing to dish out money for luxuries while others must make do with absolutely nothing.
A window cleaner in Islamabad who falls from the 18th floor due to the rope giving way on a faulty machine is not contractually entitled to medical treatment from his employer, nor can he rely on the state to cover his medical expenses. Watching his story on “Live With Talat”, I learn that the Saudi-Pak Investment Company, whose windows were being cleaned, does pay for his medical treatment. But this is mentioned as a goodwill gesture by his benefactors, not as something that he has earned the right for, or as his entitlement. In another system, the window cleaner would have been approached by a personal injury lawyer who would have taken his case to a court that would have awarded large sums of punitive damages in a precedent-setting tort case. This would have been his due and he would have retired without having to worry about money, but in Pakistan our ways are different. After two years of recuperation, he is up cleaning windows on the 18th floor once more. Hard work gives our people bare subsistence, while cronyism or occupation of high office puts one in a position to extract maximum favours.
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We live in a country where every politician, bureaucrat and military type claims that only he has given “qurbani” for his country, and therefore the country “owes” him and his family every luxury that they demand. That the people of this country, that they are supposed to serve (thus the title (Civil Servant)should have to suffer while our petty elites act oblivious to their own incompetence just goes to show how Islamic values such as honesty, modesty in display of wealth, respect for the treasury and the citizens, are active in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
I don’t know at which point their sense of decency died but it seems that for the powers to be, sucking the people of Pakistan dry is not enough. Now future generations of Pakistani’s will have to bear the debts that we seem to be raking up a couple of a billion dollars a pop.
Ayesha Aijaz has touched very important subject
‘Surely every penny saved by the government is money that can be used for the uplift of an extremely downtrodden population.’
I agree with her but to expect from our leaders to show their grace is just a wishful thinking.
the waste of tax payer’s money is mind boggling here…you mentioned lavish dinners…add security detail for the 200 ministers, secretaries and other functionaries…the armed personnel following their cars 7/24…guarding their houses…the foreign jaunts…the sum spent is mind boggling…
67% of the budget is spent on military and debt servicing and education gets less than 2%…
i sense and see a nation of scavengers – some by choice, others by necessity
When will the populace hold the governance accountable? Why do we live in a culture where we pass on the buck and then moan about it. Simply put, if we see any government facility being abused, corrupted, it should be our foremost duty to step up and question it at least. We are not in such moral state to take up a fight, but at least we can question and name/shame that person on the spot.
The writer is aptly correct by stating that
“We suffer from a system which nurtures patronage to the point that relying on favours and extracting privilege extends to all manner of government service ”
She has rightly observed that
“Not only would such cases open the floodgates for cronyism, but they would also further reinforce the idea that for some citizens the state is willing to dish out money for luxuries while others must make do with absolutely nothing”
The selfish attitude of the rulers are destroying the patriotic spirit of the common citizens
The writer has also well said that — “Austerity may be too far removed from the psyche of our rulers.”
Ironically the smae eater rulers often refer to Quaid Azam in every public speeches which sound so shallow rather ridiculous . Qua id Azam, when took the charge of governor generalship of Pakistan he ordered that no more then two dishes be prepared in the govt house
But now .in the words of the writer ” lunches for parliamentarians where nothing less than 15 dishes, from mulligatawny soup and dumpukhti biryani to mango mousse, are served on taxpayer expense-
I think that till a leadership from middle class has not been emerged Pakistan and its people will be yawning for food while the elites rulers will be enjoying life to the best at the expanse of crying and dying masses
I agree with you Ms Ayesha. In Pakistan People always pay Taxes for good hope for their hopes of survivals even to have a glass of clean water where as ruling class enjoy the luxuries of life to its peak. It is very pity to note that at the cost of the National exchequer due to their luxuries life they always increase prices of commodities but never try to decrease the expenses of their own luxuries for the interest of Nation.Pls read my blog here http://ranamudassar.blogspot.com/