Of politicians and promises
Opinion is free; but fact is fact. However, both opinions and promises are free. In 2019, the then minister for science and technology, who now holds the portfolio of information, had announced that bottled safe drinking water would soon be made available for Re1 a litre, and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) was making preparations in this regard. The price of the water suggests that the plan was meant to benefit the common man.
Now after a year and a half down the line, it has been revealed that only the bottle costs Rs7. Obviously, the minister did not do his homework before he made the alluring announcement. Given his young age and inexperience, he sometimes resorts to pompous rhetoric. He is not alone in promising the moon to the people. The promise was not pure wind, however. It was a case of, there is no smoke without fire. The PCRWR chairman has cleared the fog enveloping the issue belatedly though that filtered water would cost less than one rupee a litre minus the cost of bottle. Two such water filtration plants cost as little as 23 paisas a gallon. The official says they discourage the consumption of bottled water at their offices and they use glasses. As to the delay in coming out with the real situation, he says he was out of the country when the announcement had been made.
Politicians are the same everywhere: they promise to build bridges even where there are no rivers. Recently, a provincial minister announced that many electric buses would be imported. However, electric buses are more expensive than other kinds of buses, and they are useful only when run on clean electricity. Before the 2019 elections, Rahul Gandhi had promised to build many 500 square feet houses in 10 days in poor areas of Mumbai, if voted to power. Another politician had said that every person in the country would soon have Rs1.5 million in his or her bank account.
The need to lead by example
When in distress, citizens are naturally inclined to turn towards their political leaders for understanding, guidance and direction. This is something that the K-P Health Minister, Taimur Saleem Jhagra, should have considered before violating coronavirus SOPs at an iftar dinner he recently attended. As seen in pictures posted on social media, dozens of people present were not following social distancing protocols. Many of them were seen without masks, including the minister himself. While the Peshawar Assistant Commissioner took swift action on the matter, Jhagra maintains he wasn’t aware of the location nor the number of people attending.
Still, the respected minister could have easily refused to attend after he had reached the restaurant and witnessed a crowd of people inside; or, if doing so seemed a bit rude, he could have merely asked the host to change the sitting arrangement in accordance with social distancing regulation. By doing so, the need to strictly follow regulations would have been re-enforced, all the while serving as an example to leaders across Pakistan who themselves haven’t been abiding by the required protocols sincerely. What is even worse is that the incident comes at a critical time — as the threat of the third wave looms over us, the fallout could be catastrophic this time around. It is important to consider the perception of the general public, most of whom tend to believe in conspiracy theories and are already stern skeptics of the vaccine. Therefore, even if the minister was fully vaccinated, he needs to act in a manner that exhibits the responsibilities every individual has during such unprecedented times.
Leaders are considered as role models and ‘belief managers’, especially by the youth. They strongly shape their followers’ beliefs through their words and their actions. They need to lead by example and embody the very ideals they preach.