The Express Tribune Editorial 5 October 2019

The container politics


The container is ready — yet again; preparations are in full swing, and the game is to resume shortly. Players on the two sides are the same, but their roles have reversed. Those on the attack then, are to defend now — and vice versa. Both sides, however, mean to save democracy — one by marching against an “illegitimate government” and the other by defending an “assault on the people’s mandate”. Our political history is replete, in fact, littered, with such games — games that are played in the name of democracy and in the ‘interest’ of the nation. Political calm is needed for the rulers to focus on issues of core concern for the country and for the people like the economy, global diplomacy and internal and external security. But with the local political scene dominated by protest marches, rallies, sit-ins and lockdowns, the much-needed political calm has eluded the country during much of its existence.
The protest season is here again. The focus of all attention this time is a religiopolitical party, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Fazl (JUI-F), which is not a mainstream party like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). But the party — led by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman who has been a part of all parliaments, but the current one, over the last three decades — boasts quite a lot of support in northwestern parts of the country that form Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and, therefore, has the potential to put up a good street show and make life difficult for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government. The party plans to launch its anti-government movement on October 27 and is confident of sending the “illegitimate and incompetent” government packing with the support of businessmen, lawyers and doctors among the “hard-pressed” masses. The party chief believes the build-up of the movement will make it difficult for other political forces to stay away.
As if moving in a circle, we have come to a stage we had crossed triumphantly only recently.


Domestic demerits


For all of Britain’s problems and the inherent racist undertones of the campaign that led to Brexit, it is true that immigrants, or at least their children, are ‘stealing’ jobs from Brits of a certain shade. Right now, at least two top government jobs that had never been held by a non-white person are held by the children of Pakistani migrants who barely even spoke English. One is Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London. The other is Sajid Javid, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer — equivalent to a finance minister. Coincidentally, both men’s fathers worked as bus drivers after migrating to the UK. Both are also from large families — Khan is one of eight children and Javid is one of five. Their parents worked hard, both at their blue-collar jobs and at home, to give their children the inspiration and values that would one day turn them into leaders of men.
Despite their lack of familial ties with the communities around them, Khan and Javid were able to become popular enough to win elections without famous parents. “Mummy, tu kaddi sochiya si appay ithay hongay? (Mummy, could you ever imagine we would be here one day?)” Javid asked his mother in Punjabi at the recent Conservative Party conference in Manchester. It was a powerful moment and one that does require some imagination. Are Pakistanis rising to power without a hook? It can happen. Just not in feudal Pakistan. Here, what passes for merit is often a sad joke. Whether it be the two major opposition parties; or most smaller ones, which have always been helmed by their respective ruling families; or even the ruling party, where a number of lower-ranking elected and appointed members share biological ties with the party’s big guns, including the PM; true merit — seniority, achievements, and contributions to the party and the country — is seldom a factor in decision-making.
As long as Bilawal Bhuttos become party chiefs as teenagers, Ali Tareens are nominated for their fathers’ seats, or younger Sharifs get party posts ahead of lifelong workers, the only place Pakistanis will find meritocracy is outside Pakistan.


Rising street crimes


The overall law and order in Karachi has seen much improvement when compared with the situation in the recent past. There is still one area where the authorities need to be more focused. Lately, there has been an alarming spike in street crimes in the city. Robbers shot dead a female university student early in the morning on Oct 3 in Gulshan-e-Iqbal while she was waiting for her university bus. She was travelling in a car to the bus stop when a group of robbers intercepted the car.
In September, robbers killed four people upon resistance among thousands of incidents of street crimes: an army soldier, a Rangers official, and two civilians. A shopkeeper of Electronics Market in Saddar was shot dead by unidentified assailants near Radio Pakistan. In August, a male doctor and a lady doctor had been shot dead in apparently targeted attacks within the span of four days. The lady doctor, a Canadian national, was visiting the city to attend a wedding. In September, more than 30 people were wounded while offering resistance to robbers. Around 13,000 mobile phones were snatched at gunpoint. This could be an underestimate as most victims of such crimes avoid reporting to the police because of hassles.
Talking to a delegation of businessman the other day, the IG Sindh attributed the rise in street crimes to growing unemployment and asked the business community to create more jobs to help arrest the increasing rate of crimes. He is correct, but not entirely. Also, there are press reports that a young married woman was raped by four men in her home in broad daylight in the city in the last week of September. Two of the alleged rapists are reportedly serving policemen. Politicians are now in the habit of shrugging off important issues concerning the common man. They usually say things will improve with time. Like mobile phones came into being with time.

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