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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Pakistan’s corrupt insensitive ruling elite

Common man feels alienated and disgusted at the extravagant ways of his political representatives


As Pakistan’s ruling politicians continue to pay lip service to the cause of living within their means rather than well beyond as they do, a suggestion from an opposition politician says much about the mindset of the country’s political elite.


Rana Tanveer, a politician from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who also happens to be a member of the lower house of parliament-the national assembly, on Thursday publicly demanded a reduction in the number of seats of his legislature.


For Tanveer, such a move will inevitably reduce state expenses and help to enforce further budgetary cuts at a time when Pakistan’s economy is ailing badly. Tanveer may have half a point, though his argument also borders on the ridiculous.


A ruling structure which lives well beyond its means must demonstrate its ability to cut costs rather than pass on the burden of the prevailing economic stress to ordinary citizens.


Yet, to make that point through reducing the number of public representatives in the federal ruling structure, also ignores other vital issues.


For instance, it absolutely vital that Pakistan’s ruling politicians hold themselves accountable in other ways, ranging from paying their taxes to upholding the rule of law. In a country where ruling politicians have a pathetic record when it comes to paying their taxes on vast incomes, it is imperative that there has to be a full-scale effort to tackle this gap.


Besides, many among the ruling elite have a history of breaking the law time and again.


In sharp contrast to Tanveer’s novel suggestion, it has to be said that there is indeed a case for Pakistan to increase the number of elected public representatives, who must then be held responsible for the plight of their constituents.


Dissatisfaction


A continued failure to establish a much deeper link between constituents and representatives will only add to the malaise that already engulfs Pakistan.


Across the country, ordinary citizens simply share a feeling of disgust towards the political elite and consider them a major burden on public welfare.


Appreciating this issue is all the more vital as winds of change begin to blow in parts of the Middle East setting a quicker pace for a future full of unexpected changes.


After the recent populist change in Tunisia, the ongoing events in Egypt must be an eye-opener for Pakistan. If indeed, the country’s rulers fail to see the writing on the wall, they may only do so at the expense of the political structure that they dominate.


Real problems


In sharp contrast to being locked in discussions that range from the ridiculous to the futile, it is absolutely vital that Pakistan’s rulers recognise the importance of the real issues.


In a country where at least one-third of the population lives in abject poverty, it is essential to be up to speed with the prevailing trends. These trends almost in their entirety suggest a long term failure to deal with key issues such as education, health care, basic housing and some form of employment for every adult.


To make matters worse, there are many in Pakistan’s ruling structure who choose to be complacent over the prevailing trends. It is therefore just not surprising to find public representatives such as Tanveer pushing for reform that will remain largely inconsequential for the lives of the vast majority of Pakistanis. But across the streets of Pakistan, from the country’s urban areas to its rural regions, a widespread sentiment based on disgust towards the political elite, is much too obvious. Such a trend is indeed fuelled by two inter-related trends.


On the one hand, most Pakistanis share the view, based on anecdotal evidence, that their leaders have no right to rule upon them. A range of indicators, notably vox pops on the streets, only bring out a strong measure of public disgust towards the ruling elite.


On the other hand, a rapid growth in dissemination of public information, makes it all the more likely for information to flow far more rapidly than ever before. Consequently, finding impoverished but well information individuals across Pakistan in more ways than one must not be a surprise to anyone under the prevailing circumstances.


This has become possible with the proliferation of channels of public information, notably private television, that has changed the broad contours of the world we live in. Tragically though, while the world has changed radically, Pakistan’s ruling elite continue to live up to their reputation of being just locked up in the past.

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