Beware of ticking bombs!

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
The second popularly elected National Assembly replacing the autocratic regime of Dictator General Pervez Musharraf is in the last phase of completing its five year tenure. One is happy to note the completion of a decade of democracy that came about after a long and relentless struggle by Benazir Bhutto that culminated in her bloody murder when General Pervez Musharraf by his failure to provide her security led the plotters succeed in the murder most foul.
Notwithstanding the fact that the out going PMLN government, its two prime ministers and loads of ministers masquerading their meaningless roles have done no honour to the house except to walk tall on their total failures and plethora of corruption that precedes their way where-ever they go. While our socio-economic problems continue to pile up, the three fatal issues that have not had serious debate are: population explosion, impending water famine and environmental pollution.
In 2015 I had written in one of my columns here that regretfully we are going no where. There is more of much a do about nothing with no end in sight. The Panama Gate that opened the flood gates of former prime minister and his family’s mega corruption also opened floodgates of what has come to be known as judicial activitism. In short, every major player-whether civilian or not-so-civilian-is trying to be what one is not-more conveniently–a square peg in a round hole. Never did we ever have a government at cross purposes with the army and with the judiciary-each one trying to pull the other down in their tug of war for power. Instead of devoting one’s energies to their constitutionally assigned duties, each one of the ministers has been seen over these years walking into the shoes of their colleagues. Latest example being the ire that the Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif left it out on National Security Advisor Lt General (R) Nasir Janjua for breaking ice with Indian High Commissioner – perhaps a timely diplomatic move to defuse a situation that is gradually moving towards an explosion.

Pakistan has the highest birth rate in South Asia at around three children per woman, according to the World Bank and government figures, and the census is expected to show that growth remains high. Believe it or not but this is a fact that three men who have fathered nearly 100 children among them are doing their bit for Pakistan’s skyrocketing population. Gulzar Khan (centre) is one of them who has 36 children from his three wives.

I don’t have exact count of the cases pending disposal in Pakistan’s higher judicial echelons -some people say it is in millions. I know the number is so high that it takes ages for the closure of a case with one’s age. May he walk in one piece our honourable former Chief Justice Chouhdry who tried to rewrite Pakistan’s judicial history with his pen of activism not aimed to strengthen democracy but to derail it by his suo motoism to what purpose we don’t know since he has not managed for himself a better place in the hall of fame. He has definitely found for himself a place in the dustbin of history or look alike in the gallery of rogues. His first pyrrhic decision that continues to cost the nation billions was to stop privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills. His seduction of the then leader of opposition Nawaz Sharif into Memogate trap to rock PPP government was extremely anti-democratic. And the former PM is rightly paying for his politic of deceit.
What made the former CJP’s role highly amusing was him playing Chief controller of prices without realising that a chief justice cannot manage the forces of demand and supply. Now we have much more of the same-rather a multifaceted one. Not only his successor is busy taking judicial Quixotic swipes to destroy corruption, but is trying to get the nation clean and filtered drinking water when shortage of water itself has become a ticking bomb that would implode soon or later if not addressed as early as possible.
Ever since media has come to be the glorifier of our rulers through highly paid advertisements that make a mountain of a molehill of their achievements, cosmetic visitations to the hospitals by those whose job is to dispense justice-one hears gets relief to few but not to all as the whole medicare system in the country is rotting to the core, drug supplied to patients are spurious and hospital budgets in billions are pilfered from top to bottom.
Better environment falls in the preview of climate control. Everything that we do in life contributes to it. Karachi is one of the five mega cities in the world. Its population is around 20 million (it can only be ascertained exactly by an international census authority if allowed freedom). So whenever allocations are made for development and upkeep of the city, it is a miscalculated because of the missing millions of people who are not accounted for. Once upon a time it had most modern water management and sewerage system, today it has none. Water tanker mafia in cahoots with law enforcers has become the fastest growing business much to the pleasure and comfort of the Rangers.
Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and other local district bodies have huge armies of sweepers — quite a large number being ghost employees-drawing their salaries and over time with great punctuality. If one were to request any of the foreign missions with satellite facilities to have Karachi photographed from the space—one would not be shocked to see tall buildings with matching piles of composed mass littered all over the city.
Though it was not an imminent problem then as early as 1960s, President Ayub Khan had warned the nation regarding imminent population increase. Being a modern man he had introduced family planning schemes so that people on their own raise healthy, small families. He was opposed tooth and nail by the Mullas-our society’s main curse.
The anti-family planning clerics had gone so wild that when Pakistan had to import American wheat to meet the short fall in face of domestic wheat shortage, the mullas using the pulpit spread through their Friday sermons that people should not eat American wheat as it would make them impotent and they would not be able to have children. Tonnes of wheat were thrown in the sea.
Good thing about Ayub Khan was he did not surrender to the mullas. Both Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and later martyred Benazir Bhutto twice prime minister, made serious efforts to introduce effective family planning. Bibi’s was a very scientific approach, employment of over 100,000 female health workers to educate, help and train rural women in family planning, Similarly steps were taken to reduce the infant mortality rate. She eliminated polio in her second term.
The subject of three ticking bombs is much too serious to be dealt just in one article by a lay man like me. I wish National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in consultation with the Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition-devote rest of the life of the National Assembly to debate threadbare the vital issues of population, explosion, water famine and climate/environment/pollution control so that it could set up a road map for future Assembly to get down to work on as soon as in.
A little late could be too late. These three problems are making timely and adequate progress impossible. And added with the uncontrollable menace of terrorism, sectarianism and unequal distribution of wealth- will ends us up killing each other rendering life short, brutish and nasty. Let coming elections be issue oriented to really converting democracy as a means to better end.
(The author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist)