Dots & Dashes: All hands on deck

Published: January 25, 2011
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This winter too shall pass and spring come, manifest in its verdure and blossom.

This winter too shall pass and spring come, manifest in its verdure and blossom, but without the cheer for the human heart. Poverty’s ugly grin spreads wider every day on the nation’s face and does not sit well with the warm smile the season of renewal brings.

In another month and a half when the yellow jasmine start blooming in Islamabad and herald the onset of spring, prices of essentials would have gone up another 10 to 15 per cent and gas and electricity supplies further depleted forcing the closures of small industrial units, expanding the area of national enclosure where the poor are herded by the pro rich structure of the economy. Though the poor have been getting poorer and the rich richer over the years it is tragically naïve for rulers to console themselves with the idea that this process can go on and on forever. Just as has happened in Tunisia where a three decade old rule which had all the support of the Western world and was regarded as a bastion of stability in the Arab world ended after just three weeks of street revolts, forcing the dictator to flee to Saudi Arabia, it can happen in Pakistan, which is virtually in a state of war and has not known stability for several decades now, and in whose case, the factor of western support, is something that is being described as merely ‘transactional’.

Pulling itself up on its knees from the devastation wrought by history’s worst floods, the economy is reeling under unmet commitments of donors and friends who are now linking dole to taxing the local rich and further squeezing the poor by withdrawing subsidies and raising the price of utilities, things the present government, whose sole aim is completion of its tenure, just cannot do. Heading the largest cabinet in the world, the Prime Minister seems to be tottering. Every now and then you hear him utter inane platitudes like ‘we will not allow this’. As if the law breakers need his permission for their acts. The silliest of all is the utterly absurd and exhausted pronouncement that:

‘we will take all along’— “sab ko saath leker chalainge”.

All that it translates into is that we shall remain stuck where we are; and that we have no policy of our own to guide the ship of the state. With the economy in turmoil, and the majority desperate for the day’s second meal, society itself is in a deeper pathological mess.

I was reading James Carrol’s column in the global edition of NYT on the disruptive repercussions that follow the assassination of a prominent personality. The first visceral reaction, he says, is of solidarity and shared concern because an assassination wounds the soul of the commonwealth.

“The communal wound is not merely metaphoric, but an actual trauma that often shows itself in the second consequence of assassination, which is paradoxically, a destruction of solidarity. A shocking public discord can quickly follow after the first rush of collective feeling fades… The broader history of assassinations is a terrible warning of what can follow in their wake, as societies have again and again been thrust into new levels of conflict with themselves.”

He has cited the discord that resulted from the assassinations of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Yitzhak Rabin and Dr Martin Luther King. Our case is queer and more serious because the initial solidarity that normal societies witnessed was entirely absent here which shows the aberrant nature of our society. This was something for leaders to think and speak about to their electorate. But they are clueless about such delicate things. Without the promise of seasonal renewal, the ship of the state therefore drifts to another cheerless port of call, all hands on deck.

Mushir Anwar

Mushir Anwar

A weekly columnist at The Express Tribune who has previously written for other publications. He also writes and translates short stories.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.