ISLAMABAD: Sitting in the media gallery of the National Assembly during its latest session, one wondered what the 342 elected representatives of the country are up to. Most of them generally look least interested in the business of the house let alone the country at large, and when they do take some 'interest', it is on issues that are not in their domain.
This Tuesday, out of the blue, members of the National Assembly locked horns on the issue of creation of new provinces in the country. If one goes by the book, it is the prerogative of the concerned provincial assembly to discuss it before it can be taken up at the federal level. In fact, under the 1973 Constitution, even if the Parliament passes an amendment with two-third majority allowing the creation of new provinces, it will stand void if the concerned province does not endorse it with two-third majority as well.
While no one disagrees to the aspirations and demands of particular ethnic groups for new provinces, given the remarkably cursed period the country is going through, the same effort could have been spent on deliberating the matters of much urgency and importance.
Four years since its elections, the current government hasn't done much to improve on its credentials as an efficient state governing party. Soon after coming to power in March 2008, the PPP government faced the first of the acute power shortages in the country, but had squarely laid the blame for the crisis on the outgoing government of General (retired) Pervez Musharraf.
However, since then things have gone from bad to worse and there is no end or lessening of the power deficit in sight. As of today, 16 to 20 hours of load shedding is being carried out in villages, whereas in urban areas it ranges from 6 to 12 hours. Electricity production has not kept pace with consumption and the shortfall has worsened with the continuous piling up of circular debt.
As if electricity woes were not enough, the northern areas in the country witnessed a major strike due to gas load shedding â€“ another feather in the cap of the present government. Neither domestic users nor industrialists are happy with the limited and erratic availability of gas. The fertilizer industry has been severely hit and as a result farmers have not sown wheat in the same numbers as was done in previous years.
Public transport is in an abysmal shape as well, as the Pakistan Railways is almost on the brink of bankruptcy. The railways have stopped most of its operations except a few trains. Matters at the national air carrier, Pakistan International Airline (PIA), are no different with daily delays and groundings. Other state entities such as Pakistan Steels Mills do not have a different tale to offer.
If these real time issues were not enough to make the lives of Pakistanis miserable, the judiciary, legislature, executive and media are embroiled in their own controversies and fiascos. The Memogate stoked by an American of Pakistani origin has not died down nor has the tensions between the civilian and military establishments. Both the judiciary and legislature are holding separate enquiries, and it remains to be seen whose findings will be upheld.
The Memogate seems superfluous given that we are still barely recuperating from two years of back-to-back flooding, economically we are as shaky as ever, the energy crisis is at its worst and many state-owned enterprises are on the verge of collapse.
Many will comment on the current state of affairs in Pakistan, and say that it is a state that has forever struggled for its existence. The state might have but now the nation and people are struggling for survival. They say never and here's to hoping that the New Year fares well for the state and the nation!