IT is true that in Pakistan the servants of the people have a taste for the finer things in life, often at the expense of the very citizens they are supposed to serve. Yet it is also a fact that in a democracy, elected officials and other functionaries of the state are answerable to the people, especially when it comes to the use of official funds. Hence the report in this paper yesterday that the federal government wants to purchase six bulletproof sport utility vehicles in their latest models has raised eyebrows. Government officials say the vehicles are being procured for security reasons and for the office of the prime minister, not for any individual.
Security is no doubt important; leading Pakistani politicians have been killed and heads of state and government have been targeted by militants in the past. But security measures also need to be rational. It is fair to ask if there really is a need for six new luxury vehicles when there are already bulletproof automobiles in the prime minister’s fleet that are very well-maintained, have long lives and are subject to rigorous checks by the intelligence apparatus. All of which raises questions about whether security concerns are the sole reason behind the purchase of the SUVs. The pricey vehicles will likely cost over a million dollars. In these times of financial crisis, when the average Pakistani is struggling to secure life’s basic necessities, can the ruling elite justify such extravagant purchases? In any case, with elections due soon the incumbent administration is on its way out. So why go ahead with the deal? Let the next government decide what is and is not required for the prime minister’s security. From the common citizen’s perspective, this appears to be a frivolous purchase.