Another failure

Published March 15, 2023

THE average Pakistani may not be able to put three meals on the table for their family, but that has not been enough to compel the country’s political leadership to forego the luxuries they enjoy at the expense of the public exchequer.

Several ‘austerity measures’ had been announced with great fanfare last month in what was touted as a bid to slash ministries’ and departments’ spending by Rs200bn annually. Yet, the government seems to be having trouble enforcing these measures despite a dedicated monitoring committee tasked with overseeing the implementation of the prime minister’s austerity plan.

According to a news report in yesterday’s pages, 16 of the 30 luxury vehicles given to cabinet members, parliamentary secretaries, and chairmen of standing committees have yet to be returned to the government’s central pool despite the passage of three weeks since the announcement of the ‘immediate’ measures.

It seems that despite the everyday misery that has been imposed on ordinary folk, we remain a country of plenty for those in power. According to the same report, many senior bureaucrats have also continued using their government-provided sports utility vehicles and luxury sedans.

Similarly, there has been no indication from either the judiciary or the armed forces with regard to cutting needless expenditures at a time when the country has virtually defaulted.

More shocking is the revelation that the Petroleum Division has even organised a junket for officials from public-sector oil and gas companies to fly in from as far as Karachi and Quetta to the Takht-i-Babri in Kallar Kahar.

We have recently started hearing from our nation’s top decision-makers that the global lending agency we have turned to for a bailout does not really have our public’s best interests at heart. The question is, do they?

Pakistan burns as our Neros fiddle. The PDM leadership has appeared more ineffectual and desperately inept at handling the country’s poly-crisis with every passing day.

The prime minister has managed to relegate himself to the margins of the news cycle after starting to sound like a broken record. It is embarrassing that he keeps regurgitating the same promises every few months or so, each time with fewer results.

How long must this dog and pony show go on? Crisis reveals character, as they say; in our case, it has completely exposed the elite’s abject disinterest in the welfare of the masses as long as their personal interests are secure.

No amount of blaming past leaders can absolve the present dispensation of failing to take action on matters within its control. If the government cannot enforce its writ even within its own house, how does it expect to steer an entire nation of more than 200m souls out of the dire straits it finds itself in?

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2023

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