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There’s no free lunch

January 04, 2011

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OR is there? Our media outlets certainly think so, for they do not pay the people they invite to talk shows, sometimes at the oddest hours. The question to ask, however, is why the invitees go without getting some remuneration for their trouble. And trouble it is.

Consider: if the host or presenter or anchor can command a salary of, in certain cases as I am informed, Rs4m a month(!) for 16 shows of 45 minutes each i.e. Rs250,000 a pop, why should the three or four guests upon whom the show revolves not get, say, the paltry sum of Rs20,000 each for their appearance? Remember that guests have to be as well-versed in the subject as the host or presenter or anchor to make any sense. Times Now

Sixteen years ago, BBC used to pay guests £60 for every appearance — I know because I have been paid that amount myself every time I was on air. So why not our own channels which are raking it in considering the proliferation of shows; the slick productions that we see and the plethora of expensive advertisements. Let me here say that at least one Indian channel, , is worse. They promise, repeatedly, and then do not pay!

The reason that people in the public eye such as politicians fall over each other to get invited to certain high-profile TV shows is publicity for which they would give their right arm; but surely people who comment on affairs, such as yours truly, who have no such need, should put a price on their time. So here is my New Year's resolution: No appearance on any TV show; no 'Beeper'; no nothing, without money!

So then, the MQM has crossed over to the opposition benches, joining Maulana Fazlur Rehman's JUI, pushing the federal government onto the ropes. Let us now see how the drama, being directed from you-know-where, unfolds. Thus far, Mr Nawaz Sharif's firm stand that he will not be part of any puppeteers' playing one off against the other is one that needs to be applauded. But the point is that the real puppets — no need to name them — can create a situation that can propel the country to an impossible place, an impossible situation: one that results in complete disaster about which no one can do anything.

One thing is certain, however. No matter how the dice falls, the fact of the matter is that the next government will not march in, magic wand in hand. It is not as if the natural gas supply will begin to flow stronger into Punjab homes and factories, nor will electricity loadshedding suddenly disappear.

The fuel prices will not go spiralling down; nor will food items become cheaper. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and other murderous organisations will not lay down their arms and accept the writ of whatever state we have left; nor will the murder and mayhem in Karachi cease as if a tap has been turned off. wallahs

The budgetary anomalies that exist in the outlays for defence and education, as just one example — Rs560bn to Rs1.14bn — will not suddenly disappear; nor will the situation of our persecuted minorities improve. The disappeared will remain disappeared, and everything will be as heretofore. The country, of course, will have gotten yet another kick in the teeth as yet another democratic venture is sabotaged giving grist to the mills of the security state and their impossible arguments in favour of yet another derailment of democracy.

Which takes me very directly to Pervez Musharraf's 'Security before democracy' printed on these pages on Saturday. He says, inter alia (by golly he has brass): “The danger lies in denying power, not in sharing or giving power.” denied lotas

How come then, that the parliamentary leader of the Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians was the chair of leader of the opposition when they had the largest number of seats after the rigged 2002 elections? Why, indeed, did he and the ISI manufacture a government made up of the PPP Patriots and other from other parties? 'Clearly, no state, no democracy', what?

Well, how about his explaining the handover of vast tracts of Pakistan to the terrorists in Swat and other areas under his watch, and the repeated insults heaped upon the state of Pakistan by the likes of Nek Mohammad merely because the Commando turned on its head the political system that ran the Frontier?

“Pakistan has suffered from an existential threat from the east since independence, after its first war with India in 1948. Therefore, for its security, it adopted a military strategy of minimum defensive deterrence quantified into force levels for the army, navy and air force.” Der Spiegel Der Spiegel

Really? The existential threat to our poor country is not mainly from within, at the hands of the various murdering jihadi outfits engineered by another military dictator, Ziaul Haq and nurtured by Musharraf himself and the establishment, as he himself admitted in an interview with in October last year? Of course, whenever he opens his mouth and puts his foot in it, he denies what he said the very next day. Ditto for the interview.

As for the 'threat from the east' let me say unequivocally that the establishment who Musharraf seems to be representing, should not arrogate to itself the responsibility of the defence of our country. We the lay people own our country too.

The hardest, most hurtful thing to take, comes at the end: “But when the armed forces, well-organised and well-managed as they are, also become strong in numbers, they tend to acquire a voice in national governance.” I mean, really! Is it any wonder that they are 'well-organised and well-managed' when they take by far the largest share of the national pie? And is giving “the armed forces”, read army, “a voice in national governance” a further cost that the people of Pakistan must pay to massage the egos of the brass-hats who lead the “strong in numbers” armed forces?

kshafi1@yahoo.co.uk