By Rabia Ahmed –
It seems a bit unfair to expect the Prime Minister or any other government minister to worry about the power crisis. After all who in Pakistan worries about the Maori in New Zealand, or about the koalas in Australia? No one. You cannot expect the man in the street to care about the welfare of a people as remote as the aboriginal people of an alien country when their own welfare is so questionable, or about the capacity of a given habitat to sustain koalas, when their own habitat in Pakistan is so threatening. So why expect the Prime Minister (or any other minister) to care about people whose life is as remotely different to theirs as the common man’s, when their own positions (I’d say ‘jobs’ but that implies work) are so precious?
Our leaders are of the people and by the people, and although not for the people, they are definitely for themselves which considering they are of the people comes to the same thing if you look at it closely. That’s a bit ambiguous but it sounds impressive, just as the Minister for Petroleum’s explanation of the petrol shortage: Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad Mr Abbasi said, “In January, the daily demand of petrol rose from 12,000 tonnes to 15,000 tonnes. As a result, there has been a shortage and we are managing it.” Just in case that was too easy he added helpfully that ”there was a fall in prices, people bought more petrol and hence there was a decrease in reserves.” Good he clarified that. I was imagining it was more demand than petrol that created the crisis.
But back to the other point; it is worth considering the rarefied air our government ministers breathe in their own little bubble, free of power load shedding, electric, water, gas and now petrol. As frustrated citizens in the Punjab spent their day queuing at petrol pumps (and battling electric and gas load shedding) our PM virtuously cancelled a trip to Switzerland (bidding au revoir but not adieu to the cheese fondues and cream chocolates) and spent a few hours updating himself on the situation. Still updating mind you, after being in government for a year and a half with the crisis looming since well before. Rather pathetic, what? And then, after updating himself and firing a few officials to make it all look good he returns home with a tank full of petrol to a house blazing with heat and in the summer purring with air conditioning. Koalas? Maoris?
(By the way, I’d like to completely go off the track here and mention another perk enjoyed by government officials. According to a 2013 update to the Members of the Parliament Salaries and Allowances Act of 1974* a government servant is entitled to dental treatment, artificial limbs, joints and implants, and ‘the facility of circumcision’. I know this has nothing to do with the subject at hand but I’ve been wanting to share this information for a while.)
My suggestion is therefore that seeing our government is so much for itself rather than for the people, to cut off gas, electricity, petrol and water allowance to government residences. Which means that here’s what a typical day might be at the Sharif household with its bubble considerably pierced if my suggestion is followed:
NS: Let’s have some nihari.
KN: There isn’t any.
NS: (Missing the shortness in her tone) All right let’s have some of that biryani.
KN: You’ll have to eat it cold.
NS: (amazed) What do you mean, Kalsoom! How can biryani be eaten cold!
KN: It can be if the microwave doesn’t work.
NS: Go get another one then. I WANT BIRYANI!!
KN: (finally snapping) I’ve heard nothing but ‘I want biryani’ from you all these years! Let me tell you something I want now…I WANT ELECTRICITY! No microwave will work without electricity.
NS: (digesting the information and coming to a cunning conclusion) How about the choola? That doesn’t require electricity!
KN: (shortly) no, it requires gas.
NS: Well then send the bloody driver to get some biryani from somewhere!
KN: You big *%**” there is NO power! NO gas, NO electricity and NO petrol! And in case you want to wash your hands off the situation there is NO water either. Go put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Headlines in the national papers the following day: SHARIF SETTLES THE CRISIS. COUNTRY OUT OF THE WOODS (where it had been cutting trees to burn as fuel).
It was Robert Frost who said, ‘The best way out (of a given situation) is through’. He was right, with one proviso: While going through a crisis you must take certain people with you who unless they experience something for themselves are perfectly capable of shoving others into the mess and walking away happily. Call it in sleeping in the same bed as the Maoris and towing the koalas into your home. I’m sure it would work, only the the towing company is likely to lose its license faster than they can say ‘Incompetent!’