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Current Affairs

Reminder to the Prime Minister

Reminder to the prime minister

I.A. Rehman
Sarkar-i-aala, tomorrow a new year begins. I do not think you believe in New Year night revelry, so you should be up early to begin the second half of your tenure, full of hope that in this third attempt you will be able to complete the constitutionally fixed term.
Tomorrow you will be bombarded with greetings from a large number of people, enjoying a good life during your pleasure, and you will also be greeting many whose pleasure you wish to secure.
Will they include members of parliament whose goodwill you must value more than any other props?
You have remembered them in times of distress but they deserve to be noticed even when those around you tell you sab achha hai (hope you have learnt not to trust such purveyors of opiates).
I have special reason to remind you of parliament, the sole source of your power, because mischief is afoot to undo the 18th Amendment.
There are people with access to nobility who pine for the days when they could have their wants satisfied by going to a single office in Islamabad instead of trudging to four underdeveloped capitals.
Some others are proclaiming that the parliamentary system must be replaced with the presidential system, and if somebody in the robes of amir-ul-momineen is around so much the better.
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Development does not mean only building roads; it also means the enrichment of human resources.
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Many Pakistanis will tell you that Pakistan must become more of a federation and not less of it. If anybody tells you of another way to win over the alienated Bengalis, I beg your pardon, the alienated Baloch, he is not your friend. If you put your ear to the ground you will not miss the rumbling of discontent in Sindh. And the day may not be far off when the Pakhtuns, especially of Fata, might start thinking of alternatives to your unrealised promises of reform. Pray sit in parliament and find ways of strengthening the federation.
It is possible that tomorrow you will be in Jati Umra, the name you have given to your living quarters near Lahore, because you do not want to erase from your mind the memory of the village near Amritsar where your ancestors settled after escaping from hardship in Kashmir.
Can you not feel the agony of millions of Lahoris caused by schemes to erase their heritage, of which the whole world is proud? All this is happening because of a flawed concept of development.
Development does not mean only building roads and flyovers; more essentially it means the enrichment of human resources.
Before I say something about human capital let me remind you that more people in our country die in road accidents than by any disease. Those who say the remedy lies only in widening roads or such juvenile experiments as signal-free roads in Lahore are masters of ignorance.
Do any of your universities have a department for the study of transport, road traffic and injuries caused in road accidents? Want to know more about it?
Request Mian Shahbaz Sharif that when he goes to meet gaddi nasheens at Nizamuddin Aulia’s mazar he should stop on the way at the Indian Institute of Technology.
My main purpose, however, is to inform you that the present development mantra will not make Pakistan a great land of happiness for the citizens unless they are rid of exploitation, unemployment, illiteracy, hunger, disease and want.
The hideous concrete structures that are being built to fatten contractors and commission agents will not reduce poverty, nor will they serve as your vote banks in the hour of trial, only 29 months away at the most.
What do I mean by human development? I thought you, or somebody among your advisers, knew all about that, but let me try.
By human development I mean first of people’s freedom from bondage and fear. Surely you must have heard of people working like slaves in agriculture and in the brick-kiln industry, usually described as bonded labour.
What has been done in the past 30 months to end this most horrible form of exploitation? Please give priority to ending the curse that bonded labour is.
And the conditions of labour that is not technically bonded also have long been awaiting your attention. You know better than others that industry cannot flourish nor economy grow without the support of a contented labour.
It is possible to win the workers’ goodwill and cooperation for maximising production and exports (GSP+) by respecting their rights, by reviewing the reckless policy of privatisation, and by reviving the state’s role as promoter of a fair accord between employers and employees.
And please do not go on ignoring the people who still depend on agriculture — nearly 35pc of the population. You must find a way to carry out genuine land reforms, which perhaps is in accord with your personal belief.
This is a matter that is part of the need for an overall umbrella of laws, something that the National Commission for Human Rights and the recently resuscitated human rights ministry should be able to explain to you.
Why cannot you, for instance, tell your colleagues to remove the obstacles to legislation to end child labour and child marriage, to eliminate domestic violence, corporal punishment, and a law-policy mix that can offer a decent deal for home-based workers or to rid religious minorities of the fear that is eating into their vitals?
Unfortunately my petition is too long to fit into the space available to me and you too may get easily tired of listening to others.
I will close by drawing your attention to the need to enable half of the population to join the effort to end the state’s ordeal.
Please ask one of your aides to read out to you this year’s Global Gender Gap Report.
Pakistan is at the bottom of the table in all sectors. It is time the state did something spectacular to move towards women’s equality with men.
Yours sincerely,
A citizen alias the common man.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2015

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