9 Nov

In Pakistan, your importance is measured by the number of people who have to wait for you and the amount of time that they have to spend waiting for you. Small time bureaucrats make a handful of people wait for atleast a few hours before granting an audience. The really important people will make entire cities come to a stand still as their entourage zips around town. But given the large number of “important” people in Pakistan, the unimportant average citizen is quite accustomed to such treatment. But when one important citizen happens to stop another important citizen wait – that is when the news sparks fly and the inconvenience and discourteous behavior extended to all citizens on a regular basis – gets noticed.

A federal minister, travelling in an official vehicle that was flying the national flag was stopped at gunpoint and made to wait for a four star general to pass. In a country where power is determined by who waits for you and how long, the incident makes it amply clear that the boys in khaki are more important than the boys in parliament. In Pakistan, it’s not about how many votes you have but how many troops you command. Despite our democratic aspirations, we remain a country dominated by the security sector that lets the people amuse its self with a round at choose your next leader every few years while simultaneously ensuring that power continues to flow from the barrels of guns and not ballots.

The incident was not reported by the minister whose sovreign right to travel unhindered on the roads of the motherland had been breached. Instead it was members of the opposition who, appalled by this treatment of  (probably) an elected official at the hands of the military, reported the incident to the house. So it seems that it’s not just the military who is convinced that they are supreme, our elected leadership also seems to endorse the military’s perceptions of its political and transportational superiority. If those, elected and empowered by the people to rule on their behalf do not have command and control over their constitutional place in the national power hierarchy then it’s hardly a wonder that we have military coups so often. But if those financed by the people of Pakistan to protect and only protect them have no regard for the elected representatives of their paymasters then it’s hardly a wonder that we have the military walking all over people’s right to self-rule with such great frequency.

The incident reveals the following:

1) The army top brass calls the shots in this country

2) Those in power don’t have the constitutional knowledge or the courage to assert their lawful place in the governance hierarchy

3) Traffic blockades are only a problem when another VIP gets stopped –  this incident has no bearing on your daily commute; that will still suck whenever a VIP wants it to suck

If the military, showing respect and deference for democratically elected leadership, apologized for the “insult” to the minister it will go a long way towards helping empower democratically elected leadership and democracy in Pakistan.

But I have a feeling there will be no apology anytime soon, much like there will be no speedy end to the VIP culture that “insults” and inconveniences thousands of citizens every day.


8 Responses to “VIP vs VIP”

  1. Muriyam Ali November 10, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    sad but true! 😦

  2. Muriyam Ali November 10, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    sad but true 😦

  3. Faaez November 10, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    There are a total of 5 four-star generals vs. 37 federal ministers in Pakistan. I think it’s pretty clear why security protocol dictates that the general had right of way.

    Not downplaying the influence of the army, but our federal cabinet is a bit of an embarrassment right now.

  4. Mariam November 10, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    I am glad that minister experienced what a common man experiences. Army is more powerful, a fact, and in a way i am glad that it is.

  5. moaiz November 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    It is sad that we in Pakistan are still debating some of the basic questions of statecraft like ‘who should be more powerful, the civilian elected officials or the unelected military?’. Its about time we stopped glorifying this illegimate, unconstitutional power structure and give our elected politicians the mandate they deserve.

  6. afp November 14, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    If the military, showing respect and deference for democratically elected leadership, apologized for the “insult” to the minister it will go a long way towards helping empower democratically elected leadership and democracy in Pakistan.
    Even a mature observer like Sehar does not understand that military dominance in Pakistan is too entrenched to be weakened let alone b dismantled by any symbolic assertions of their power by the civilians. Its only by gradual governance reforms and strengthening of democratic norms that political class can empower itself.
    Its all “evolution” stupid.
    The generation Y of the Islamic Republic,those who considered revolution as the panacea for Pakistan’s ills have already been sufficiently disillusioned by the sour revolution wrought by legal-judicial-civil society troika. All hopes with the politicians however corrupt or Right-ized they may be. Any phadda with military brass is only suicidal.

  7. A.M November 18, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    what great issues we have? VIP egos have to be fed, never mind the millions of empty stomachs.


  1. Of VIP Convoys, Security and Egos | Blog Row | Newsline - December 2, 2011

    […] about the excessiveness of VIP movements before. On a blog titled “Sehar Says,” Sehar Tariq writes, “In Pakistan, your importance is measured by the number of people who have to wait for you and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: