Tag Archives: Floods

Blow This House Down: There are Better Ways of Spending $31 Million

16 Feb
The government wants you to know it has its economic priorities right. That it is serious about fixing bread-and-butter issues—for Parliamentarians.

In the houses of Parliament: Praying for more housing for Parliamentarians?

On Feb. 8, a joint committee of the National Assembly and Senate approved plans to build two blocks of family-sized apartments for 100 legislators and 500 of their domestic help at a price tag of Rs. 2.7 billion or $31 million. The complex will take three years to complete, and feature an underground tunnel that leads to Parliament. Presently, Islamabad has 358 apartments for its 442-strong Parliament. The contract was won by Habib Rafiq, a privately-held company that’s been in business some 50 years. It’s also owned by a close friend of the prime minister’s. But while that relationship is no crime, this project is.

In a country where sessions of Parliament are marked by poor attendance, rewarding lawmakers with housing they may or may not actually use is a questionable allocation of state resources. That their private servant armies will be subsidized is equally atrocious. Luxury Lodges-gate turns one stomach because the country is still recovering from its worst natural disaster and holding out for more foreign aid in the name of flood survivors. I know, tsk tsk.
Funding for the housing complex comes out of the Public Sector Development Programme, the moneybag for goody-goody projects like improved education and health services, and poverty alleviation. The cash-strapped federal government recently cut PSDP funding by Rs. 100 billion to Rs. 180 billion. If legislators approved the complex because they couldn’t find better ways of scratching their spending itch, here are some suggestions: Continue reading

Hope: Lost or Not?

22 Aug

Being back has turned out to be everything I had hope for it to be in not the best way possible. Since my return there has been a plane crash, a wedding, interesting job offers and the most devastating floods the country has seen since 1970.  I always wanted to come back to Pakistan so that I could be a part of everything that happens here. Well, Pakistan has not disappointed! Its given me a lot to do and a lot to think about. As the country is ravaged by floods, there is no dearth of ways to get involved in helping fellow Pakistani citizens. But as the outpouring of help by citizens is inspiring, the floods are a reminder of the enormity of the task of national reconstruction. In times of national crisis, when the spirit of national generosity is unable to trump the corruption, fatigue and inefficiency in society its easy to lose heart and hope.

And I can see people loosing hope every day. This is why two boys were brutally beaten to death in Sialkot today. They became victims to the frustrations of citizens who have been abandoned by the state for far too long and have now resorted to taking matters, including the law, into their own hands. Surely, these are signs of a failing state. They are reason to lose hope and be ashamed.

The Show Must Go On: Farmers in Swat unfettered by the Floods

But then as I was wallowing in national misery, our favorite national sport, I saw a news story on BBC urdu that made my flagging, flailing, gasping for breath national spirits soar again. Groups of farmers in Swat, also abandoned by the state, have also taken matters into their own hands. They are not beating or torturing anyone. They are busy building boats and rafts and carrying on their backs, the agricultural produce to market that they have worked year round to produce and which would have rotted away had they not taken matters into their own hands.

The absence of the state doesn’t cause all Pakistanis to resort to violence. It inspires some to use their strength and skills to find productive ways to overcome the absence of the state. And as long as we have people innovative enough to turn tyre tubes into river rafts and strong enough to wade through water with sacks of onions on their backs, there is hope for us.

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