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In the Monkey House

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"One need to be a monkey to face the monkeys or you trap them and shut them up" Raja Mujtaba

By Tarik Jan

The American author Gore Vidal is an unusual person.  A great fiction writer, a historian, a critic, and lately a pamphleteer, he is above all an Avant Garde, who can blaze trails in more than one field. But if one has to describe him in a word – he is irreverent to his bones. His tongues is as sharp as his brain and can lash anyone, no matter how large are his strides and long are his arms.

Long before Bush got himself into the sludge splashing it around, Gore Vidal predicted in one of his interviews, “… he will leave office the most unpopular President in history.”  When asked how he knew then, his answer was not only pithy but equally laced with imagery and meanings. “I know these people, he said. “I don’t say that as though I know them personally. I know the types. I was brought up in Washington. When you are brought up in a zoo, you know what’s going on in the monkey house. You see a couple of monkeys loose and one is President and one is Vice President, you know its trouble. Monkeys make trouble.” Vidal was of course referring to Bush-Cheney role of a crusader against the Muslims and killing them en-mass on the pretext of terrorism.

In Pakistan people do not contemplate such allusions for people in power. Nor do I recall such a rich imagery with shades of meanings wrapped in it that Gore Vidal invokes to his help. The native expression could be much brutal though. Lately the ruling junta has been alluded to as “dacoits,” “plunderers,” and “brainless,” that has led the nation from a vibrant economy to ruination and despondence. 

For example, the latest figures calculate losses to the national economy of $ 100 billion owing to Pakistan’s decision to support NATO forces in their war against terrorism.  The armed forces, as confirmed by the army, have lost 5,000 men so far, with 30, 000 civilian casualties. Despite such grave losses, the political leadership has no heart to review Pakistan’s involvement in this meaningless war, which Vidal describes as “a war against dandruff,” with no end to it. That it has bled Pakistan white does not seem to be the government’s concern. Nor does it concern the United States that bull shits Pakistan most of the time.

For a while, set aside the losses against the war on terrorism and look at the energy scene. For the past four years, this nation has been forced to live in darkness. The idea of independent power companies helping Pakistan in the energy sector, as proudly proclaimed by the Peoples Party government, is a product of Benazir Bhutto’s genius. Never mind the kickbacks, which her detractors allege she and her husband received, the oil import bill has escalated to $ 10 billion dollars (Rs 900 billion) a year. The arithmetic is simple: when you tie energy to oil-fired power, the cost becomes enormous to a nation strapped for foreign exchange.  The other day a PPP good for nothing said energy has to be cost high for the oil prices are beyond our control. What genius? Genius and political leadership do not go together in our case.

According to economist Dr. Shahid Hassan Siddiqui, the nation suffers from Rs 300 billion loss a month owing to energy shortage and corruption.  Juxtapose this figure with Rs 300 billion that the administration has to pay to power companies and the whole scene becomes wacky. In other words by withholding Rs 300 billion they owe to the power companies, they are causing loss to the nation to the tune of Rs 3,600 billion a year.  Calculate it over a period of 4 years that the PPP government had been in power the amount comes to Rs 14,400 billion. To cap it, they say the development has been unprecedented.

The ruling junta is baiting foreign investors to invest as investment climate in Pakistan is best suited to business. Do they really mean it? Or are they innocent folks knowing nothing?  A country that had plenty of electricity four years ago is now energy starved, plunged in darkness and our smart Mr. Zardari still wants to have foreign investors.  Add to it the obscenity of corruption and red tape, and the whole scene turns into a big joke. Lately a chief minister of a province has alleged that a Chinese investor who wanted to help relieve energy problem left Pakistan because his file for setting up a 900 mega watt power plant was kept buried for one and half year in the hope that he would oil their palm.

For investment opportunities, it is also important that funds are available to local investors. Latest figures tell us that the government borrowing during July 2011-April 2012 from banks amounts to Rs 591 billion, draining funds for businesses. Could anyone think of setting up an industry in such a climate? No wonder foreign investment had a slide effect of 65 percent. 

Another aspect of this monkey house is that it is never still. In fact, they cannot afford to be still. To prove their existence the primates have to jangle others’ nerves and fight for territory. The Sind interior minister has claimed they have arrested 132 target killers and 123 extortionists in Karachi (who took money from people by force). He also said that the criminals belong to three parties – MQM, PPP, and ANP – the triumvirate that rules the province.  On the contrary, PPP’s secretary general, who also happens to be the leader of the house in the Senate, has asked people to help government in identifying the unseen hand responsible for causing a boil in the Karachi law and order situation. 

Speaking of peace in Karachi, a foreign source has lately revealed that MQM alone has 10,000 active armed men and 25,000 fighters under its wing. Besides, they have 100 sector commanders. They, as former dissidents say in mute tones, coerce each household to bring four men and women to MQM’s political rallies and vote for it in elections.  In addition to other members of the coalition government, MQM is responsible for issuing a million arms license. 

But hold your breath.  NADRA has failed to identify 10,000 government employees receiving two salaries a month. It won’t be surprising if the beneficiaries turn out to be party members.

Mr. Vidal, would you still insist your monkey house rattles more than ours? Yours have at least benefitted from the war on terror – your oil supplies routes are secured and you have more foreign oil than other nations. Your industrial military complex is reaping rich dividends.  They are developing new deadly weapons to devastate other nations. Your President has Noble Peace Award despite his being a fire dragon spewing ruination to anyone within his reach.  As against this, we do not have even a lollypop to roll around in our mouth.

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