Both Pakistan and India have recently “successfully test-fired” several missiles capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads. Militarily, this is a great achievement, especially in a world where, apart from the US War on Terror, there is an on-going arms race. That race is actually a war in its own sense-a war against the population of that country, depriving many of their already non-existent basic rights, like food.
Coming back to militarily equipped Pakistan and India, loads of cash is siphoned off for the procurement of the best arsenals, but can the Hatf and Akash missiles improve the lives of those who are living in abject poverty, watching their children literally starve? Twenty-four percent of Pakistanis live below the poverty line, while around 360 million people live in poverty in India (says the BBC). So should our populations support the increasing military prowess of their respective countries?
Maybe nationalist Indians will be able to generate some rah for their leaders for the increase in the defence budget by 17 percent for financial year 2012-13, with the Indian finance minister allocating $41 billion as defence spending. But it seems India can afford to increase its military spending since, according to the Indian planning commission, poverty has decreased in India since 2004-2005.
On the other hand, it will probably be difficult for Pakistanis to cheer their fumbling, blundering and indifferent government. The solution to Pakistan’s increasing financial problems is not printing more and more worthless rupees. The “let them eat cake” approach of printing more and more money without gold reserves will probably go down in history “as the fastest way to destroy a country.”
People, in Pakistan at least, are living in extreme frustration and anger; their days spent in constant agony, without any power, fuel and without important commodities – basically food, which has gone beyond ordinary people’s purchasing power. And this is only the tip of the crisis iceberg. However, the government keeps assuring people that all is well.
The honourable finance minister assured us as he presented the budget that the budget for FY 2012-13 is aimed “at maintaining economic stability‚ accelerate economic growth‚ check inflation and bringing well-to-do people in tax net.” Other government officials were high on being the only government successfully presented a fifth budget, claiming that this budget promises measures towards self-reliance, growth on development programmes, provide social safety nets among other important points. Well, it is still early to discredit these claims, but judging by the past, there doesn’t seem to be much hope.
There are numerous problems that the people of Pakistan face but which the government either ignores or is completely ignorant about. If the government is serious and really cares about its reputation, which is iffy, it must do something before it plunges into the coming election to improve the lives of the people whom it wants to vote for it.
If actually doing something for the people involves money – and here I am not talking about the countless millions of useless rupees being printed daily – the government needs to actually do something about it, like, for starters, appoint a couple or more of the new ministers from its burgeoning cabinet (who are twiddling their thumbs0 to come down from their pedestals and find out what problems people face in the real world.
And while we are at it, India and Pakistan should stop test-firing missiles, and start test firing public interest programmes and help to improve the living standards of the people and strengthening their purchasing power; if they manage this, the two nations will surely strengthen themselves more.
The writer is an assistant editor at The News.