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- Friday, October 12, 2012 - From Print Edition

Fleeting moments

The true test for any government that boasts of its democratic character is if its policies focus upon the disadvantaged and the ignored, not the rich and the affluent. How does carving more provinces out of the existing ones help the poor? How would renaming southern Punjab – as the Seraiki province – improve the quality of life of the Seraiki-speaking people? Will they get better health and education facilities or more jobs in the new province? Or, will the new province only serve as a politicking field for the feudal of the Seraiki belt?

Let’s assume that the required number of parliamentarians have voted to make the Seraiki province. What change will take place forthwith? One of the main cities will be declared as the provincial headquarters. Huge construction projects will be announced in that the new parliament house, governor house, chief minister house, and mansions for innumerable ministers will have the top priority. The top bureaucrats and their staff will come next, hence another wave of construction of houses and offices for them. Similarly, the high court would be set up and with it the residences of the judges and their staff. Why all this? And is the undertaking economically viable?

Had the government set a precedent of good governance during its time in office, people might have accepted its proposal of a new province. On the contrary, if anything this government would be remembered for, it’s the court battles it has fought so far. The sad part is that such battles were not contested from any moral pedestal to uphold principles, but to defeat them. The Swiss letter, for instance, has taken more than three years to write or not to write. Shaking each others hands, self-important lawyers have scurried in and out of the highest court but the letter hasn’t yet been written. The only community that has enriched itself in this bargain is that of the lawyers’ who never had it so good in their life.

Similarly, many parliamentarians holding fake degrees and dual nationalities have fought their own little battles of perks and privileges; some have lost their cases thus their memberships while some are brazenly fighting it out. The mega scandals of corruption that surfaced in the last four and half years of this government have made their own history. The scams took place with such celerity that the public couldn’t keep count of them. For example, how many remember the Punjab Bank scandal, and what happened to its sleazy operators and beneficiaries? Mind you, the scams are no more in the few hundred millions as in the good old days; they’re now in billions and no less. Those pulling such feats are in a hurry it seems.

Moreover, compare Punjab with rest of the provinces. While Punjab is tranquil, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa face serious insurgency in many parts. Fata has become a no-go area for Pakistanis. And Sindh is no better, with harrowing news of target-killings in its port city and country’s major trading hub – Karachi – pouring in every day. Why think of dividing Punjab? Is it proving more difficult to govern than other provinces?

Looking disgruntled after descending the hilltop, former premier Gilani has been leading the Seraiki province campaign. His has two problems, both genuine and no pun. First, being a mediocrity he tasted premiership, hence he would not settle for anything less than the chief minister office of the (Seraiki) province. Second, he has sons to plough into politics. They’re truly anokha ladlas with court cases trailing them. Like the Gilanis, there are other feudal families whose sons and daughters, to our misfortune, are only good for politics. And the Seraiki province remains their dream.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email:[email protected]