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October 22, 2020

War of accusations

Opinion

October 22, 2020

The long-awaited start by the opposition against the government under the PDM banner has begun. We cannot say yet if it will to any degree succeed in dislodging or shaking the government. This appears extremely unlikely at the moment. However, the sentiment expressed by people at the rallies shows how they feel, no matter whether they are affiliated to any of the 11 parties making up the PDM or to any party at all.

Almost all of those attending asked said the prime reason for them attending the rally was their anger against the price hike and the possibility of life in a situation where the prices of ordinary items have risen so high that it is impossible for the middle class, leave alone working classes, to put bread on the table for their children. One proposal that has come up is to ask the economic experts' team of the prime minister to put together a budget using the minimum wage of Rs20,000 as a base for a family consisting only of a husband, wife and one child. Logic shows it's almost impossible.

Many in our country earn even less. The question arises of how they are to manage and where they should turn. The average number of children per household in our country is at least four children and very often more. The average wage earner generally also supports other members of the family either partially or fully. In this situation and under growing strain more and more people are turning to professional money-lenders, locking themselves in a perpetual cycle of debt that they are unable to repay.

Already the impact of the huge increase in prices and the inflationary pressures is being felt. Reports of suicide grow in Sindh. Welfare programmes run under Ehsaas have done some good but not enough. We must do more. Add to education and health budgets and ask our team of experts why we have sunk lower than so many impoverished nations within a few decades.

We should also ask why so many other countries around the world have done better than us. They have better statistics for child health and stand above us in most developmental indicators. There is no logical reason why Pakistan has been unable to match them. By now it should have been a far stronger country in terms of human security and the ability to care for its citizens. The manner in which we have run our state has let us all down. This cannot be attributed just to corruption. Mismanagement and incompetence are also involved. There is also the issue of how committed our leaders are to the condition of the people. Had this commitment existed there should have been no reason for Karachi to be in the terrible civic state we see today after over a decade of rule by a single party.

The question is how we can reach the goal we must achieve. No one can do so alone. The people must be involved in any struggle for stability and some sense of order. Plenty of people exist in the country who would like to help in such a mission, but they are often pushed to the side lines in case they take the limelight away from our ministers and other prominent figures, who like to state that they are doing the best possible job in the country. In some cases, they're doing an acceptable job. In others, they are failing completely. But there's no reason not to involve people more fully in government and to make sure they have the absolute right to make decisions which allow them to take a part in active life.

At present, this is our main struggle. There are far too many Pakistanis who live below the poverty line. We all know this, the story has been told over and over again. The question is how to bring an ending that will change lives. The current story suggests that we are ending towards a tragedy. We cannot afford to allow this.

For this purpose, the government must act as swiftly as it possibly can. There is little evidence right now that it has the capacity to do so. The Tiger Force after all can manage only a limited number of tasks. It cannot both hunt down locusts, control prices and battle Covid-19 by ensuring SOPs are in place. We already have existing structures for these purposes. The main aim must be to use this and put them in a situation where they can be utilised fully and with a good level of efficiency, so that everyone's purpose is served and we can develop towards a goal which gives every person dignity and the right to express their opinions.

We do not need venom. We need understanding and a tryst with democracy that can lead us towards real change and a better future for everyone in the country. What the main opposition parties should be doing right now is putting forward plans that can create the kind of change that people need. If any party can offer a program that is sensible and offers to solve the main grievances of people there is no doubt that people would turn eagerly to this group and almost certainly elect it when the next opportunity arises.

This is after all what all political entities seek and their best hope of collecting these votes is by offering people what they are looking for in terms of their most basic needs, and meeting their demands for a reduction in unending inflation so they can live a life that is worth living.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.

Email: [email protected]