Time for Tough Decisions

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For seventy-five years of its existence, this nation has been going through various phases, where different mantras were coined for public consumption. At the time of the creation of Pakistan, it was a constitutional crisis, and the constitution was repealed or amended by every newcomer for personal and familial gains, which ultimately led to the separation of East Pakistan.
Later on, the constitution was again abrogated but was aided by a new phenomenon, whose debilitating effects are being felt to date. The phenomenon started with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the rulers,-to legitimize and perpetuate their rule, decided to fight a proxy war for the West and the Arab monarchs. Infrastructure development and economic growth were put on the back burner, and the mantra of ‘holy war’ was propagated. By 2000, while the nation was still recovering from the effects of the holy war, the rulers decided to go into another proxy war under the mantra of ‘do more,’ and again the interests of people, their welfare and socio-economic progress were put on the back burner. The ordinary citizens paid for these wars through bombings and terrorist attacks, which left thousands and thousands of people dead, many more maimed and traumastised for life, and hundreds and hundreds of widows and orphans with no recourse to medical or social support.
As the economy took a hit while fighting the holy and proxy wars, the economy shrank and joblessness became rampant; however, the government size and overhead expenditures increased. It was during this time, that the mantra of ‘to take tough decisions’, was slowly propagated by the government. Under this new mantra, to meet its ballooning expenditures and perks, the practice of increasing the prices of petrol, diesel, electricity, and items of daily use was put into practice by every successive government, thus making the life of the average citizen difficult by the day.
Fast forward to the coalition setup of 2023 and the recent elections of 2023/ 2024. The coalition government taking ‘tough decisions’ for the people’s interest, formed the largest federal cabinet in the history of Pakistan. However, the achievements of this coalition government were never mentioned or trumpeted in the election campaigns of 2023/2024. However, again, the contesting coalition promised to take certain’ tough decisions’ when voted to power: abolish the redundant federal ministries, cut the official protocol, do away with certain privileges establish good governance, and channel the saved money for subsidizing the poor.
Now, the present coalition government, a reflection of the year 2022/2023, has been ‘selected’ to power. The people want to remind the coalition leaders of the promises of abolishing the ministries which would save billions to be channeled to the welfare of the people –following the vision of Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi, through free electricity and gas. But, it appears that everyone is busy getting his or her kith and kin selected to the assemblies and positions of power. And following our chequered history, we might not even have a symbolic opposition in the present parliament to give even lip service to the concerns of socio-economically suppressed citizens of Pakistan.
Resultantly, we have a ‘cobbled’ government for the next five years with a mandate to take ‘tough decisions’. Consequently, utility prices have been continuously increased to squeeze the masses for the privileged few, people were left at the mercy of profiteers during Ramadan, and a hefty price increase of ten rupees was made in petrol prices yet again just before Eid. Adding to the repertoire of ‘tough decisions’ of the incumbent government, a flight from Saudi Arabia to Islamabad was diverted to Lahore in the larger interests of the country to make the people appreciate the continuous grind their representatives have to go through to help the masses. Thus, drawing upon the repertoire of ‘tough decisions’ taken by our leaders over the last few decades, it is still unclear if the intended beneficiaries of the ‘tough decisions’ are the rulers or the ruled.
The writer is a freelance columnist.