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Pakistan Today Editorial – 22th March 2016

Land of cheap lives

Too many needless deaths

Too many years of too many deaths have clearly made us thick-skinned as a nation, at least as far as unnecessary loss of life is concerned. It took us close to 60,000 deaths to declare war on the terrorists, after all. Before that no manner of institutional, targeted or even random killings, it seemed, mattered. Sectarian minorities were gunned down by the thousands, ordinary men, women and children were blown up by the tens of thousands, militant wings of political mafias spread terror in urban centres, even road-side pick-pocket killings became commonplace; yet few people seemed bothered in Islamabad.

There are also other types of deaths that hardly even register on the national conscience anymore; an 11-year old boy gunned down by a security guard in Karachi the other day, for example. Apparently he was wearing a ‘scary’ mask, which scared the supposedly professionally trained guard so much that he shot the boy in the head. This is not the first such incident, of course, and going by usual official neglect, it is unlikely to be the last.

Security companies – that provide security guards for homes, offices, people, etc – have become quite the rage for some time now owing to the general law and order breakdown. Going by reports, it is not that there has been out-of-control demand; rather the excess supply has also been used to create its own demand, following the oldest classical economics doctrine. And catering to this inflated demand has compromised quality on many fronts, to put it mildly. Most of these guards – armed and ready to shoot – have received minimal training. They are clearly unable to take calculated decisions at crunch time and can hardly do better than pull the trigger. This industry, which has run without proper oversight for a long time, has become a money-minting mafia in its own right. Not only should it be properly regulated, but those directly and indirectly involved in these deaths should be taken to task.

Is opposition alliance on the cards?

Seems unlikely anytime soon

Finding it hard to create a significant constituency in any of the smaller provinces, the PML-N has decided to concentrate on Punjab to reach the corridors of power after 2018 elections. The Punjab government chose eye catching development schemes like expressways, underpasses, flyovers and metro bus projects in the fast expanding major cities of the province. In rural areas it improved roads and has recently promised Rs100bn as ‘placatory package’ for agricultural development. With promise to end load shedding before the end of its present tenure, the PML-N hopes to secure both urban and rural Punjab. A realisation is gradually emerging in the opposition parties that in case they remain divided, they stand to lose to the PML-N once again. As Ch Shujaat Hussain put it the other day, a divided opposition cannot replace the PML-N government.

One of the hindrances in uniting the opposition has been the PTI’s attitude. Imran Khan has long believed that he needed no alliance to win the next general elections. The PTI received a setback after losing four national and two provincial elections in Punjab in the wake of the Islamabad sit-in, besides one NA seat in Karachi and one in KP. After putting up bad performance in LG elections in Punjab, it lost another NA seat in the province. This creates the possibility of Imran Khan deciding to put an end to the policy of solo flight.

The PPP, meanwhile, is out in the streets both in Sindh and Punjab to condemn the PML-N for letting Pervez Musharraf leave Pakistan. The Opposition, however, remains divided over Musharraf’s issue as well as on the recently enacted law to protect women against violence. Khursheed Shah criticised the PML-N government for letting Musharraf leave the country. Interestingly, he was supported by PTI’s Shah Mahmud Qureshi. Presently the opposition is united only on opposing PIA’s privatisation. It would be difficult under the circumstances to hope for the emergence of an opposition alliance anytime soon.

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