View Full Version : The PPP’s ATM IRFAN HUSAIN — 27th June 2015

27th June 2015, 04:50 AM
I WAS going to write about something else this week, but an email from a reader sent my mind in a different direction. My reader reminded me about the days in the 1950s when Clifton was a place for family outings, and children would run around the Jehangir Kothari Parade, the Katrak Bandstand and the Lady Lloyd Pier. Now, all these historic spots have been blighted by a land developer’s monstrous scheme.

Allegedly aided by Asif Zardari, Malik Riaz, the head honcho of the octopus-like Bahria land development group, has transformed old Clifton, and not for the better. Despite protests from environmental groups, the Bahria Town Icon Tower project has bulldozed over objections and citizens’ rights to build its 853-foot monstrosity.

This is the same group that built the 70,000 square-foot Bilawal House in Lahore for Zardari at apparently very favourable terms. It would seem that the quid pro quo for this enormous mansion is the country’s tallest building being inflicted on the people of Karachi.

The party is incapable of decent governance.
And this is not all Karachi’s citizens are being forced to endure at the hands of the PPP government. ‘China-cutting’ is a new term to enter the lexicon of corrupt practices. Apparently it refers to chunks of public land sliced off and attached to private property with the alleged connivance of the Sindh Building Control Authority.

This agency was recently visited by officers from the Rangers, triggering the famous anti-army blast from Zardari. Its director general, Manzoor Qadir, is alleged to be close to Zardari, and no doubt has inside knowledge of the many skeletons in the PPP closet.

Another person allegedly using Karachi as his personal ATM is Qamar Siddiqui, vice president of the Karachi Fishermen Cooperative Society. He is said to be singing to the Rangers, and if one were to believe media reports, 70pc of his alleged illicit earnings were directed towards Bilawal House. While it’s true that such allegations carry little legal weight, it is also a fact that he was appointed by the Sindh government.

Apart from the first PPP government in the 1970s — which, even if you disagree with its policies, was very effective and, compared to its successors, relatively clean — the following three were distinguished mainly by their incompetence and corruption. And their current provincial version is even worse.

In the past, the party was effective in the opposition, but incapable of decent government. Now, apparently due to an unwritten deal with the ruling PML-N, its role in the opposition is one of easygoing laissez-faire.

Driving through Hyderabad recently, I was struck by the ramshackle buildings, the fetid pools of stagnant water and the general air of neglect that hung over a once-proud city. Much of Karachi is no better. And while the earlier MQM city administration did much to enhance Karachi’s infrastructure, the PPP has focused on personal enrichment.

As somebody who has opposed military intervention for my entire writing career, I would normally have been against the Rangers walking into government offices and conducting inquiries into allegations of corruption. But watching my city pushed into chaos by venal politicians and conniving bureaucrats, something inside me says: Enough!

My friends Ayaz Amir and Zahid Hussain recently asked substantially the same question in their columns: how long can appeals to democracy justify shameless corruption and criminal incompetence? Surely politicians cannot endlessly use it as an excuse for their greed and their neglect of their duty to the public.

This should not be taken as a condemnation of democracy or an appeal for yet more military intervention. We have had enough of the latter to last several lifetimes, and we know by now that army rule is no solution to our many problems. And yet perhaps the tension between the military and our civilian leadership is no bad thing. A close partnership would have removed a strong check on politicians.

The downside is that when the PPP is in power, it expects to be kicked out at short notice, so it goes into moneymaking mode as soon as it’s sworn in. Given its history, it has good reason to fear the other centres of power ganging up against the party.

As we saw, both Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir were the targets of the military and the judiciary. In the PPP narrative, they were victimised because they were Sindhi. But the party’s roots in Sindh have not translated into any benefits for the province. On the contrary, the PPP’s domination has been an unmitigated disaster, with few sanctioned development funds leading to any improvement.

The fact that most people in Karachi do not have access to piped water is a stark indictment of the provincial government.

A few years ago, a young man from Karachi visiting Lahore for the first time observed to a friend on his return: “It was like I was in a foreign country.”


Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2015