It was a sad day, Wednesday, when the Punjab Assembly unanimously passed separate resolutions calling for the restoration of provincial status of Bahawalpur and the creation of a new province of Janoobi Punjab. The resolutions demanded the immediate constitution a national commission to work out the details of carving out these federating units. The resolutions were passed in a special session by members from both sides of the divide. Earlier, the PPP had passed a resolution in the National Assembly for creating a new province comprising southern Punjab with a view to making a dent in PML-N’s power base. After setback in bye-elections in southern Punjab, PML-N local leaders suggested to its leadership to support the demand for a province. It was to win over the people there that the Punjab Law Minister tabled the resolutions. The moves both the PPP and the PML-N appear rather deceptive. Had they been serious they would have adopted the modalities enshrined in the Constitution instead of passing non-binding resolutions.
But is this the right time for an exercise of nature when the country faces threats to its security? Yes, there has been unequal development of the provinces as well as in different regions of provinces. But instead of focusing on developing the neglected regions, politicos are following the course which will further exacerbate the existing chasms in the society. With their no-holds-barred partisan politics, they in fact are fuelling the sentiments of parochialism, ethnicity and discord. It is a repellent scenario that in their heated discourse these days, they are talking of everything on earth except what they should be doing to redress the wrongs of the past.
They are pursuing self-serving and self-perpetuating politics zealously, quite unmindful of its disastrous consequences. The kind of fragmentation blighting the nation today was never ever witnessed before in the 65 years of our history. It stands deeply divided virtually on every issue, fractured by ideological and political divisions. Parochial, ethnic, religious, sectarian and confessional disputes are playing havoc with the solidarity and cohesion that are the hallmark of a successful nation.
Unfortunately, the media is also behaving in a fashion, which is not always conducive to forging unity. Certain media houses, in the race for presenting alarming new to catch the attention of the audience and financial gains, seem to have surrendered professional objectivity And talk shows in particular have become the forums for airing and fanning dissensions. Instead of inviting knowledgeable and erudite panelists to analyse the issues objectively and present solutions, the anchors bring up the usual fossils that have nothing worthwhile to offer except slogans they are adept in. Nowhere in the world do the media outlets offer freely such a space to the declared secessionists and separatists to propagate their anti-state ideologies. Not even the media networks of the entrenched democratic orders go to the extent that ours do.
Whereas the lack of socio-economic justice creates contradictions that over time become irreconcilable, the sentiments of parochialism and separatism too have much to do with these economic ailments as well as feelings of deprivation. The people may be reeling under crushing poverty, squalor, disease and want, but with our political leaders are at loggerheads with each other trying to run down national institutions to further their political agendas, nothing better could be expected.
Unfortunately, our leaders do not have the vision for addressing the ravaging economic woes of the people and pulling the country out of the morass. These leaders mostly come from the nation's traditionally privileged coterie of the landed classes, who have either no clue to setting things right or are just not bothered about it. Some, including industrial barons, have their interests abroad where they own businesses, grand palaces and luxurious mansions. They descend here only to do their petty politicking and power politics. They would be least pushed about the people’s miseries or whether the country is being pushed by their policies to the brink of disaster.
For over six decades, the profligacy of our the ruling classes and the politics of power and pelf have brought the country to economic, political and moral ruin. The state apparatus has become victim to personalized whims and self-aggrandizement, and failed to convert the idealism of the Founding Fathers into a concrete reality. The tragedy is that political as well as religious parties have failed to inspire the people due to their wayward and dogmatic approaches.
n The writer is a senior journalist and freelance columnist.