The good, bad and ugly

The good thing about more autonomy that the provinces now enjoy under the 18th Amendment is that it has infused healthy competitiveness among them and each would like to be ahead of the others if it could help it. With every province now also having a newly-elected government in place after May 11, with the added pressure of showing direction, in the about to run-out first 100 days of performance, we have extremely good news from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
An ordinance, which is being launched today, in Peshawar, is the first of its kind in Pakistan and pertains to the ‘Right to Information’. Because of it, every citizen will have the right to access any information or record held by a public body within 10 days of filing a request. It is a big step forward to strengthen the democratic process and to ensure open and responsive governance. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has given itself a clear and good direction, which the others need to emulate.
An independent and autonomous Information Commission is being set up in this connection. It will have the power to monitor and report on the compliance by public bodies, and also to publicise the requirements of the ordinance and the rights of the individuals under it. It will be headed by a senior, retired government servant, appointed by the government and will have three other members. They will include one retired judge of the High Court, one advocate of the High Court or the Supreme Court, and one known representative of the civil society. All will work for one term of four years each.
I am not sure how quickly the bureaucrats or technocrats get used to the idea of being accountable, but it certainly feels good to know that at least in one province of Pakistan, it has become a criminal offence to obstruct access to any record.
That was the good and now to come to the bad. The drama that caught us unawares in Islamabad at the close of the first proper working day after the Eid holidays was not funny at all. It was just so unbelievable because it was so prolonged. One mentally unhinged man, brandishing two automatic weapons and constantly smoking plus knocking back energy drinks to add effect, merrily stops his car on the main business thoroughfare of the city and starts to make incomprehensible and impossible demands. That he is accompanied by his wife and two young children adds to the improbability of it.
There he was, in full public view, shooting in the air from time to time and really enjoying the attention he was getting. Where were our snipers and the ‘rapid-response’ that seems to have become a buzz word?
The Federal Minister for Interior needs to beware that this is quite an expose of the preparedness of all those responsible for our security and if ‘rapid-response’ is not visible in six hours, Lord help us if the response is just normal.
It has also laid bare the fact that there is no chain of command and everybody is doing pretty much as their inclination guides them. If this is the situation concerning people in charge, can one really blame Zamurd Khan for doing what he did?
He, too, did as inclination guided him and we owe him gratitude for at least allowing us to go to sleep for the night after his attempt at boxing the mad man brought the show to a conclusion. That it was an act of sheer bravery must also be acknowledged. It also gave his parent party the PPP a high because it reminded them of the passion of the original jiyalas.
There is also the debate about how media played into the hands of the intruder and caused the drama to go on for longer than was needed. I, personally, think that media anywhere in the world would have wanted to show the action as it unfolded as their job is to stay abreast and report. It was the job of the people in charge to cordon off the area from media if it had to be done.
What media did do wrong, however, were the senseless telephonic conversations with the husband and wife duo, particularly when it became abundantly clear that they had nothing much to say and also because it had come to light that the lead culprit was a drug addict and could not be taken seriously in any case. And the photograph of the wife as a bride was pure ‘chaska’ and nothing else!
The really ugly this week is the escalation in the skirmishes across the Line of Control and the turn things are taking between India and Pakistan. India has also released one lakh cusec water in River Chenab to add to the problems of floods in the monsoon rains. This week both the countries celebrated their independence days, one day apart. Our problems are the same and interlinked. Much like Siamese twins one cannot progress without the other just as one cannot go down without dragging the other one too.
Wars are the last thing needed by the people on both sides of the border. I am not sure of the writer’s name, but read a most beautiful qataa on India and Pakistan’s independence days, and am compelled to share it with all of you:

“Ghulam tum bhi thai kal tak,
ghulaam hum bhi thai,
Naha kai khoon mai ayie thi
Mazaa tau tab tha kai mil ker
ilaj-e-jaan kertay,
Khud apney haaton sai
taameer-e-gulsitaan kertay,
Tumharey dard may hum aur hamarey dard mai tum,
Shareek hotey tau phir
jashn-e-ashiyan kertay.”

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.

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