PAKISTAN TODAY 18th JUNE 2012
BY RABIA AHMED
Is putting two and two together that hard?
I write this on the eve of Shab-e-Miraj, the day the Prophet Mohammad was taken on a spiritual journey and granted an audience with God among other special experiences. Muslims all over the world commemorate this day (the 27th of the Islamic month of Rajab) with prayer, and by means of decorations on mosques, public buildings, and even private residences. Characteristically, in Pakistan, where there is an acute shortage of power these decorations take the form not of buntings or balloons, but bright illuminations: all public buildings festooned with string upon string of tiny multi coloured electric bulbs plugged into the grid.
It is something that one notices repeatedly here, this inability to relate the two and two in one hand to the four in the other, except in all the wrong ways. I put it down, without laying claim to any dizzying leaps of intellectual deduction in the process, to a lack of education…real education, that is, one that avoids rote and teaches by comparison, analysis and experience.
And so the Pakistani public and its government fail, year after miserably hot year, to notice, and to pay importance to the irony attached to a situation where the beautiful religion of Islam and its Prophet are celebrated in a way that increases the misery of its people.
As I write this, the power shortfall in the country would have exceeded a jolting 8,500 megawatts. Power loadshedding has touched unbearable peaks in weather that is reminiscent of hell, and protests against the situation have intensified certainly in Lahore, where the situation is compounded by an inadequate supply of water. The situation continues to spiral as several power plants cease production due to a lack of oil and gas.
Businesses have shut down across the country and people, facing with ruin and starvation are driven to suicide. This infernal scenario has been punctuated by astonishing statements for example by the previous Minister for Water and Power Mr Naveed Qamar saying in February that the country-wide loadshedding would come to an end that week onwards. Next month, the resident loud mouth Mr Rehman Malik said loadshedding would start decreasing within the next 48 hours, following directives from the president to double the supply of furnace oil to power generation companies.
Several biting responses come to mind following, but may I just observe that given that Mr Qamar has since taken charge of the ministry of defence, maybe we should all dig bunkers and live in them, or else take the prime minister’s suggestion and leave the country.
The other is that if all it takes is for the president to give orders to double the supply of furnace oil to power generation companies for them to resume production, why the hell did he fail to issue those orders earlier?
I’m afraid I have, by this time, come a long way from my original point which was to write about the countrywide inability to relate the two and two in one hand to the four in the other, except in all the wrong ways.
To illustrate which point, the Taliban have banned polio vaccines in North Waziristan with effect from last Saturday, threatening all those who violate the ban with, well with dire consequences, as they do. Noticing on the one hand a polio eradication campaign (“hullo!”), they related it to the drone attacks in the other (“infidel Americans!”), and with the fake campaign conducted by Dr Afridi in the mix (repeat the previous exclamation), they concluded that polio vaccination was evil stuff.
Tentatively, as one who dips the very tip of one toe in scalding water, let me state that I agree with the Taliban in so far as I condemn those drone attacks from the very bottom of my heart. How can anyone do otherwise? But on the whole I do my math somewhat differently.
It is said that one out of every three persons killed in American drone attacks over Pakistan is an innocent civilian. In total, hundreds of innocent people have died as a result of these attacks many of them children. This makes a mockery of the world’s current outrage against the murder of innocent people, including children, in Syria.
So, returning to Pakistan and its power shortage, may I wish you Shab-e-Miraj mubarak. It will be over by the time you read this, but it is never too late to be reminded of such events. Please think, when you do, of the Prophet Mohammad who strapped bricks to his belly rather than eat more than the minimum required to keep him alive in times of famine. Then think again of all those buildings alight with brilliant lights this week.
We know what we celebrate, but do we consider our methods?