Pity the man in the street!

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Khalid Saleem

some­what cryptic but omi­nous re­mark that, “Our economies are more closely con­nected than ever be­fore and I know that many of you here are watch­ing how the United States gov­ern­ment will ad­dress the prob­lems in our fi­nan­cial sys­tem.” What fol­lowed at the bi-par­ti­san meet­ing on this res­cue op­er­a­tion put it on hold for the time be­ing. But, Pres­i­dent Bush was not the man to heed sane coun­sel.

Need­less to say, the man in the street had dif­fi­culty sup­press­ing his mis­giv­ings. Where was the vaunted 700 bil­lion dol­lars go­ing to come from? Or was it go­ing to be a re­peat of the great­est de­fault in the his­tory of world fi­nance – the de-link­ing of the dol­lar from the gold stan­dard? Go­ing by past record, the Third World was des­tined to be on the re­ceiv­ing end.

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, con­ve­niently quot­ing from the Char­ter of the United Na­tions that sets forth “the equal rights of na­tions large and small”, had also vowed to keep sup­port­ing for­mer Soviet Re­pub­lic of Ge­or­gia’s “ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity”. He added, some­what grandiosely, “Young democ­ra­cies around the world are watch­ing to see how we re­spond to this test. We must stand united in sup­port of the peo­ple of Ge­or­gia.” The man in the street, nev­er­the­less, would earnestly like to be­lieve that the “ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity” of states other than Ge­or­gia would be equally dear to the lead­er­ship of the su­per­power, once again in the light of the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions of the United Na­tions Char­ter.

In his turn, the, then, De­fence Sec­re­tary of the United States Robert Gates, while some­what in­ex­pli­ca­bly re­fer­ring to “the suc­cess we’ve had against al-Qaeda in Iraq”, had Email: bin­wa­keel@ya­hoo.com made the some­what pre­pos­ter­ous claim that “the great­est threat to the home­land lies in west­ern Pak­istan”. Sounds fa­mil­iar, does it not! This some­what open-ended state­ment had un­der­stand­ably added to the woes of the man in the street.

In the first place, the man in the street won­dered why the distin­guished De­fence Sec­re­tary had cho­sen to men­tion Pak­istan in con­junc­tion with Iraq? Se­condly, did the hon­ourable Sec­re­tary hon­estly be­lieve that the de­lib­er­ate dev­as­ta­tion of Iraq’s in­fra­struc­ture had helped his coun­try’s fight against ter­ror? And would this not be classed as an at­tempt to cover up the ev­i­dent short­com­ings in the Afghanistan cam­paign?

So much for the over the shoul­der look! The re­cent happenings around the world are not only not re­as­sur­ing they prom­ise more of the same. The Prime Min­is­ter of our neigh­bour­ing state, while out on a diplo­matic binge, ap­pears in­tent on fan­ning flames. In­stead of work­ing for a se­cure and peace­ful fu­ture for the re­gion, the ac­cent ap­pears to be on more of the same. From all ap­pear­ance, he looks more in­tent on at­tempt­ing to fish in, rather than pour oil on, the trou­bled wa­ters of the re­gion!

Mean­while at home, the se­ri­ous dif­fer­ence of opin­ion be­tween those who con­sider that the war on ter­ror is “our war” and those who think oth­er­wise has con­tin­ued. If any­thing, it ap­peared to be gain­ing in in­ten­sity by the day. The man in the street is not both­ered with se­man­tics; all he wants is peace in his home­land. And he is deeply con­cerned about the price he may be ex­pected to pay.

Prices of all ne­ces­si­ties and ser­vices con­tinue to rise by the day. Where is it all go­ing to end? Is there no rem­edy against this vir­tual scalp­ing? What hap­pened to the merry band of plan­ners and economists of yore, who rev­eled in thrust­ing macro and mi­cro statis­tics down com­mon peo­ple’s throats? Is there no re­demp­tion in sight? Why is there no con­sid­er­a­tion for the pen­sion­ers and the fixed in­come lot in our plan­ning?

Be that as it may, it must be rec­og­nized that the hap­less man in the street has long for­got­ten about such niceties as chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion and the like. He is to­day more con­cerned about where the next meal is go­ing to come from, given the gal­lop­ing in­fla­tion. Would it not be re­al­is­tic to ask whether the present is a pointer to a fu­ture in which he may be re­duced to eat­ing grass? But, in the cir­cum­stance in which even grass may not be easy to come by given the as­sault on green ar­eas by the con­struc­tion mafia, pity the Man in the Street! — The writer is a for­mer am­bas­sador and for­mer as­sis­tant sec­re­tary gen­eral of OIC.

The man in the street is not both­ered with se­man­tics; all he wants is peace in his home­land. And he is deeply con­cerned about the price he may be ex­pected to pay. Prices of all ne­ces­si­ties and ser­vices con­tinue to rise by the day. Where is it all go­ing to end?

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