What a coun­try!

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

YES, what a coun­try! A par­adise on earth, that's what Pak­istan got - from shin­ing sea to the sec­ond high­est peak in the world. Be­fore you de­clare it 'par­adise lost', tarry a while and think: Only in this coun­try does the heart beat faster when a PIA plane brings you back to your roots. In no other coun­try does it feel like home. In no other coun­try does the desi food taste as de­li­cious as here. In no other coun­try do you get hugs and kisses ac­com­pa­nied by pro­fuse din­ner in­vi­ta­tions when you chance upon an old ac­quain­tance. Peo­ple are gen­uinely happy to wel­come you back to where you really be­long.

Only in this coun­try does a tooth ex­trac­tion cost Rs4,000 and an im­plant Rs75,000. My den­tist in the US charges $500 for tooth ex­trac­tion and $5,000 for an im­plant.

"Go back and get your teeth fixed. It's much cheaper there," Dr Ruvo tells me when I go run­ning to her for help. Dr Shahid Mah­mood, the Texas-trained den­tist in Is­lam­abad says: "I tell my friends and fam­ily in Amer­ica to take a trip out to Pak­istan, get their dental work done, have a va­ca­tion and re­turn re­freshed in less than half the money they would spend on their teeth treat­ment in the US."

Dental is­sues aside, Is­lam­abad is a hap­pen­ing place. Some friends wanted to eat out on Valen­tine's Day. "We went around but were turned away. Ev­ery place was booked solid."

Pro­fes­sion­als in all fields, I find are ef­fi­cient, friendly and will­ing to help you when you turn up in their of­fices to get work like car in­surance, car reg­is­tra­tion, re­funds for un­used PIA tick­ets, money trans­fers and a hun­dred other things that need to be done if you've been away from Pak­istan long.

But what a coun­try - where traf­fic lights don't ex­ist in the cap­i­tal city. The mes­sage: Drive at your own risk; fend for your­self! There are no cops on the streets. It's free for all. The dare­devil mo­tor bik­ers chal­lenge ev­ery nerve in your body as they charge around reck­lessly packed with women and chil­dren at the back. The only cops you see are stand­ing fid­dling with their cell phones or chat­ting leisurely with each other while lined up along VIP routes daily.

What a coun­try where a prop­erty ty­coon can buy off the sons of VVIPs,

An­jum Niaz load them with pricey gifts and then openly boast about his feats. First to fall from grace is the son of the Chief Jus­tice of Pak­istan. The case stands un­re­solved. Now it's Bi­lawal's turn to have a multi-mil­lion dol­lar mega­home named af­ter him by Riaz.

What a coun­try where the pres­i­dent of the poverty stricken pop­u­lace brazenly ac­cepts this graft in the name of his son from the most con­tro­ver­sial man in Pak­istan. With his own mil­lions stashed overseas, Zar­dari and son are hardly a char­ity case in need of a roof over their heads courtesy Ma­lik Riaz. Splashed in the me­dia are pho­to­graphs of the VVIP fa­ther and son hold­ing 'court' in one of the 50 for­mal draw­ing rooms of Bi­lawal House in La­hore.

What a coun­try where the same man, Ma­lik Riaz builds a sand cas­tle telling all and sundry that it will be the tallest build­ing in Karachi worth $45bn in part­ner­ship with the Abu Dhabi Group. The hy­per TV chan­nels go into an over­drive putting Burj Khal­ifa in Dubai to shame. Ma­lik's tower will soon re­place the Burj in height and grandeur, open-jawed Pak­istani pub­lic is told. Not so fast! Say the Abu Dhabi Group. They pub­lish a quar­ter page clar­i­fi­ca­tion in all our news­pa­pers con­tra­dict­ing Riaz's tall claims.

Dis­tanc­ing it­self from the deal, the Group de­clares that the whole ex­er­cise was noth­ing more than a 'Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing' be­tween them and Ma­lik Riaz of Bahria Town. Since both the par­ties failed to reach a "con­clu­sion" the deal stands can­celled!

What a coun­try where the US dol­lar touches the Rs100 mark. In­stead of stalling the ru­pee de­cline, the government dis­penses with the ser­vices of its fi­nance sec­re­tary. A week later, the fi­nance min­is­ter too de­parts, leav­ing the coun­try's fi­nances in the lurch. A man­ager of a lo­cal bank tells me that as elec­tions near and un­cer­tainty grows, politi­cians are busy trans­fer­ring their ill-got­ten wealth out of Pak­istan.

What a coun­try where the rul­ing elite are the main black mar­keters who pocket $6.12bn, par­al­lel­ing al­most half of Pak­istan's for­eign ex­change re­serves. Their ill-got­ten money is mainly ac­quired through drug smug­gling, book piracy, gas and oil smug­gling, hu­man smug­gling, tax eva­sion and coun­ter­feit money. Hav­oc­scope, the world's lead­ing provider of in­for­ma­tion about the black mar­ket ranks Pak­istan close to Afghanistan which is the world's num­ber one coun­try with $7.3bn in black mar­ket. There are laws to catch the scofflaws but the courts, in­clud­ing the Supreme Court are help­less.

What a coun­try where the son of a prime min­is­ter along with a fed­eral min­is­ter and a fed­eral sec­re­tary are ac­cused of im­port­ing the deadly drug called ephedrine and health of­fi­cials di­vert 25,000 kg ephedrine to the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies for smug­gling abroad. The then Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Health Dr Rashid Juma, a re­spected brain sur­geon, in his state­ment as an ' ap­prover' al­leges that he was threat­ened by the then health sec­re­tary Khush­nood Lashari to do as told or else he'd get the sack. Iron­i­cally, the min­is­ter and the sec­re­tary con­tinue in their posts de­spite the court ac­cus­ing them of the crime, while the son who is a mem­ber Na­tional As­sem­bly is out on bail. The case will grad­u­ally fiz­zle out as hap­pens al­ways. What a coun­try where the con­sti­tu­tion is vi­o­lated by the law­mak­ers them­selves, most of them hold­ing fake de­grees and ow­ing huge sums to the State Bank.

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