'Might is right'

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Syed Saa­dat

IRE­MEM­BER the time when I used to live in a govern­ment res­i­dence and the house op­po­site to mine fell va­cant on the re­tire­ment of the in­cum­bent. He was a thor­ough gen­tle­man and va­cated the house as soon as he could af­ter he re­tired. The day af­ter he left, a middle-aged lady came to see her newly al­lot­ted ac­com­mo­da­tion. She was a teacher at a fed­eral govern­ment school and it was a real priv­i­lege for her to get the ac­com­mo­da­tion af­ter years of wait.

The lady put a lock on her newly al­lot­ted house as she planned to move in later dur­ing the week. The same evening a not very sober look­ing in­di­vid­ual broke that lock and moved in.

Later on, I got to know that he was the then prime min­is­ter's per­sonal guard who had been in­ducted in the po­lice depart­ment as deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice. The lady who had been orig­i­nally al­lot­ted the res­i­dence tried to con­vince him - to no avail - that what he had done was il­le­gal. This in­ci­dent took place sev­eral years ago, but the ex­pres­sion of help­less­ness on her face is still fresh in my mem­ory. Un­for­tu­nately, this is the modus operandi of do­ing things in Pak­istan.

The Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa govern­ment had de­cided to hand over govern­ment rest houses to the depart­ment of tourism for man­age­ment and to rent out at the mar­ket rate. All ex­cept one of the 15 rest houses were handed over to the depart­ment. The use of th­ese rest houses fetched the depart­ment mil­lions of ru­pees last sum­mer. The amount can be put to good use in the main­te­nance and up­lift­ing of the rest houses. The one rest house that was not handed over is Rockingham House of Nathi­a­gali which is un­der the con­trol of the po­lice depart­ment.

How a civil ser­vant is more pow­er­ful than the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the prov­ince is on dis­play in this af­fair where a de­fi­ant pro­vin­cial po­lice chief has been suc­cess­fully thwart­ing all ef­forts by the chief min­is­ter to trans­fer the own­er­ship of the rest house to the depart­ment of tourism in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa since June last year. It seems that the model po­lice of KP, which Imran Khan so of­ten ap­pre­ci­ates, can at times fol­low the same ap­proach as its coun­ter­parts else­where in the coun­try. Bring­ing about change is, per­haps, eas­ier said than done. Se­cu­rity is a real threat in Pak­istan but just like the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment has used the threat from across the bor­der as lev­er­age to in­crease its in­flu­ence and of­ten defy the au­thor­ity of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the coun­try, se­cu­rity is be­ing used as an ex­cuse for many seem­ingly un­fair affairs th­ese days. This is not lim­ited to the po­lice; the might-isright ap­proach is adopted by al­most all state in­sti­tu­tions. The army has cor­doned off much of Bhur­ban, a hill re­sort near Mur­ree that has a beau­ti­ful golf course which for a long time even un­der the army's con­trol was open to the gen­eral pub­lic. One could stroll along the lovely walk­ways amid the green­ery, but it has been many years since that sim­ple plea­sure has been taken away from the gen­eral pub­lic.

The golf course in ques­tion was not de­vel­oped by the Pak­istan Army but by Bri­tish forces in 1932.

Bar­ring en­try to the gen­eral pub­lic has noth­ing to do with se­cu­rity, as there is hardly any mil­i­tary per­son­nel sta­tioned at that golf course for most of the year and the re­stric­tion is just to en­sure that a sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity pre­vails for those who are al­lowed en­try. Had Keats been a Pak­istani poet, he would have writ­ten ' A thing of beauty is a joy for­ever - but not for the gen­eral pub­lic'. Sim­i­larly, the palaces of the nawabs of Ba­hawalpur which are a cul­tural her­itage and mar­vels of ar­chi­tec­ture are in the mil­i­tary's con­trol, and not open to the gen­eral pub­lic. Gulzar Ma­hal where the nawab used to live dur­ing his visit to Ba­hawalpur and Dar­bar Ma­hal where he used to hold court are not open to the pub­lic. Noor Ma­hal which was bought by the mil­i­tary that paid Rs120 mil­lion to the heirs of the nawab is an army mess, hence pub­lic ac­cess is re­stricted with­out prior per­mis­sion.

Isn't it the tax­pay­ers' money that funds the mil­i­tary? If this is the case is it jus­ti­fied to keep lo­cals away from the plea­sure of ap­pre­ci­at­ing this her­itage? The high ra­tio of in­di­rect taxes en­sures that the gen­eral pub­lic starves it­self even as it funds our de­fence forces, so I think they de­serve to be re­spected for their sac­ri­fice. Even the Buckingham Palace is open to the gen­eral pub­lic and any­one can buy a ticket and visit the palace. I wish our new masters - both civil­ian and khaki - would for a change imitate some­thing pos­i­tive from our old masters as well.

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