An Open Letter to Mr. President

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Dear Mr. President,

With all respect which I doubt that you deserve, I may state that I have a few massive concerns related to you and your recent address to the Joint Sitting of the Parliament that I seriously need to get across. I very well realize that your disregard towards general public opinion is brazen enough to render any expression useless.

But oh well, just for the sake of my own catharsis!

I recently had the chance to listen to your presidential address in which you nicely tried to present a beautiful rosy picture of our country, and maintained that all credit of this imaginary prosperity must go to your excellent governance. You also attempted to dub the longest tenure of an elected government as your giant achievement. I apologize if I disillusion any of the fantasies that you’ve created in your head, but I must emphasize on the fact that your government, more than yours, is the success of the patience of the people of Pakistan who have always shown incredible resilience in the face of adversity and disaster.

A few words also, on the way you proceeded with your address: I remember when we were in school, and any of our teachers would just mechanically read off from the book during her lecture; our faith in her grip over the subject would immediately erode away with dozing off as the only option left. I mean, I acknowledge the fact that the only steps you lay on Pakistani soil are mostly from your home to your helicopter that transports you to the airport. I sympathize with you that most of your days are spent abroad because your foreign assets need supervision and you are unable to overcome the alienation that you possess towards the people and the problems of this country. But I strongly urge you to at least prepare well for your extremely rare public appearances, because reading off the whole speech, keeping your eyes affixed on the script just doesn’t emanate the right kind of signals.

In the start, I was fooled into believing that you’re up to making some sort of important announcement, but it took me only moments to decide that there was nothing more to it except for the broadcasting of the accomplishments that never took place. Whoever was bestowed with the challenge of writing the presidential address was either amblyopic or under a serious dearth of resources, unable to factually present the bigger picture. For instance, the Benazir Income Support Program was touched upon; the inadequacies of it, were not. Neither was there any mention of the scam the program recently turned out to be. You claimed to have taken measures to appease the Balochistan crisis, but you failed to then justify where exactly on ground those measures are, and why are they unable to assuage the rage and the separationist elements boiling forth more than ever in Balochistan lately. You also made a rather surprising revelation about the sincere commitment of your government towards the goal of electricity production and asserted that you were successful in generating 33 million additional watts and more is work under progress. Excuse my curiosity Mr. President, but might you also reveal where exactly are you hiding all those extra million watts because, at present, the most torturous and the longest unscheduled bouts of loadshedding render your assertions just so hollow.

I realize that the undisrupted supply of electricity that you have ensured for yourself and your family financed mainly by our blood and taxes does not leave you in a position to understand the plight of a common man who suffers at the hand of power outages. But if I may remind you I am not talking about my own selfish concerns. Although God knows, how exceedingly annoying it is to be disrupted and how loadshedding has turned a normal human being into a factory of rage and curse. But most importantly, I dismay upon the state of stagnation and inactivity in the industry that lead to losses, unemployment and a wretched state of misery. Your golden statistics and extra million watts on paper are not enough to wipe that out.

I digress, but I might as well add that I was impressed to see with what reverence your cronies, yes-men, and beneficiaries were absorbing the sacred words coming out of your mouth. I mean they were all ears and I was surprised by the enormous human capacity at work to contain a plethora of blatant lies. Only if you had also talked about the corruption, incompetence, mismanagement and plunder carried out by these associates of yours.

The larger part of your address was dedicated to imparting the economic accomplishments of your government. You made it sound so utopic and prosperous that I assumed you had forgotten you were talking about Pakistan. I do not understand why all the relief efforts that you enlisted have failed to pull 50% of Pakistanis living below the poverty line any higher. And why so then Pakistanranks so low on the Human Development Index (fell from 125th in 2010 to 145th country in 2011) after all your tireless efforts to elevate the poor.

I wish to add that being an economics student, thinking in terms of economics has become sort of my habit and therefore I am in full position to identify the distortions and incomplete, manipulated pieces of statistics that you promulgated to establish your desired viewpoint. To count a few, you proudly announced that you raised the salaries of the government employees by 125% over the past four years. A person only needs to be college educated to debunk the myth of the efficacy of a nominal wage increase. But ah my memory! I keep forgetting that you did not really meet the criteria required for holding public office, which requires a college degree and chief justice Hameed Dogar had to relax and lower the qualification standards to allow you to become the president of Pakistan and hence you acquired your dream job with little education and hardly the intellectual depth deemed necessary for it. So, may I assist you a little? If you raise the nominal salaries and the inflation is rising at an even a higher rate, and the prices of basic necessities, food, fuel, education and medicine are skyrocketing, the benefits in real terms of any such measure are then reduced to almost zilch. The people are not better off in terms of their purchasing power and standards of living and you sadly failed to account for that.

Moreover, you also confidently asserted that exports under your tenure have reached a proud figure of $2.5 billion. Now I must praise, what a smart, smart move. What a skewed display of facts to mention the exports without having to say a word about the imports and the bigger picture known as the trade balance. Only if you had also mentioned that that imports have also crossed the figure of $5 billion which results in a negative trade balance. Concealing the truth in order to distort things is technically a lie.

And foreign debts?

I assume you might have forgotten to mention the foreign debts because the appalling figure related to them isn’t that petty a thing to be otherwise overlooked so easily: That the total foreign debts over the last four years have exceeded the overall sum of debts incurred over the past fifty years. The people of this country reserve the right to know that half their sweat and blood is being used to service these huge, mysterious foreign debts. The people must also need to know that under the façade of progressive taxation, they are being subject to repressive taxing, because big shots like you and your associates are essentially tax evaders and the whole burden falls on the shoulders of a common man in the form of oppressively increasing indirect sales taxes.

I am unhappy because the former dictator Musharraf dubs his economic policy as his major success despite the fact that it was dominantly consumption-based, supply-side, and essentially myopic. But yours is worse and is an incomparable malfunction leading the former to mistakenly believe himself as the only savior of the nation at this point of crisis while the country just cannot afford more mess.

Evil deeds are bad, but evil deeds along with a sense of self complacency are a disaster.

You seem to hold a lot on to the rhetoric of democracy. “We are proud of our young democracy” is what you stated in your address. Correct me if I am wrong but in your lexicon of political jargon, is ‘democracy’ listed as a term to describe the concentration of all power in the hands of one individual who can use the parliament as a rubber stamp? Or is democracy a legitimizing banner under which you can carry out all plunder peacefully? It seems so. Because the facts suggest that your practices are indeed far from the true essence of democracy. You brought your sisters in the parliament and allotted key positions to your favorite people in your party and government. Those who dared to disagree with you had to suffer the fate of marginalization from the mainstream. And I had been thinking all my life that democracy is all about consensus and elections at every level.

So basically, after recounting this all, I wish to also recall Abraham Lincoln’s words that you cannot fool all the people all of the time.

I realize that Pakistan has mostly been unfortunate in terms of the leaders it has acquired but some are classified as more unscrupulously obstinate than the rest. And it’s a total pity when a man allegedly involved in corruption, bribery, graft, blackmail, kidnapping and even murder is hauled into the office of the President, thanks to the assistance of a dictator and the intervention of a superpower. I am sure you can empathize with my sorrow over this series of misfortunes. But as your governance term is coming to its close, the best you can do at the end is to abdicate your presidential responsibilities peacefully without any theatrics and ensure to carry free and fair elections. I may add that sweeping your glance over the history of Pakistan should be enough to realize that most leaders let go the throne either by death or disgrace, or both. Faiz has beautifully portrayed in the verses that describe the inevitable day on which all crowns will be tossed in the air and all thrones will be smashed. Excuse my superstitiously medieval thinking but on the day of your address, when your chair hurled back and came down falling to the ground, it just rang like a bad omen in my mind and reminded me of the very same Faiz’s verses.

You, your associates and fellows might have ended up as multi-billionaires at the cost of the impoverishment of millions and have successfully deterred our faith in humanity, but a faith in the retribution of a higher power just keeps us all going. I wonder when will we all learn to learn and learn to care?

Regards,

A Concerned Pakistani

‘Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;

Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.’

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