Friday, October 14, 2005

Earthquake & the Pakistani Leadership

As we face the largest natural disaster since 1970, it is an opportune moment to take a brief glance at our leadership.

Blundering ineptitude on part of the government during the devastating cyclone of 1970 not only led to the
death of 500,000 Pakistanis but also helped add fuel to the fire that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh a year later.

So what do we have now?

In recent days much has been made of the inability of the party in government – the Pakistan Army – to deal with our present calamity. This comes as a bit of a surprise. If there is any outfit that ought to be primed for crises it has to be the military. War, after all, is technically an emergency of major proportions as turbulent events take place on multiple fronts. And yes, battle success often depends upon superior organisational and logistical skills.

Television news reports coming from Muzaffarabad, Balakot, Bagh, etc., reveal that the Azad Kashmiris have been accusing General Musharraf and his military government of being slow to respond to the catastrophe.

For once the Commando-in-Chief decided to take it on the chin. Four long days after the earthquake, he appeared on television on the sixth anniversary of his military coup and
regretted the delay in helping the earthquake victims.

OK, so the army may have been found wanting in dealing with the current crisis – which perhaps could be attributed to the organisation’s institutionalised boneheadedness. And so, it may have taken a day or so for the awful reality to dawn upon Musharraf and his men that the disaster encompassed more than just the collapse of Islamabad’s Margala Towers. Having said that, it must be also be mentioned that no government can really be completely prepared for a disaster of such enormity.

Having taken a brief glimpse at the most powerful political and governing force in the country, a cursory look at the army’s traditional consort-in-power - the senior bureaucracy – is also due.

Now this calls for confession time on part of your blogger who in his dealings with the senior bureaucracy has mostly found them to be:

  • Corrupt and self-seeking
  • Having a heightened sense of self-regard for their own intellect and abilities
  • Stuck-up when dealing with their supposed inferiors (the general public)
  • Profusely sycophantic to their superiors in power or political influence
  • Generally dim-witted and prone to tunnel-vision
  • Perpetually obsessed with bureaucratic rankings and their allotted perquisites
  • Purposely indecisive, so they can never be blamed for anything.
  • Grammatically challenged - being devotees of obsolete Victorian Raj bureaucratese

Rather than waste our mutual time discussing the bankruptcy of leadership of this generally unpleasant, incompetent species of mankind, one need look no further than the recent example set by some very senior bureaucrats.

According to a press report (Friday Times, October 14-20, 2005) at a dinner hosted by Punjab’s irrigation secretary, the former chief secretary of Punjab, Hafeez Akhtar Randhawa violently set upon the current chief secretary Kamran Rasul.

The account asserts that ‘Randhawa questioned Rasul, then threw him to the ground and beat him’. Apparently this thuggish assault was a result of an ongoing professional row between two powerful groupings of senior bureaucrats.

Randhawa, the attacking ruffian in question, is Musharraf’s classmate, while Kamran Rasul, was a firm favourite of the Choudhries of Gujrat, having for a time been even employed by them. Rasul, as chief secretary, had been allegedly using his official powers to pursue a campaign of vendetta against Randhawa and his bureaucratic associates.

Considering our patently ‘un’civil service is headed by the likes of such squabbling third-rate yobs (who enjoy patronage from the likes of Musharraf and the Guju Choudhries) what expectations can anyone – including our millions of distraught earthquake victims - have from them?


Shirazi said...

You are linked to This is Pakistan. Nice blog here.

Fugstar said...


big love to the suffering and the impoverished.

i do agree that lame responses to calamities from the state stimulate negative perceptions of the incumbent regime, but perhaps not as much at you let on. The situation with desh was more complicated,

one black american commentator speaking post katrina said something along the lines of 'Charity isnt Justice, Charity is beautiful, but you dont have to be charitable to me if i have justice'
.towards the end.

Onlooker said...

Dear Fugstar
You are absolutely right when you say that the 1970 situation in East Pakistan 'was more complicated'. And,yes, of course it was.

The point I was trying to make - probably not sufficently clearly - is that ineptitude of leadership during large scale natural disasters can have unforseen consequences - Hurricane Katrina is a case in point.

And by the way, I loved your quote from the 'black american commentator'. It kind of hits the nail on the head.


Dear Shirazi
Thanks for compliment and the linkage.
It makes the job of blogging worth my while!

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