STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

Lalchee nu jhuta marda aiy” a Punjabi saying whichtranslates “greedy’s undoing is a liar.” Rustic wisdom that endures over generations. These days there is a new twist to this folklore. “Lalchee” and “Jhuta” have teamed up as PDM, unholy alliance harming Pakistan’s future. Nation is on the brink of financial disintegration yet their top leadership descended on Lahore like a ton of bricks todislodge Punjab’s CM.

Led by master manipulator Zardari and bully-in-chief Rana Sana they failed. PTI and PML (Q) scraped through getting 186 votes; it was the thinnest margin. In parliamentary system this English idiom applies “a miss is as good as a mile.” PDM came close to achieving their nefarious designs through bribes and coercion. They woke the “conscience” of three young PTI MPA’s leading to their premature political demise. C’est la vie – such is life.

In this darkened horizon of our nation, Punjab episode may turn out to be a ray of hope. Looking at previous history of the Establishment; moving a few pawns around could easily be done. Witnessing this drama unfold, it appears this did not happen. It was Rana Sana’s geo-fencing and Zardaris dirty millions at play. Re-booting may have started; however Moonis Ellahi’s associate, young Faran Khan’s mysterious disappearance points to some rogue elements still at play.

As events in Punjab reached a crescendo; “lalchee-jhuta” combo was rejoicing the phantom relief package of 11 billion dollars earmarked for Pakistan. It is aimed atcombating climate change and devastation caused by flooding. PDM took out full page ads touting it as their success. Here is the dampener. They probably spent more money in this campaign than what will trickle through in the near future. Out of meager inflow we have to wait and see what will get past these corrupt, unprincipled looters’ bottomless pit of greed.

International observers would recall similar exercises were done for Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and other disaster-hit areas. They mean nothing tangible; pledges at such conferences are shallow at best. Let us dig a bit deeper.Out of Islamic Development Bank’s whopping $4.28 billion pledge, only $600 million will be available for projects submitted by Pakistan for IDB’s approval. The rest is syndicated trade finance for deferred oil payment to Saudi Arabia. Same is true for World Bank and Asian Development Bank who are repurposing their existing commitments or offering project based financing.

There was a comical interlude. After IDB’s announcement,PM Sharif leapt onto the dais to thank in broken Arabic while Bilawal Bhutto sought to move to the next speaker. USA’s $100 will require US Congress’s approval. After that, the funds would be available in US for disbursement only after their experts review and whet projects submitted with proper checks and balances. These announcements did provide an opportunity to this embattled regime to tout an achievement. Lies have no feet. Once this cartoon movie ends and these pledges are filtered through reality lens the truth will emerge. A mere gimmickry enacted both in Geneva and Pakistan.

The reality is that there is total darkness that is deepening by the day on the economic front. One look at the containers piling up at our ports says it all. Why are theystuck? Banks cannot release dollars to pay for the freight of these goods. Severe shortages have started. Raw materials for medicines are languishing as pharmaceutical industry shuts down. In this polluted environment the sick will die due to non-availability or un-affordability of medicines. Poultry is becoming a luxury and lentils prices are sky-rocketing. Yet PM Sharif is indulging his sulking cabinet and MNAs by ordering 165 Mercedes cars at 5 crores each. What a crying shame!

Another criminal scheme is unfolding. Foreign currency deposits of Overseas Pakistanis attracted by PTI under “Roshan” schemes are about to be poached or have already been pilfered. It appears our Finance Minister isabout to break this piggy bank. Last time he froze dollar accounts after the nuclear blast. It took two decades and Imran Khan’s credibility to attract these dollars back. If it happens now, it will extinguish forever the reservoir of Pakistan’s greatest benefactors; Overseas Pakistanis.

We are at crossroads; we can veer left or right. The choices are clear; not only for the masses but also for the establishment and judiciary. Either follow the selfish agenda of PDM who brought Pakistan to its knees and are blindly driving Pakistan to an abyss. Pushed over the edge, we will only have our body parts at the bottom of the drop that vultures will feast on.

Alternately seek political stability through a free and fair election at the earliest. It will bring a government based on popular will that has the ability to commence the long and arduous path of national re-construction of this battered nation. Let PM Modi’s prediction of making Pakistanis a nation of beggars not prevail.

Punjab dodging the bullet is a good beginning. Let this process be expedited to come full cycle. Vested interests and entrenched mafias must be forced to yield ground for much needed reforms by an honest, just and reformist government. Let us all commit to stand guard for these aims. For too long we have been ravaged and looted. This nation needs a break. Divine intervention only favors the brave. Begging on knees is not the answer; let us take our fate into our own hands.        



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