Posts tagged ‘Pakistan’
By Misbah Saadat
The day our twins were born, my husband took out a life insurance policy through his work and pestered me to do the same in case we suffered some misfortune and left the other high and dry to raise two kids alone.
My husband happens to be one of those individuals who like to prepare for every eventuality. The sort who was eating organic food way before it became in vogue, who started his retirement plan at age 25 and the only one I know who was thoroughly prepared for 9/11.
Gas masks, water, Gatorade, even freeze-dried food… all waiting to be used and consumed, if and when required. Post 9/11, when everyone around us in Washington was whining about “why do they hate us so?” my husband was whining, “Considering our policies, what took them so long?”
Therefore true to his nature, the day our twins were born, my husband took out a life insurance policy through his work and pestered me to do the same in case we suffered some misfortune and left the other high and dry to raise two kids alone. Now the life insurances provided by the federal or private agencies in the US are not like the ones provided here in Pakistan. To me, they are a commercial racket because basically you pay a premium each month never to be seen again unless the insured party unwittingly meets his/her maker. So one can pay thousands of dollars over a long period of time and unlike here, never see it again unless in case of death. Because of this, the girls were 4 before I agreed to get a life insurance policy for one year. Thrilled that I had finally seen reason, Adam, my husband, called up State Farm Insurance, one of leading US insurance companies, which also happened to be the one we had for our car insurance. We were called in for an interview by one of their agents — let’s call him Mr Ricardo. Things went smoothly. After discussing our reason for applying, I was told to fill out some forms asking me about our social habits like smoking, drugs, etc. One of the questions on the form — and the only one that I checked — asked if I was intending to travel anywhere in the next six months, and if so the destination. Now it just so happened that I was about to leave for Pakistan in two months. Therefore I happily checked the box and wrote PAKISTAN.
Mr Ricardo, beaming at making such easy money for his company, wished us well and told me that I should have my insurance as soon as the medical report came back. All was set to the point that we even gave him the first three months’ cheque. I was supposed to come back in four days to sign my name on the policy.
Imagine my surprise when three days later a very embarrassed Mr Ricardo called me up. He was stammering because he had to tell me that my application was rejected. Instantly I thought the worst that somehow they found something in my medical exam. He was quick to reassure me, “Oh no, Ms Saadat, you are healthy as a horse. We would have loved to give you life insurance based on your medical. I envy you your blood pressure and cholesterol.”
“Right,” I said, “What is the problem?” To which he told me that insurance companies were not prone to giving out charities. They had a whole risk-analysis department that looked at each application and decided how much it would cost or benefit the company to accept an application.
In my case I had said I was going to be visiting Pakistan within the next six months. According to the team assigned to my application, the figures provided to them by the US State Department were such that they believed the statistical probability of my coming back alive from Pakistan was so low that in all conscience State Farm could not honour my application. It would be like throwing money away. If did happen to come back alive, he said rather doubtfully, I should apply again with the assurance that I would not be travelling there again for the next 2 or 3 years at least in which case I would be awarded the policy.
Flummoxed, I asked how State Farm Insurance was calculating the probability. As in what’s the sample space and what’s the total number? Was it the death of the people each day divided by the whole population? Was it death each day in a particular city divided by the number of visitors? Mr Ricardo at this point got very flustered and said he didn’t know; it’s not his department. He was just the messenger. He then said in a rather terse manner, “Look, Ms Saadat, I like you. And so I feel it is my duty to say this. This whole idea was your husband’s who was also going to be the policy’s sole beneficiary. Are you sure he is not forcing you to go there?” I started laughing before saying, “No, Mr Ricardo. I just happen to call it my home. Just refund my cheque. Thanks.”
Friday, November 28, 2008
by Sardar Mumtaz Ali Bhutto
During his last visit to New York, Zardari is reported to have remarked that US troops could not enter Pakistan, because they didn’t have visas. This in the wake of his earlier verbal mishaps and indiscretions. They may be funny for some–such as his expression of a desire to hug Sarah Palin and ending up embracing Manmohan Singh, who responded by cutting off water to Pakistan–but they embarrassed the nation.
Not that the US has not had its share of bungling presidents–i.e., George W Bush himself, whose Bushisms have even appeared in book form. (Examples: “More and more of our imports come from overseas,” “If we don’t succeed we run the risk of failure,” “We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.”) However, the US is a mighty power which can endure such a comedy of errors, but Pakistan cannot. Hence the failed visits to the US, China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, even though these are the powers that traditionally come to Pakistan’s aid in times of need.
Let us recall here the Simla Agreement with India. Right up to the last day there was no agreement. In the end, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto suggested an unscheduled one-to-one meeting with Indira Gandhi. The meeting took place and the Shimla Agreement emerged.
Above all, a genuine leader has to be an undisputed leader of his people. Mere clones thrown up by circumstances and a collection of self-seekers cannot meet the requirement.
Someone must bring this truth to Zardari’s awareness before more serious harm is caused. A man who had been sidelined by his wife for eleven years suddenly bursts onto the Pakistani political scene as soon as she is murdered. Instead of rushing to the nearest police station to file a complaint about the murder and launch a crusade against her killers, he focuses on capturing the political and material heritage that she leaves behind. In this he receives collaboration from those who have been out of government for eleven years and are impatiently waiting to return to positions of power. Thus we have a president whose only attribute is marriage to a politically powerful wife. It does not matter that he has no academic qualifications and has been an accused in a plethora of criminal cases from which he has escaped because of a deal with Musharraf.
He does not have the courage to function outside the Bhutto aura and has had to take refuge in the “Jeeay Bhutto” slogan and move in the shadow of his wife’s portrait. This sort of things may fool the people at home but does not work abroad. His taking a huge portrait of his wife to the UN General Assembly was an act of unmitigated absurdity. In fact, this trick is becoming stale even in Pakistan.
Zardari has surrounded himself with hordes of hangers-on and scroungers, but has few real well wishers. Otherwise he would have been advised not to act as king, which has highlighted his serious limitations. In the short period since the elections he is being held directly responsible for the total failure of the third PPP government too. Benefiting by experience he should have remained co-chairman and pulled strings so that others became the targets while he continued to do what he does best.
As it is, the betrayed people, particularly in Sindh, are really on the warpath with their sights fixed on him. By exercising the powers of both president and prime minister, refusing to restore the pre-Nov 3 judiciary, holding on to the 17th Amendment and Article 58 (2) (b), ignoring Parliament, rewarding lucrative government posts to cronies and fellow-travellers, many of whom have criminal records (while the man in the street is forced into suicide because of hunger and mothers are reduced to selling their infants to buy food), allowing blatant corruption, murder and the other evils that plague our society, permitting all those in and around the government to have a ball rather than do their job and show results, and taking costly foreign trips, he has blocked all venues of escape for himself. On top of all this is the revelation in The Washington Post that US bombardment in Pakistan is under an agreement whereby the Zardari government will do nothing against the attacks but raise hollow objections to them for local consumption.
This has been followed by the disclosure by an American general that Pakistani and US troops are conducting joint operations against the militants in the north. All this has been denied but it fits smugly into the overall deal brokered by the US between the PPP and Musharraf, which is no longer secret. It is under its provisions that the NRO came into being while Musharraf continues to enjoy presidential perks and immunity from accountability. Many also feel that Shaheed Benazir was eliminated because she began to ignore the deal and became recalcitrant, while disclosures in the American media have highlighted the fact that she was not trusted: even Vice President Dick Chaney has been quoted as considering her unreliable.
The sudden disappearance of the most popular leader from the political scene, at a time when elections were around the corner, threw the whole political process into turmoil, out of which has sprung the current setup. Strictly speaking, Zardari is not a direct representative of the people. He was unpopular before and is unpopular now. Fate and greedy pulao politicians have catapulted him into a position which is not only beyond his wildest dreams but in which he does not fit. Having no roots, he is highly vulnerable and must cling to the support of parliamentarians who have put him in power. This is not available without patronage and privileges, the grant of which has become scandalous in the extreme.
Ministerial and advisory positions, assistantships, roving ambassadorships, appointments to high bureaucratic posts and simply grant of official hospitality to all and sundry have not only been a backbreaking burden on the depleted the public exchequer but also created a stink which has become politically damaging. The stature and image of the government has sunk to rock bottom and its writ reduced to nothing. Those in positions of authority, recalling the previous two quick exits of the PPP governments, do not trust their luck and feel the urgent need to grab whatever they can. Stories of corrupt practices being spread by those who are looking for jobs or handouts under the Benazir Income Support Programme and other such venues of beggary, are absolutely astounding. There is no way to control the excesses and liberties of those in government and their supporters, because, if control were exercised, there would be rebellion, leading to collapse of the government.
However, the heartbreaking scenario must not be allowed to sink a country that has potential for greatness. New options must be explored, and one is that an Election Commission headed by someone with the stature of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry must hold elections from which the usual sinners must be banned. The election campaign must be strictly regulated and monitored to punish offences instantly and strictly. Portfolios must be allotted on the basis of qualifications, the cabinet must be small and ministers must be required to do their jobs, rather than simply having a good time at government expense. Of course, such steps are not enough for cleaning up the huge mess that exists, but they would be a start.
The writer is chairman of the Sindh National Front.
Written by HASSAN PARVEZ in Dawn Letters
THE federal cabinet, currently operating with a small team of 61 members, urgently requires experienced and dynamic new ministers to fill up a large number of challenging assignments lying vacant due to the non-availability of suitably qualified and experienced candidates.
The ministers required are:
• Minister for promotion of vani, karo kari and jirgas. The applicant must be able to show bona fide evidence of his participation in at least 10 jirgas. Knowledge and deep personal commitment to the traditions of vani, karo kari and other similar compensatory mechanisms is an essential pre-requisite.
• Minister for burials and graveyards: This is a sensitive assignment and would require improvement in burial procedures specially relating to those women who are pre-maturely killed for such heinous crimes as wanting to get married to persons of their own choice. Preference will be given to ex-senators and those already serving in provincial cabinets.
• Minister for pointing fingers: This highly complex assignment requires the minister to point fingers during press conferences, typically towards carefully selected journalists, to indicate who should speak next.
• Minister for elimination of wild boars, dogs and other such animals: This ministry is not as simple as it looks. The minister will be responsible to get the unwanted wild boars out of the President’s House and the Prime Minister’s House. He/she shall also be responsible for creating a strategy for elimination of dogs from Khairpur and such other districts, where they are currently being used to maul women whenever ordered by a local jirga. As either the Jirgas or the dogs must be eliminated to get rid of this menace, the government has decided to retain the jirgas and get rid of the dogs.
• Minister for non-religious affairs: We already have six ministers, one each for Usher, Zakat, Haj, Moonsighting, Muharram and other religious affairs. We now need a minister who can point out what is non-religious about all these religious ministries. Candidates who have been earlier allotted free agricultural lands or diesel licences need not apply.
• Minister for unofficial foreign visits: This minister will be full-time responsible for creating reasons, making arrangements, issuing statements and planning yet more official-looking unofficial visits for the president and the prime minister. His task is to keep these two gentlemen out of the country for at least 75 per cent of the time.
Applicants must possess verifiable evidence of skill and excellence in their area of expertise. While a formal degree is not required, a non-recognisable vague qualification such as diploma in ‘education’ from any unknown institution would be desirable. Those with experience of driving around without number plates, participating or presiding over jirgas, wanted by courts or having been in jail on corruption charges would be given preference.
As you are primarily interested only in serving the poor people of Pakistan, your basic salary shall be Rs80,000 a month. Your hard work shall, however, be partly compensated by perks and perquisites, some of which are mentioned below:
a. One Prado/land Cruiser for self and three for staff and family.
b. A monthly foreign trip to observe elections being held in a country of your choice. Additional trips can be arranged depending upon your areas of expertise. These could be leading a Pakistani delegation to an interfaith conference, Kashmir conference, cultural conference, sports conference, or a conference on how to identify where such conferences are being held.
c. Two free ‘Umras’ per year, that include a four nights’ stay in Saudi Arabia in a five-star hotel. All expenses paid.
d. One free bungalow in Islamabad in any sector of your choice
e. Unlimited free travel and stay throughout Pakistan.
f. You may recommend up to 8,000 friends, relatives and well-wishers to receive monthly grants from the Benazir Bhutto fund.
g. You may recommend up to 300 friends, relatives and well-wishers per month to get employment in government organisations. i. Free medical treatment and medicines for self, friends and family. This facility, however, does not include free compensation for any violence that you and your family members may commit against the medical staff of the hospital.