Why We Need More of Foreign Agenda

Source: APP/Dawn

Source: APP/Dawn

Recently the PML-N led federal government landed itself in yet another mess. The Interior Ministry ordered the closure of the prominent international NGO “Save the Children” and asking its staff to leave the country, but only to reverse the decision sooner than you know. The reason for banning the NGO temporarily was “the anti-state activities” they were allegedly involved in.

Now while the “Save the Children” matter has been taken care of, this just was not enough for the Interior Minister. He said that hundreds of NGOs are violating their charters in Islamabad and under the watch list. Someone else pointed out on TV that hundreds were unregistered.  There is no doubt that every NGO should be registered with the government. Makes perfect sense. But this incident also started a series of morally constipated nationalistic analyses on the national TV about how inherently evil the NGO business is. And how every NGO is absolutely corrupt and conspiring with world powers to destroy Pakistan and implement foreign agenda in the country.

Speaking of which, we should actually be thankful to the foreign NGOs for promoting foreign agenda in Pakistan, because clearly we could use more of it.

If helping children get a decent, rational secular education, better access to clean water and healthcare, and promoting democratic values mean foreign agenda, then certainly we could do with much more of it.

While the political parties and government in Pakistan, including the political party currently in power (since they have regained their monopoly over moral righteousness these days), make high claims about public welfare, they are clearly not touching areas that many of these “anti-state” NGOs are working on. If despite lofty claims, the government is not able to deliver education as a right, then do they blame foreign NGOs to take credit for promoting education in the society?

Why should we worry about the foreign agenda anyway when our own domestic agenda is so lethal.

OK, let me guess.

These foreign NGOs are dangerous because they are promoting education, free speech, and democracy. And that is probably anti-state, so that our children don’t get to learn that having a theocratic and discriminatory constitution is wrong. That could seriously disintegrate the almost perfectly homogeneous ignorance of our almost perfectly homogeneous society.

These foreign NGOs are particularly dangerous because they keep on talking about liberating women and helping them become financially independent. They are also a threat to the society because they keep on talking about legislating to punish violence against women. Because obviously that would shred our family values and honor to pieces.

If our constitution involves excommunicating religious communities, and our law supports provisions for capital punishment on blasphemy, then probably it’s foreign agenda alone that could come to salvage this hopeless mess.

But then again, when our local agenda involves hiding the most wanted terrorist in the world, there is not much to expect, is there?

That’s why we need more foreign NGOs to buy more local people with foreign money.

Let’s admit it as a nation, and there is nothing to be ashamed about it.

We need more of foreign agenda.

This post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

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Serving the Servants

It is often said that Pakistan was created for Muslims. This statement should be amended to replace the word Muslims with Muslim government servants.

And for a good reason. Because government servants, especially the ones in the military and some particular departments of the civil bureaucracy (of course, some government servants are more equal than others), get the facilities from the state that even most millionaires in the country cannot dream of.

I know Pakistan is not the only country in the world in which such practice is prevalent. As a matter of fact, there would be very few countries in which government servants are not being offered special treatment of some sort. But then again, in many of those countries, the people are offered as good facilities as the ones the government servants are availing.

We, the people of Pakistan, have been taught since childhood, most probably by the same government servants, that Pakistan was meant to be an Islamic welfare state. So what exactly does a welfare state do? It provides for the welfare of the general public. Very few signs of that in Pakistan.

The military and certain civil bureaucrats get guaranteed free medical and healthcare insurance and facilities, almost-free, if not free, housing from the state and many many more perks.

Then there is this perception of government servants being superior to common people or civilians. Though not politically correct, you can hardly consider this perception false, as in every way, power, authority, security protocol, preferred treatment and luxury, these government servants, and their friends among civilians, seem way superior to other ordinary people.

This is why middle class children like me are strictly instructed to become a government servant. So that I can be granted entry into the echelons of power, luxury and authority, and not to forget, money, that the rich and lucrative powerhouses of government service offer. Doesn’t everyone want to live an exclusivist dream? Sour grapes for someone who would try and fail, but even if I got there, I would have only become guilty of doing the same which I criticize. But then again, is there something to feel guilty about at all?

Perhaps not. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with enjoying the perks that come with a certain professional position. But what indeed is wrong is being neglectful of the responsibilities towards the people that those offices sanction. What indeed seems inappropriate to me is the way these personnel are trained to treat “common people”, who they are actually supposed to answer to and serve, and who are actually paying for their lifestyle.

Not only have I been in contact with such people at one time in my life or another, but I have even seen the world from their viewpoint. They are welcomed into their training academies with the realization that they are the best among the people they have been chosen from, and certainly have a reason to be proud of themselves. Or at least have a right to consider themselves superior to their former equals.

Of course, there is no doubt that these personnel work very hard for their country and deserve all the care they get. My point is not really to deny them of their pleasures, but to at least provide just a fraction of that to the general public, who like it or not, are paying for their housing authorities, medical facilities, education, foreign tours and even their salaries.

It certainly does become frightening when people start making a distinction between the state and the people. Because after all, there is a distinction. Through very elementary observations, you would find that there is hardly anything in common between the state and the people, in which the former plays the captor, while the latter, the enslaved.

I am not even morally pissed off at the rightful arrogance of these able and qualified professionals. First of all, it’s meaningless to object to it, and secondly, a third person could possibly extract little to no pleasure to take their special attention away. All I am asking for is free health and education for the general public of Pakistan.

If a little girl living in Lodhran or Badin needs a surgery for a transplant, why cannot the state pay for that, if it can pay for the surgery of an army officer’s child?

Why is that the domain of the corrupt and incompetent politicians?

Raiding Sit-in Protests

Source: Pakistan Today

Right ahead of the launching ceremony of Khadim-e-Aala’s brilliant Metro Bus Service in Lahore, the hunger strike and sit-in protest camp of the Young Doctor’s Association was raided by Punjab police. They used violence and injured dissenting doctors in a very “fascist” manner, though the adjective is usually reserved for liberals in Pakistan. Even orders of arrresting doctors at sight were issued.

I am not talking about the YDA protest march to disrupt the launching ceremony over here, even though violence on those protestors is as wrong and horrid, even if we assume that these protests are politically motivated as alleged by the ruling party. The protesting doctors later made peace with the CM after breaking the fast, though I don’t expect it to last for long.

I would just like to ask if the people of the province would remain as calm had even a fraction of such a police raid been made on the sit-in protest organized by Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri in Islamabad. This is something that everyone of us must ask ourselves and get our priorities straight, because a spectator would expect people to support a protest demanding better healthcare. No messages here for the Punjab government when some of our leaders think that this is the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve. Anyway.

I know a lot of friends would have supported action against the Islamabad sit-in protests calling for electoral reforms, regardless of who organized it and who did not, genuine or staged or whatever, because they did not agree with it, as neither did I. But I would have still strongly oppossed any violent action against the protestors, though there was talk of planning for carrying it out.

Because I knew that a lot more sit-in protests will be held all across the country in the future, whether they are about things you agree with or not. Yes, in a democracy, you never always get what you want, especially when you are living in a state as turbulent as Pakistan. And let’s talk about only those sit-in protests which remain peaceful and don’t become destructive in terms of damage to property.

And there will be more necessary sit-in protests as the ones carried out by the Shia and Hazara community. Because apparently our current PM Raja Pervez Ashraf sb needs a few corpses on the road every now and then to be inspired to get to work.

Before you are outraged at the post, I am not comparing the causes here, just the form of protest. Because you see, traditionally, our protests as a nation and a people are wild and violent, involving a lot of fire and gunshots, and that is what the world knows us for. Sit-in protests can really suck sometimes, especially when they disrupt life (though that is what they are meant for).

It is irritating but if Pakistanis have started to protest peacefully for a change, why force them to become violent? This is why the raid on the doctors’ camp, especially if it wasn’t even causing a road blockade, was wrong on so many levels.

But another part of me, though not strongly, doesn’t really want to put up with all the road blockades and traffic jams for too long. Though I know that there is no choice but to be stuck with a social and political system that is content with putting up with all the injustice and violence.

To Young Doctors Association in the Name of Healthcare

Source: lhrtimes.com

Source: lhrtimes.com

There is something about the protest of the Young Doctors Association that I really liked this time for a change. They must have been at it before, but I did not notice that. They have been setting up medical camps outside government hospitals where they are deputed. I think this is a brilliant way to protest because it does not in any way cause inconvenience to the public.

Like many in Punjab, I found their OPD strikes rather inappropriate with all the problems that it created for patients. Despite the fact that I acknowledge that it is the responsibility of the Punjab government. And yes I do recall news, true or false, of patients dying due to the absence of medical staff.

When that happens, I don’t care if it’s the government’s fault or the doctors’ fault. I say fuck them both.

First, the protests were about the payroll of doctors and later about providing better medical facilities, if I am not wrong. All perfectly legitimate and justified demands. But whether you support it or not, one thing is for sure. It pretty much failed to garner public support.

This is where I guess the Young Doctors Association seems to have learned something, as evident by their medical camp protests. Given the importance of the cause of better healthcare facilities, I think these doctors fully require public support to make it effective. This is why the way they protest, rally and get their voices heard is of utmost importance.

I believe their cause of pursuing better healthcare in Punjab is phenomenal and probably the most important of all the issues I can think of. However, in my humble and flawed opinion, they lose their strength and credibility, not to mention sabotage their own efforts, by choosing protest methods that disturb the already troubled patients in government hospitals. This is why I like the medical camp idea.

Apparently, the Young Doctors Association is pretty proactive when it comes to communication with the media, which proves that they want their campaign to be recognized publicly. This further enhances the importance of the methods of protests they choose. Because every time they do that, they are making a PR statement.

The medical camp idea is brilliant since their work is their greatest asset. It is also the medium through which they interact with the public and they can use their professional skills as the greatest form of protest. I know protests are impulsive and emotional things, but this is something the hot-headed leadership of the association needs to think about with a cool mind. Not saying if there is anything wrong with sit-in protests and rallies.

The Punjab government had been trumpeting a lot of propaganda against them and it worked because the general public found little reason to support their cause at the time. The government even used pretty brutal measures against the doctors but very few people objected to that from outside the doctor’s own group. At least in Punjab.

As a matter of fact, the earlier protests of the Young Doctors Association, when they were at their severest, created a triple conflict of Doctors v Punjab Government v the People. All three were working against each other and probably the greatest advantage of that went to the Punjab government which apparently had no issues with fighting either of the opponents, given their seriousness towards healthcare issues.

There is another reason why there are not enough protests in Punjab, and even anywhere in Pakistan, because healthcare is not an issue of priority for the people. People simply do not assign enough importance to it. I hardly remember anyone staging a serious protest due to the lack of healthcare facilities in my lifetime at least.

Our political parties spend billions of rupees on reconstructing roads and fly-over bridges to satisfy voters, when they should actually be spending a good amount of that money on hospitals and better facilities. Furthermore, there is really no one to lead the people to the cause of better healthcare, probably because it does not involve any special benefits.

Another positive about the latest protest campaigns is that its objective is better health facilities in general hospitals, offering the public an incentive to back it. Because I believe the objective should be to turn the equation from Doctors v People v Punjab Government to Doctors and People v Punjab Government. That should be the aim of any such campaigns.

People are selfish, you see. They are more concerned about their own convenience than any doctor’s salary. Since the public generally consider doctors profiteers any way. I am not implying that it is a fact, but that’s how the poor public sees just about any business they deal with.

Imagine what can be accomplished if the people stand with the doctors for demanding better healthcare facilities. It will certainly force the government to take some action.

But it’s how you do it that matters.