Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Growing Problems in Pakistan: Will the Country Recover?

The uninterrupted provision of basic amenities of life to people has always been the foremost duty of a responsible government of any country.
How far the Pakistani Government has been successful in fulfilling this obligation, can be well gauged from the faces of the poor masses. Power outages had already made the life difficult for the people in scorching heat and now the petrol shortage has created another crisis for them. According to reports, most of the filling stations in several big and small cities of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-administered Kashmir), right from Karachi to Lahore and Muzaffarabad have been either closed or long queues of vehicles can be seen there because of acute shortage of gas, and people are scuffling for a few liters of gas. Instead of controlling the situation, the administration, is acting like a silent spectator. Taking advantage of this state of affairs, the profiteers have started selling gas in black and they are charging up to 200 rupees (Pre) per liter.
Hike in Prices of Essential Commodities
This situation has badly affected the public transport on one hand while on the other, most of taxi and rickshaw drivers are being rendered unemployed. If this situation persists for long, transportation of vegetables, fruits and other edible items would be blocked, which would further add to the price spiral which has already affected the common folk, and the prices of essential commodities will go out of people's reach.
Shortage of petrol is not the first issue which the people have witnessed in about three and half years of the incumbent government in office. The government has already imposed up to five days off for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) a week. Gas outages, which have been witnessed in winter in the past, have now become a daily routine even in summer season. During diesel shortage, the government instead of overcoming its shortage, had started closing trains.
Power, gas, petrol, and diesel, etc., are important sources of energy, and the standards of development of the United States, Japan, Germany, and other industrialized countries are determined on the basis of how much energy per head is being used. No curtailment is allowed in this ratio at any cost.
Energy Crisis
Pakistan has always been confronted with energy crisis because of incompetence of successive governments. That is why the country could not make strides in development. Billions of rupees were wasted in efforts for the acquisition of rental power. Talks are also underway for purchase of 70 MW power from Iran, whereas India has also offered to sell its power.
The Pakistani people can meet their needs by availing these offers, but lack of decisionmaking power appears to be the main impediment in this regard. There exist vast prospects of hydel power generation in the country, which are not being utilized under one pretext or the other. The Karachi Electric Supply Corporation had the capacity to produce enough power to meet needs of the city, but it could not produce the required power because of mismanagement and undue interference by influential people. After futile experiments spreading over decades, the corporation was disinvested, but even then the issue could not be resolved and Karachi remains plunged into darkness, today.
Instead of enhancing power generation, the government is increasing its tariff, which has sky rocketed during the past three years. Petrol and gas can also be imported from Iran, but the government is reluctant to do so because of the US pressure. Central Asian Republics particularly Tajikistan also want to provide gas and power to Pakistan, but the government is not ready to accept any such offer. The government could not convince its big organizations to clear the dues of service providers in time, and this situation adds to problems with every passing day and ultimately the people have to face the consequences.
For instance, refineries refine the oil and later, Pakistan State Oil (PSO) distributes the commodity. In order to run the refineries, it is necessary that the PSO pays their dues in time, otherwise, it would affect the oil supply. Similarly, there are many other organizations whose production and distribution depend on each other. The government does not control the payment issues. That is why, the supply line does not remain in tact and the shortage of an item crops up. It further increases the prices of items of daily use and overburdens the common man. Contrary to the government's claims, the people are at present faced with serious problems. Price hike, security situation, and unemployment have made their lives difficult.
According to the figures released by federal statistics division, sugar registered an increase of 152 percent, meat 88 percent, wheat 46 percent, milk 86 percent, and pulses 122 percent during the past three years. The number of people living below the poverty line which was 28.4 percent in 2008, rose to 41.2 percent in 2011. It reveals that the number of poor has risen from 47.5 million to 72.5 million during the last three and a half years. These are the people who do not know whether they would be to get the second time meal or not. Those deciding their fate while sitting in their air-conditioned offices do not know about the difficulties poor workers in factories, shops, and other places have to face during power shutdowns.
The people do not want the government to go. Instead of removal of the government, they want resolution of their problems, but if the government continued to entangle them in the marsh of such problems, the day is not far off when the people will take to streets for the solution of their basic problems. If God forbid, this happened, bloodletting will be witnessed on the roads and a bloody revolution will take place.
Tough Time Ahead
The common people will, therefore, once again appeal to the government to focus on its obligations and prove by its performance that it has the capability to run the country and lead the nation. For this purpose, instead of perpetuating its rule, the government will have to resolve basic problems of people. The rulers must not ignore the real problems under the garb of political stunt of taking along all stakeholders. You rulers have come to power with the majority vote of the people. Irrespective of whether someone supports you or not, you must focus your attention on steering the nation out of the present challenges in accordance with the mandate the people have given to you. Your real responsibility is not to take all the stakeholders along, but to resolve problems of the people as per your manifesto. And your performance during the past three years cannot be regarded as satisfactory in any sense.

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