A new year is upon us, and new year’s resolutions are the order of the day. I too have made a long list of such resolutions, and I’m fairly certain many of them will be forgotten by next week.
Personal goals aside, I have come up with a wish list for Pakistan for this New Year. These are some things I that desperately want for our country. I must warn you that this wish list is full of naïve hope, but it’s a new year, and I thought what the heck! Doesn’t hurt to dream. So here it is, my wish list for Pakistan for 2012:
5. PIA soars again.
For those readers younger than me, there was once a time when PIA was a real airline. Don’t worry if you can’t imagine this; it was a long, long time ago. These days the national ‘airline’ has a rather casual relationship with its flight schedule. On top of that PIA seems to be losing ground in that all-important ratio of keeping the number of take offs equal to the number of landings. You would think that’s basic math, but for some reason PIA tends to lean toward having more take offs than landings. Just to be clear, crash landings don’t count as landings.
But what was reality once could become reality again. An airline that has such a proud tradition could somehow deep within its soul find a small glimpse of professionalism. Should that happen, who knows; maybe half the fleet won’t be grounded indefinitely.
4. Trains go Choo Choo again!
Contrary to popular belief in some government circles, trains are indeed essential to the economy. Pakistan Railways was never known for punctuality, and it certainly doesn’t have the proud (albeit remote) traditions of PIA, but at least in the past the trains used to run. You could go to the train station and expect to hear the familiar horns of the train engines. No more. Now the train stations might as well be graveyards for a national institution rotting away at its core due to political interference.
Here’s hoping that the next Minister of Railways sees some need for Pakistan Railways to not only survive but also thrive. Before that, I hope there is a new Minister of Railways. The current man in charge doesn’t give me much hope.
3. Will someone please come up with an Energy Policy!
A whole generation of Pakistanis has never known a world without load shedding. It is as normal for us to have the lights go out as it is for us to have the sun go down every night. Way back in early 1980’s, I remember a summer when the power would be out for 2 hours every evening. You would think we would’ve figured out the power shortage problem in the 30 years since. Unfortunately we seem to have made matters infinitely worse. Electricity is no more a necessity but a luxury of life. It’s the same with natural gas. Sometimes there is enough pressure to cook; sometimes we just make do.
A few years ago somebody had the bright idea to introduce CNG as an alternative energy source. Seemed like a great idea. It was cheaper than petrol and we seemed to have plenty of it. And now that 7 out of 10 cars in Pakistan are running on CNG, we seem to have run out of it. What a sad joke this is.
Just like our foreign policy, our energy policy is not a policy at all, but a series of tactical moves. We go from one short-term move to the next, like a drunken fool trying to walk down a dark narrow alley and hitting the walls after every step. There is no vision of what we need to do over the next year, much less next several years, to get out of this perpetual energy shortage.
2. Imran Khan comes to power.
I know, I know. Many people like him a lot, but some are suspicious of his sudden ascent. Does the ever-powerful ‘establishment’ support him? And what is up with all the corrupt people joining his party.
Let me tell you this. I hope the ‘establishment’ is supporting Imran Khan. If that means a better chance of his coming to power, I am all for it. Imran Khan on his worst day is better than the current government on its best. As for the diverse collection of ‘lotas’ and thieves who are lining up to join his party, I think people like us can’t have it both ways. A few years ago we used to say that Imran Khan would make a great Prime Minister but he will never come to power because he is too idealistic and he has no team. Now that Khan Sb has developed a little political acumen, we can’t complain that he is letting people of questionable pasts join his party. There are a thousand election tickets to be given out. I challenge you to go find me one thousand honest Pakistanis.
1. We Learn to Speak
You might wonder what I could possibly wish for more than Imran Khan somehow coming to power. There is one thing. You see, Imran Khan is an honest man, but he is no miracle worker. He can’t fix everything, and he certainly can’t do it overnight. And who is to say that he will come to power anyway.
What I want more than anything else in this coming year is for Pakistanis like you and me to grow a spine. I want us to not be ok with PIA’s canceled flights and Railways’ parked trains. I want us to not be ok with load shedding and gas shortages. I want us to not be ok with political parties talking up democracy while acting like monarchies. I want us to stop giving in to demands of kickbacks and bribes. And I want us to stop worrying about all the political favors we will lose out on if we speak our minds. If there is one lesson to be learnt from Cairo and Tripoli, it is this: the voice of the people is the voice of God. But history doesn’t change by itself; you have to speak up and be counted.
We get the leaders we deserve.