It is said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.
However the one I like the most says that “a committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing and together decide that nothing can be done.”
More on this in a while.
My first acquaintance with a ‘committee’ was a party. My mother and her friends were having a “committee party” and I was to drive her there. Nine aunties and mom got together over coffee (percolated not instant) or tea (brewed not bagged), sandwiches, and cookies freshly made and baked at home, and exchanging all the gossip of the town.
The ladies had come to contribute one hundred and fifty rupees each to a pool every month for ten months. Each month one lady by turn got 1,500 rupees and hosted the ‘committee party.’
Looking back I am amazed at the 150 rupees contribution for ten months to get one thousand five hundred rupees by turn. But then in those days the salary for a good life was three hundred and fifty rupees a month, this 1,500 was a goodly sum of money.
Come to think of it, my first pay check in May 1970 was five hundred and fifty rupees, and on that we could live like lords in the real sense of the word.
Now on committees we are so familiar with. While the Australian celebration on wining the ICC World Cup for the fifth time is beamed direct to my TV lounge, I am bemused that the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistani people at large are waiting for the Committee to tell us why Pakistan unceremoniously exited from the tournament!
Another foray into the past, our Radiant Reader English text book in junior classes had a story in which the Mayor of the city wanting change comes up against the system, calling the Town Clerk he tells him not to intervene; I have not been able forget the town clerks’ reply in all these years; “Mayors may come and Mayors may go, but the Town Clerk goes on forever.”
And so it is with committees, with predictable regularity – our politicians, bureaucrats, members of the judiciary, and officials of all hues – resort to committees to tell them what happened, even with the happening being seen as it happens or shortly thereafter, thanks to live telecasts.
However, anybody who is somebody needs a committee to reinforce their perception of nothing actually happened and life going on as usual. No boat rocked, no throne toppled, no kingdom lost; just a few ordinary lives, useless for the person who made the committee lose – yet again!
For the past almost two decades Pakistan is facing the threat of extremism and terrorism; regional power plays and imbalances; internal dissensions and sectarian to separatist movements; from bad to lack of governance; downgrading by international fiscal rating agencies; the bane of soliciting loans, and every other conceivable text book ill of nationhood.
All conveniently relegated to a committee to read the writing on the wall, only to find that the committees themselves are proverbially “deaf, dumb and blind” to realities.
Then came December 16, 2014, and an attack on a school in Peshawar, the nation forgetting all differences stood behind the government ready to accept whatever was done to ensure this madness got cured for all times to come, what did the government do?
An All Parties Conference [APC] (APC used to be a pill for headaches and pains or a war machine and these APCs are neither) was called, which constituted a committee to hurriedly take its time to come up with a National Action Plan (acronym NAP), which as the politicians keep dithering, keeps meeting endlessly.
Time wasted and opportunity lost and terrorism continues diverting attention from the task at hand.
Just another case of what was so cynically defined by Sir Barnett Cocks, a clerk in the UK’s House of Commons, as “a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.”
And in our context is this not just another case of the committee set up by a conference being caught NAP-ping!