In an attempt to go native, Shahbaz Sharif plonked a cloth pug on his head and made promises to a beleaguered and disconnected horde of IDPs in Bannu. The rhetoric was that he would make sure to protect the IDPs and rehabilitate them. The fist shaking and head gear adjustment also included, pandering to the IDPs saying that the tribal people were the most patriotic people and they have to be more cautious against enemies of Pakistan among them. But then the promises he made would make anyone roll their eyes. He announced the construction of a hospital, a university, Danish schools and 2,000 homes in North Waziristan after completion of operation Zarb-e-Azb. When and how this will happen is a huge question mark, and will be so for the people he was addressing.
In the 1960’s a US Congressman told this story about the tribal native Americans that rings true for how the tribals in North Pakistan have been treated by the rulers of the State. A Senator was touring a Native American reservation and made a fine speech full of promises of a better future. “We shall see,” he said, “a new era of opportunity.” To this, the audience gave a ringing cry of “Hoya, hoya!” Encouraged by the cheer, the Senator continued, “We promise better schools and better hospitals!” “Hoya, hoya!” the audience cried once again. Beaming with pride he said, “Trust us. We have only your best interest at heart.” The air shook with a long, mighty “Hoya, hoya!” Greatly pleased by the reception, the senator then began his tour of the reservation and camps. When he asked if he could see the reservation’s cattle, his guide answered, “Certainly, but be careful not to step in the hoya.”
The Chief Minister promised the distribution of millions of rupees and said that 40,000 families have received 7,000 rupees each, while remaining 14,000 will receive in few days. As of a week ago, the IDPs were in such dire conditions that they had to queue for hours, often sleep in the heat under the open sky, while waiting for rations and aid supplies. These people have all but lost everything, and even before the military operation life was never rosy for them. Pandering politicians have gone out of their way this Eid to appear to be there for the people of North Waziristan. And it is great to hear that they are making promises, but we would be naïve to assume these promises will come though. “The whole nation stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its armed forces,” Shahbaz Sharif said. And this much at least is true, we do stand against militancy and the loss of human life. But does the political machinery, bureaucracy and leadership truly stand with us?