Lahore - This time too, Pakistani ‘leaders’ of sorts marked the Labour Day by staging street shows on behalf of the economic slaves, many of whom kept doing what they have been doing for years – sweating all the day to help their 'benevolent' masters 'earn' big bucks.
Traditionally, it is the so-called labour organisations and not-so-civil society groups of all shades which consider it their prerogative to market their trademarks on this very day. But the election being just over a week from today, the political parties too took 'great' pains to get the maximum out of it.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has always been 'sacrificing' for the sake of the downtrodden; it did so 'wonderfully well' during its now expired 5-year term and probably it would keep doing so in future too because its leaders know very well that if poverty is vanished no one would be there to vote for them. Under the 'able' leadership of late Benazir Buttoo's husband, the PPP-led government opened its vault for the poor. Through it's 'exemplary' alms scheme of BISP, it helped the poor understand that begging was far better than earning livelihoods with respect and dignity.
To the nation as a whole it brought countless gifts. Through loadshedding, it saved people's money; obviously lesser power means meagre bills. It 'educated' the public about water hazards during and after the floods. It also ensured that large swaths of urban population, facing no direct threat of large-scale flooding, are guarded against an even dangerous thing – the potable water. The long assortment of multi-billion scams, ranging from Hajj saga to RPPs, is bright feathers in its cap. The public sector corporations underwent amazing progress, for example a number of times people saw trains flying off their tracks, and PIA planes started running off the airs.
I warn the readers not to believe in my 'propaganda' against the PPP because despite my being actually from the labour class, I often dupe myself by identifying me with the lower middle class; and this is no secret that starting from its aristocratic roots the Muslim League over the years has come to be seen as a representative of the middle classes. So, now you see the conspiracy!
But the Nawaz League, the dominant faction among all the ML debris, has for quite some time been flirting with the labour class too. Through its Danish Schools, it has given world class education facility to all the children of Punjab's poor. No one now sleeps on the streets after the construction of Ashiaana houses. And how can you forget the (hyper)active chief minister Shahbaz Sharif going from this branch to that branch to save the people from dying from dengue at our ‘state-of-the-art’ public hospitals. The unlucky ones did die though and died in large numbers but who can fight with the 'fate'.
Above all, the outgoing Punjab government launched Saasti Roti scheme, ridding the poor of the main cause of their concern. But I just mistakenly read somewhere yesterday that the loss caused to public kitty by this 'kind' scheme was actually ‘mere’ Rs30 billion, ‘slightly’ more than Rs8 billion as reported previously. The transport system in Lahore, which you can safely take as WHOLE of the Punjab, was OVER-hauled by widening of roads and it was crowned by the marvellous Metro Bus. You won't see any traffic mess anywhere in the city but if you still see it, it's your own fault.
I have already strayed too far from my topic, so I won't remind you what great contribution to overall national development was made by junior partners of the PPP or the opposition parties for that matter. As for the Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), I was convinced of the truth in its slogan of change the very day it opened its doors to the chip of the old corrupt block. I am too much a coward to talk about religious parties' role in 'elimination' of sectarianism and their 'protecting' the minorities.
After all, it just takes a 'sacred' mouth to declare anyone infidel, Mirzai or any other condemnable creature like that. I also cannot compromise my loyalty with the country and endanger my life by asking such stupid questions as how many of my fellow citizens – the civilians as well as those in uniform – have died in 'our' war against terrorism, or who earned how many billions from transportation of Nato containers.
Coming back to Labour Day, I would like to tell that all this 'mischief' started from a casual chat about the state of labourers between me and my colleague Tahir, who wanted to write on it. He gave me a piece, requesting me to edit it and keep it as short as possible – but i ended up writing this lengthy shit.
During the chat, he told me that some 13 years ago, when he was a teenager, he used to visit his dad in Nida-i-Milat office where peon Hafeez would serve him with tea and biscuits. Now, the same man is serving as office BOY at The Nation. Hafeez is gloom, misery and disappointment incarnated.
Tahir asked me why Chaha Hafeez could not improve his plight despite working for years. I pointed out that he himself too has not achieved any great feat: "Your dad was a journalist, you are also a journalist.
The only change is that he worked for Urdu newspapers and you have been doing it for English papers." Then I told him how my grandfather rose from a peasant to a land holder, like many other men of his age; and that the greatest achievement of my father was that he somehow managed to sustain the status he had inherited; and about my fears that I won't be able to even do that. I also made him to see the 'progress' Hafeez has made – previously he used to serve at the first floor and he is at the fourth now.
This made him broke into laughter and when he regained his senses, I told him that this 'unfruitful' discussion has reminded me of a PTV play I had seen in my childhood.
There was a character; whenever someone would ask him who he was, he would reply: Ghulam Ibne-Ghulam, Ibne-Ghulam, Ibneee.... Ghulam! (A slave – descendent of a long chain of slaves). Despite all this utterly disappointing darkness of entrenched exploitation, hope is there for an appreciably just socio-economic order where Hafeez and his likes would all have bright eyes and smiling faces.