As we ask the people to bear some of the financial burden of our oil imports it is not only necessary from the resource conservation point of view but also as a moral duty to cut out all wasteful expenditure in our establishments.-Mr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India. Bemoaning the deterioration in official culture, Air Marshal Asghar Khan has recently written on the need for austerity in public life, especially in the defence services. Recalling with satisfaction the days of his command in 1965 when the Air HQ was housed in somewhat modest buildings in Peshawar, he considers the move from Peshawar to Chaklala a waste of scarce resources of a poor nation. The Air Marshal therefore sees no point in moving the GHQ from Rawalpindi to Islamabad at a colossal cost. "We should," the air marshal argues, "rather spend this amount on the social sector, especially education, which remains neglected." He is disappointed that the military and civilian officers have adopted a luxurious life style that is vulgar in a country most of whose people live in poverty. On austerity as standard I can add from my personal experience in 1958 when, with a Masters degree in Psychology in hand, I went to the GHQ for a direct commission in the army as a Psychologist. Reporting at the reception on a freezing January morning, I could see the uniformed personnel arriving at work. Most officers were on bicycles, some on motor bikes, hardly a car was seen passing. I do not remember any car with a flag. May be there were one or two and I missed them. After a written exam and psychological tests one day, we were interviewed the next by a board headed by Major General (late) Shahid Hamid who was the Adjutant General (AG) then. The atmosphere of the GHQ seemed truly Spartan as, upon my turn, I was led into the AG's office in a leafy complex of barracks by an orderly in working dress. At the far end of the room sat the general behind a simple table covered in green blazer cloth. On his left sat Col (late) Nasrullah Khan, the Chief Psychologist of the Army and on his right was another officer, may be the MS (military secretary); all red tabs. The chairs we sat on were not even upholstered; they were wooden with wicker seats. There were no carpets in the room: a daree covered the floor. A large room with a high ceiling, the AG's office was cold in spite of a coal fire going in the fireplace that the office orderly discreetly entered and stoked at some point. I was interviewed for about an hour and grilled on my academic and other qualifications. To the question from the AG why I wanted to join the army my answer was my desire to have a chance of working the applied side of the subject I loved. "Not for the uniform," the AG asked as the Chief Psychologist smiled. I was commissioned; but in less than two years I had resigned and gone to teach Psychology in Sindh University. My short sojourn though was enough to understand that the austerity of the AG's office where I was interviewed was the rule in the army in those days. In 1998, I happened to visit the AG's office again in connection with an army related study I had supervised. The place had gone through a monumental face-lift. For one thing, the office was now spread into several rooms. Expensive furnishings, crested china, wall to wall carpet, ornate furniture, a huge desk, sofas and glass top tables filled them. In 40 years, two lost wars and three martial laws, the premises seemed to have flourished Dignified simplicity today is absent from public life. More and more, upper class homes resemble bordellos. Politicians no exceptions, once in government they become revengefully lavish. Punjab Chief Minister Khosa had to be stopped recently by his party's president when, just weeks into his chief ministry, he planned a trip to Norway with an eighty member delegation. As his counterpart in India cancels foreign tours, Prime Minister Gilani, it is reported, shall soon visit US, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iran. What benefit that will bring to the people no one can fathom. When he goes to New York for the UN General Assembly in September, it will be his second visit to the US in less than three months. Hard times are upon us, a disincentive for the PM to stay home. Electricity and fuel prices are shooting up. Inflation is consequently rampant and staples cost is a serious issue for an average household. A war is on in the tribal area, Balochistan is simmering with unrest. The situation calls for serious, truthful, transparent and responsible government. Empty slogans are adding to people's anger as they see double standards in nearly everything from load shedding to law enforcement. The Murree Declaration thrown out of the window by the PPP, the coalition is all but gone. Something somewhere must give. The writer is a former inspector general of police