The first compulsive act of every Pakistani ruler is to beeline to Saudi Arabia, many believe to give thanks Allah for all that he has blessed us with. This is generally considered a personal obligation and has nothing to do with the functions of the state. Newly appointed president Mamnoon Hussain is no exception, within 2 months of assuming office, he invited himself and an entourage of 30 friends, relatives and staff to avail the first available ‘soul purification’ flight. The President paid for the air travel of 22 guests, the government paid Rs 9,29,160 for the 8 staff members, and the Saudi government provided them all free transport, boarding and lodging. The appropriateness of our ruling class seeking such sponsored ‘holy trips’ is something which must be left to their own conscience. There are however other related aspects which need deliberation.

Judging from the behaviour expected and tolerated by Pakistanis, this event is not likely to ruffle our collective conscience. Few would question the ‘Presidential’ act of availing the hospitality of a foreign government to perform a personal obligation. Yet fewer would question as to why must the tax payer pay for the 8 staff members accompanying the President on a private visit. Will the parliament hold the Honourable President accountable for violating the ‘Presidential code of conduct’.

Very sketchy information has been released on this subject, and that too after Mr. Asad Umar raised a question in the national assembly. Earlier attempts and appeals to seek information under the ‘Right to Information’ were denied to ordinary citizens. In doing so the President blatantly violated the constitution. Can a person vulnerable to petty personal gains and major constitutional violations be trusted as the President of Pakistan? Then why are we charging General Pervez Musharraf for breaking the constitution?

The poor and the tax payers would like to know what gives a president of a poor country to squander such amounts on personal ‘holy’ visits and why are they not accountable to anyone?


Karachi, April 7.