It has been extremely painful to hear of the massive avalanche in Gyari that buried a whole battalion of the Pakistan Army along with some civilians. The desperate rescue efforts have not been able to yield any results so far, with hopes now almost diminished for any survivors. For us, in Islamabad, it brought back the agonising memories of the 2005 earthquake, which brought down the Margalla Towers and so many days were spent in waiting, praying and looking for survivors.

It has also brought into sharp focus the difficulty of waging a war in the world’s highest combat zone at nearly 20,000ft in Siachen. It was begun by India when, as the aggressor in 1984, it opted to occupy the key areas and Pakistan had to respond by deploying its own forces. The conflict stems from incomplete demarcation of boundary as well as long festering hatred and resentment. With 28 years having gone by since 1984 and subjecting of troops on both sides to this extremely inhospitable and frozen landscape is a sad reflection on the leadership of both countries. Nobody is interested it seems in solutions. As a columnist put it so well, “the block of ice called Siachen is symbolic of the reactive relationship between India and Pakistan - hard, cold and uncompromising.”

All this in the background of enhancing trade relations, the promise of an impending visit by the Indian PM and the recent private trip by the President to the shrine of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. Everything will remain cosmetic, unless positive and concrete steps are taken by both countries to de-escalate and withdraw troops from Siachen, particularly in the aftermath of this biggest loss of life to the army by a natural disaster. This one incident has also shown how the army, when it stays within its own domain, is so revered and admired by the common Pakistani.

There are no two opinions about the role of the army in this country, but the mockery of democracy and the games being played by the current elected is a sight to behold too! It is quite shocking how the Executive is using its powers of removing and reposting people who seem to have independent opinions. The cute-looking Ali Musa Gilani has flown the nest to safer climes, as the ANF investigation gets hotter on how the granting of quota to two pharmaceutical companies took place. While the PM is trying to play this and other similar cases as a vilification campaign against him and his family, the facts are something else. But facts, as we have seen in the past four years, never seem to deter anybody in power from pleading innocence. It has been common knowledge that the PM’s family was willing to grant favours to those who would reciprocate in kind. Apparently, the High Commissioner to South Africa, where Ali Musa currently resides, owes his job to the very same Musa’s influence. The innocence image of the government takes a huge PR beating when its important officers openly threaten and browbeat those who dare to state facts as they know them! We are also witnessing the whole change in the government’s legal team, including the change of Attorney General and the grant of a plot to Chairman NAB, all of which will go towards buying more time for the cases being heard these days. Despite the fact that the majority of Pakistanis want the democratic system to work and succeed, all the responses the government makes in connection with the allegations against it, it manages to confuse and mislead thoroughly.

The media is often under fire for inciting and reporting lopsidedly by the powers that be; there is also a new and deliberate effort to downplay any jalsa or statements by PTI’s Imran Khan by the media. I wonder how that happened! Is there anybody left about whom it can be categorically said that they are not buyable? In the ultimate analysis, it won’t be good or bad media coverage that will decide who gets elected in the next polls; it will be whoever can be a better agent of change.

Postscript: The stories of happy endings and patronage do not ever seem to end for some lucky people. While most people long for one small break, there are others whose breaks beget more breaks and become a cycle of advantages.

There is a popular restaurant in the capital in which one of our fetching female ministers has a business stake. It is only a medium-sized restaurant, but now manages to get catering orders from a lot of people, including the fetching minister’s ministry as well as from the exclusive Diplomatic Enclave. It is rumoured that there are never any negotiations for lowering the prices and the restaurant gets paid for whatever it asks. Talk about making it big at all ends. It is disappointing in that because the mentioned minister is otherwise a well educated and intelligent person, who one would have thought would have preferred to do things differently from the way they have always been done by a generation previous to her. But sometimes, even the best education cannot change one’s genetic behaviour patterns or the wish of making money while fortune smiles to keep for leaner times. It is also so ironic what the definition of ‘lean times’ is for the different segments of Pakistanis.

    The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.

    Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com