Straight Talk Earlier this year, we saw long queues of displaced men, women and children, waiting in desperation for food in the war torn areas of Swat and NWFP. And last week we saw the same queues, but this time they were of desperate people living in Karachi, the City of Lights and the financial hub of the country. And in their bid to get a bag of atta and sugar for their families in the Holy month of Ramadan, over 18 women, including children, were crushed to death. Most of the victims were from the wretched Machchar Colony, a shantytown off Mauripur Road. Their only crime was that they were poor, living in abject poverty and wanted food for their families, which the government has failed to provide, despite its slogan of 'Roti, Kapra, Makan. A simple act of charity had turned into a tragedy and the man who has been performing this act of kindness for many years, was booked by the police for 'negligence and unintentional killing. No doubt, the arrangements and the security should have been better, but the real culprits, the Robber Barons who sit in our parliament and senate, planning the next food shortage, have gone scot-free. They have merrily carried on with their lives, observing the rituals of the Holy month, with their fasts and Tarabis, giving Zakat to the poor and celebrating Eid with the usual zeal and fervor. Some of them have even had the good fortune to go on a whirlwind trip around UK, America and other exotic places with our foot loose and fancy free President. And as usual, our concerned leaders, ministers and politicians, have expressed deep concern and grief over the tragic loss of lives and offered condolences to the bereaved families. The President has even gone beyond the call of duty and has ordered an enquiry into the incident and that a report be submitted to him in a week. What more could we ask for. However, the President could have at least ordered CCPs Chairman, who has the evidence of how AZs Robber Baron friends formed a cartel and manipulated the artificial sugar shortage, to give him a full report on the scandal. He could have at least held some of them accountable and set an example, by not taking them with him on this trip, which we are told, is being paid by the taxpayers money. But then, I doubt if an enquiry would lead to any punitive action against the greedy MNAs, bureaucrats and AZs Robber Baron friends, who are indirectly responsible for the tragic death of innocent women and children. Those who were crushed to death, were driven by hunger and starvation. This tragedy is a grim reminder of the pathetic lot of the poor of this country and the inadequacy of the state to provide the basic needs to its people. It is an indictment of the states apathy and its indifference towards its people and its failure to protect the life and the dignity of its helpless citizens. Countless others like them have also been pushed to a point of misery by a state that has failed in fulfilling its responsibilities. To be poor in Pakistan is bad enough, but to be humiliated, beaten and crushed to death just for a bag of sugar is outrageous. We may boast all we want about our nuclear capabilities, the numerous flyovers and underpasses and cars on our roads and mobile phones in our pockets, the many TV channels and the freedom they enjoy, but at the end of the day, for a poor man, his main concern is, can he provide food for his family? Dr. Kaiser Bengali, a well known economist, says that food inflation has increased by over 100% and the government has failed to control prices. According to him, 'Soaring prices and shortage of essential items are destabilising our society. Pictures of people waiting in the hot sun and being shamed, thrashed and crushed to death for subsidised atta and sugar, are sad indicators of the increasing depravation in our society. If we do not read the writing on the wall, then the deprived and the poor of the nation will replace the Taliban and the terrorists of the past and will become the next 'Enemy Within, not for religious or ideological beliefs, but simply out of desperation and to feed their hungry families. The blowing of self-praising trumpets and slogans of Roti, Kapra, Makan ring hollow, when people are fighting with each other like dogs over a bone and willing to die for a sack of atta. And spending money on expensive, full page, self praising advertisements, foreign trips, bulletproof and luxury cars and an opulent life style, is criminal and an insult to the poor. The President has often been described as Mr. 10% and a playboy, who did not deserve the Daughter of the East. Yet this 'Playboy has achieved what an Army General, who was President, PM, COAS, etc., all rolled into one and with all the money in the world to help him, could not, motivate our army to curb and stop the insurgency, crush the Taliban and make our cities safe. One can only hope that now, that the terrorist threats and the March of the Taliban has been halted, AZ will use his 'various skills to establish Good Governance, Accountability and the Rule of Law. The recent TIs 2009 Global Corruption and Public Procurement Regulatory reports have exposed the massive misappropriation of funds in Pakistan, by even our honourable officers of the Armed Forces. This should be a wake up call for the President and his government. The entire world is watching them, including the 'Friends of Democratic Pakistan. If his government fails to change its wayward ways and take appropriate steps to break the powerful cartels, remove the stigma of corruption in government and the armed forces and punish the guilty, then Khalil Gibrans poem, 'Pity The Nation, will become the sad epitaph of PPP and this government. As I had written last week, a Prophecy by a Doom and Gloom pundit is already circulating the internet, warning us of 'A revolution, in which politicians, bureaucrats and defense personnel involved in corruption, will be lynched and dragged on the streets by angry mobs, fed up of their poverty and deprivation. Let us hope and pray that we will all wake up to the harsh realities before the Day of Judgment becomes a reality. H. Maker (email: trust@super.net.pk).