Articles of the year 2006

The Sugar Crisis
Published on March 23rd, 2006

The sugar crisis has grown beyond just profit taking, and has assumed a magnitude that is threatening to expose the frail nature of the Government that is in place in Islamabad. The extent of the fragility was first tested by Altaf in his moves on the KBD and Baluchistan issues.. Islamabad blinked. Similarly, the sugar lobby threatened the Government over the involvement of NAB, and Islamabad blinked again. NAB was withdrawn and the price is back at 42 Rs a kilo. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the threats that are being used lie from within the Cabinet itself. The KBD issue which was good for the country, and the sugar war which has shown the predatory nature and callous disregard of the sugar barons for the public at large. This could not have been possible without the active support of the Civil servants in the Ministries involved. It may not be long before the Knight in shining armour turns his sights on the Punjab sugar lobby. Unfortunately for us all the bad that happens in Pakistan is quickly given a 'Punjabi' epithet. From the dark days of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangla Desh, to the alienation of Sindh over KBD, the 'exploitation' of Baluchistan and its mineral wealth it seems that the hatred is well earned. This is strange for the Punjabi is a well meaning warm hospitable person generous to a fault, as shown by Nawaz Sharif in all his interprovincial dealings as PM. The fault lies in the bureaucratic mindset of the Civil servants, who are trained in the classic mould of a government of the people by people above the people. The Colonial master mindset is ingrained in the officer from his first day at the training school. Similarly the Armed Forces are taught that all civilians are incompetent or corrupt or both. Forgetting the fact that their parents and brothers are born civilians live and die civilians. This must be corrected, in both. We are above all Pakistanis and equal in all aspects.

The decision to quash the NAB enquiry at the behest of the Sugar Lobby is about to send a very wrong signal to the public at large especially the voting public. With an election around the corner—2007, or earlier, the sugar crisis can be exploited into a vote getting campaign or one to destabilize the present incumbents. This may be the Sugar Lobby smearing themselves with a scandal that will be hard to remove, and may lead to a series of serious criminal charges later. The barons would have done well to declare their stocks and offer them to the public at large at a heavy discount. Not believing in the hereafter, they could have hedged their bets by buying the voter now. At least the Prime Minister could have shown the way, or forced the issue, isn't that what he's there for? These are political opportunities that come seldom, and they should have been grasped and the maximum mileage should have been taken. To be sure some one will.

We live in a much more open society, where the Media has complete freedom to comment on all aspects of the Pakistani problems and their solutions. This freedom is recent and President Musharraf has brought it about. He should assert himself in the resolution of the sugar price lest he be smeared in the same media he has so bravely freed. The media is well known to bite the very person responsible for removing their shackles. He should intervene and bring about a substantial reduction in the sugar price, which has almost doubled in three months and shows no sign of dropping. The down fall of President Ayub started with a price increase of only 4 annas. There is too much riding on this one commodity, and it affects the public at large.

The President came in on a groundswell of good will for he was seen as the saviour here to deliver us from the corrupt politicians and the avaricious profit mongers. He cannot stand aside and watch the Mafias make a killing at the expense of the poor. The rich will always be able to afford sugar at any price, --or candarel, it is the poor that are suffering.