The Circus Never Leaves the Town

If it is not the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on our screens, then it is Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). And if not these three, then it is the government that hogs our screen, its representatives screaming in joy at the developments.

One could almost be forgiven for assuming that the people of this country has no urgent issues except for watching the ruling elite bicker with each other.

News channels are demonstrating mastery of sleight of hand by giving time to politicians and ignoring the problems the common man is facing. A Pakistani’s kitchen does not churn out food on the news of political parties backstabbing each other. Neither does he develop the ability to pay his bills as a result of one party outmanoeuvring another one. The populace itself is also to blame, intently watching the show that unfolds daily on their TV screens. They do not reject it, in fact, they inadvertently provide higher ratings to the circus that is refusing to leave the town.

I found myself highly amused when predictably the federal government started talking of accountability for all when Nadeem Babar was removed from his post. Setting aside the fact that after nine months of the investigation, no one has been able to prove anything and has thrown the ball in FIA’s court for another 90 days, how can we forget the example of the sugar commission report that came out just a few months ago?

All of this is nothing but a circus show. A ringmaster points to the monkeys and other animals and tells you that The King will now perform a few tricks. The case of Nadeem Babar is nothing but a trick; The King has to gather all the pennies that will be strewn about after the show is over. While the audience will be enthralled in the monkey and ringmaster’s performance, yet another character will pick their pockets.

Pickpocketing is effectively what the NEPRA amendment ordinance will do. The government now, effectively, has the right to raise electricity rates and impose fuel surcharges on the consumers. Ominously for the country, these will not be minor additions to the already inflated electricity rates. The government will have the right to add a fuel surcharge of up to Rs. 1.4 per unit while the price of electricity itself can be raised by as much as Rs. 5.5 in the coming two years. The surcharge might even rise to a total of 10% of the price. Pakistanis will pay as much as Rs. 140 billion instead of these charges. Perhaps the heaviest loss ever in the history of pickpocketing.

While the audience stares amused at the dancing monkeys, another pickpocket awaits in the wings, ready to wipe their income tax slates clean. Various sectors will be removed from tax amnesty lists. 75 recommended changes in the ordinance include the relief that coursebooks had, while newcomers to the job market will be robbed of the few months of protection they have. Never mind that the two steps will lead to financially stressed parents removing children from school and graduates being even more discouraged than they are, these are minor inconveniences after all.

The show must go on.

To the engrossed audience, I ask just this. Remember that the opposition and the government are, at best, mere performers. Beware of the pickpockets who will rob you clean. This circus will never leave the town, you must not let it drive you out too.

Imran Yaqub Khan

The writer a senior journalist and host of the GNN programme 'View Point'

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