The Watan Card dilemma

By Taha Kehar

The esteemed Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, has expressed the melancholy surrounding the concept of seclusion in a poem entitled Tanhaee. Strangely enough, his work is a pertinent representation of the post-flood scenario that has gripped Pakistan with a fist of iron. As attempts at rehabilitation at an administrative level continue in vain, the flood victims are still waiting to receive Watan Cards and remunerate flood-related losses.

But can we blame the government for its obvious ineffectiveness in this context? In a sense, the legacy of corruption is the prime target for all dissension against administrative incompetence. And yet, this argument has become far too clichéd to hold any relevance in explaining and resolving problems.

Therefore, the failure of the government in competently issuing Watan Cards goes to show how it has created a bogus system which mirrors the Occidental Welfare system to deceive the masses and reduce any threat to its own existence and stability.

PM Gilani’s speech in Dadu on Friday, 19th November, 2010, is yet another addition to this game. He has garbed the reality of the Watan Card dilemma as a threat to “democratic stability” when it directly impacts the impoverished victims of flooding more severely. More importantly, PM Gilani has also lauded the contributions made by Turkey in enabling rehabilitation efforts and has thus, quite convincingly, used this platform to strengthen foreign relations. However, no justifiable attempt has been made to explain how the acquired funds are to be used for the betterment of the flood-victims. Hence, what would otherwise have been a reassuring tactic and – on a deeper level – a strategy at improving foreign relation, comes forth as unpersuasive.

In the month of October, there have been various controversies surrounding the issuance of Watan Cards. It has become exceedingly difficult to acquire a Watan Card. Mob tendencies have intensified as a result of which the constabularies have been forced to take extreme action. The events that led to the death of one man when police personnel issued a baton-charge in the Shehr Sultan region of South Punjab, exemplifies the extremities of such a reaction.

Despite the violent reaction shown towards a distressed population of flood victims, the voices of those in need have not been easily suppressed. Complaints abound about the sheer inaccessibility of the promised funds. Those who have successfully reaped Watan Cards are facing problems in ‘cashing them’ whilst others cringe with fear as news of Watan cards getting stolen from centres spread like wildfire.

Their fears are neither groundless, nor easy to pacify. They spring from an hostility toward government mismanagement in providing what should be considered an entitlement and not a charitable venture. They depict anger against a leadership that is exploiting them to pursue its own interests.

What is needed now is a resignation to this fact and expecting nothing from an ineffective government. The solution is to embark upon a strategy geared towards self-help. Faiz has presented are similar view in Tanhaee:

“Ajnabi khaak nay dhundla dyay qadmoun kay suraagh
gul karo shammain! Barha dou meena-o-ayyagh
apnay bay khaab kiwaroun ko muqafful kar lo
ab yahan koi nahin, koi nahin aa’aye ga!”

“Unfamiliar dust has rubbed the traces of footsteps
Put out the lamps, remove the carafe and the cups
lock away your dream-less doors
Now, no one will come here, no one will come here!”

It is this resignation that will engender the urge to bring forth positive changes and lead to future prosperity. After all, no one will come here unless there is a sectional interest to be achieved.



Filed under Pakistan

7 responses to “The Watan Card dilemma

  1. No system can be claimed as having zero defect. Talking about Pakistan, this scheme alongwith other schemes like Benazir Poverty Support Scheme, are first time in practice. Not having any infrastructural set up beforehand for such schemes, the mismanagement and bungling are bound to occur. Such schemes are not a permanent solutions for reducing masses poverty and misery, but at least some adhoc measures are being done.

    The author has rightly pointed out the defects in the system and government should address those shortfalls. If those having Vatan cards are not being paid the cash (on the grounds funds not available) is a serious matter and requires a very strict action against those responsibles.

  2. T.S. Bokhari

    Our financial system seems going to dogs as it lacks any discipline. The self-seeking demagogic politicians are throwing away the public money as a personal possession on their personal whim and fancy like Mughal Princes. There is no institution to check them except the Chief Justice with his suo motu, whereas, constitutionally, it is the duty of the Auditor General to enforce financial discipline. But why the latter is not so pro-active as the CJ is perhaps due to lack of any
    inherent coercive power and down-grading of his status. He is virtually a watch dog without any teeth as he can only report the irregular and wasteful use of public money to the Parliament and that too only through recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee. It is the need of the time to invest more power in the ArG by making him an ex-officio member of the parliament as is the case in some advanced countries, like Canada, so that as a watch dog he can at least bark if cannot bite.

  3. I beg to differ Mr. Bukhari. There must be some difference between an educated person’s way of thinking and that of a fruit vendor. Poverty can not be reduced overnight, even Obama failed miserably. It takes quite a lot of time. Criticism to government acts is the essence of democracy, but there should be a balance, not that every act should be eyed with skepticism. Watan Card scheme is just an adhoc measure. Something is better than nothing. All the Asians, specially Pakistanis, have taken illegal advantages of British Retired and Handicapped Assistance schemes and Unemployment schemes. When I was in England on visit, I found my own friend owning two houses on fake medical certificates. When parking his car, he put a card on car’s windscreen that showed he was a handicapped person that exempted him from paying parking charges, whereas my friend is as healthy as Arnold Schwarzenegger. This fraud is in the knowledge of government and judiciary as well. Nobody goes to Privy Council, nor government has decided to abandone these facilities, but I am sure a very bad opinion must have been built up against Pakistanis / Indians.

  4. T.S. Bokhari

    @khalid humayun
    November 21, 2010 at 10:16 am

    “There must be some difference between an educated person’s way of thinking and that of a fruit vendor.

    I wonder in what gategory I lie because I am neither educated (I am trying to delearn whatever I learnt in my life) nor am I a fruit vendor.

    As far as my experience of governance in England shows, it belies your perceptions. There I found citizens very vigilant in checking crime. This is what Quran-e-Hakeem desires every human being to follow by its injunction of “Amr bilmaroof wa nahi unilmunkar” (Naiki ka hukam do aur badi ko roko) and what a Paky won’t do. A Paky would try to justify crime by crime prevalent elsewhere. What a logic? The world is coming to know about Pakies’ criminal nature and trying to get rid of them all over the world.

    Btw, you might have read about a media report about certain confidential advice to Japanese police by their government about Paky residents there which was leaked by an American Paper and caused lot of hullabalu by the Paky Foreign Ministry.

    According to this advice, the Japanese police was warned to be careful about Paky residents who, among other things, are by nature liars and often indulge in lying even by swearing in the name of their God.

  5. Mr. Bokhari, my remark about perception between educated and uneducated person was a general figure of speech and it was never, ever meant for any specific. However, if you feel offended (which I never intended) I tender my heartfelt apology for the same.

    Your experience and expression about brit life is true, but what I have described is also true big time. The bottom line is on a few instantces of illegal benefits through illegal means does not mean we should roll back the system altogether.

  6. T.S. Bokhari

    @khalid humayun
    (November 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm)

    I am sorry too dear Khalid that I got provoked. In fact I never suggested rolling back any system. What I had suggested was ensuring financial discipline, commensurate with the Paky moral standard by creating viable systems with checks and balances and strengthening the audit institutions. But I don’t think any system however fool proof institutionally can work in a corrupt society rotten to the core. Just open your TV and see what is being said about corruption in hajj operations. We Pakies are a hopeless people. We don’t feel ashamed even when we are out to spend a lot of personal and public money on hajj when we are begging from the world to help the flood affected people and, as a nation, are heavily under foreign debt.

    I am sorry to be so cynical about our nation, but this is because I know too much about its dark side and am worried to what end we are going, morally, politically and financially. As for the government, we have a choice only for the lesser evil and that in my view is the PPP, for which I had voted and pray that God may guide them to take the nation out of this prevailing catastrophic situation.

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