The carrier of bad news


Macheavelli said it is better to be feared than loved. The current government must have made this a mantra. First it threatened to imprison any of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees who participated in any of the planned strikes against the ongoing push to not privatize the giant sloth that the airline has become.

In the 1970’s PIA was among the world’s leading airline. It has descended into the depths of oblivion a long way. Travelling on it feels like rowing on a kayak in the sandy hills of Thar – There is no telling how far you will get and when, but in any event suffering is guaranteed.

On Tuesday Feb 2, the rangers and police opened fire on a protesting crowd of PIA employees, and though they deny this, the two people who ended up dead in hospital, reports confirmed, succumbed to bullet injuries. Many more are injured including journalists who were covering the event. In what seems to a throwing a dog a bone, the Chief Minster of Sindh has awarded the families 2 million rupees. Too bad that won’t nurse them back to life and it is also unlikely to quench the resentment of the bereaved families.

In Pakistan, a middle class and lower middle class life is not brutishly short in Hobbes’s definition, it is actually long and one seems to be stuck in the loop of a recurrent nightmare of bills, harassment and rising inflation. Imagine the anticipation of losing the opium of your monthly wage, especially if you are the primary caretaker of many dependents. Then there are the insecurities that poverty carries with it – above all the threat of violence that can destroy whatever assets you hoard and guard with your life.

What a tragedy then that the very body that has a contract to look out for the life of its citizens turns on its citizens. Decreeing new legislation against the fundamental right to protest, looking the other way at police brutality and throwing in negligible compensation in one’s face when life is lost.

Regardless of the merits of privatization, and there are many, there is not just a mismanagement of the national carrier there is a mismanagement of the attempt to rectify the mismanagement. Hopeless. No wait, its bizarre. Bizarre governments don’t get to sit at the table where big money and decision-making is, globally. So weren’t we doing this to make big money anyway?

Effectively, this points to our failure as a nation to be perhaps the world’s most pathetic negotiators. We cannot sit and persuade anyone, be it employee unions or stakeholders. This also means that our general disposition is to not waste time and cut to the chase and in that case violence comes in extremely handy. Coupled with the fact that – come next week, the country should have moved on to other woes – there is much to be gained from the iron fist.

There is an alternate kind of authority – it is called moral authority. As the word suggests, its premise is that governments build their reputation on being just, fair and then having the dispensation to be firm.

This memo needs to be sent to someone at the helm of affairs. Preferably not via the national carrier.







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