The prime minister’s generosity is to be praised. He has suggested, while addressing the parliamentary committee of the PPP, that every member of parliament can be given a plot provided the opposition agrees. Mr Gilani says he had suggested to Ms Bhutto that plot allotments should begin with the opposition when she proposed a similar plan to distribute plots to parliamentarians in 1996. The desire for equality is praiseworthy. But we would also like to ask the PM, elected on the slogan of serving the poor, what he and his government plan for ‘ordinary’ people. Surely they deserve attention to a greater degree than MPs – whose needs are well catered for. The realities of our electoral system mean that no one who is not substantially wealthy can really hope to participate in the expensive campaigning process or aspire for an assembly seat.
Asset declarations prove this point. These facts raise the question of quite why MPs should be given plots. The government should surely be directing its ‘desire for welfare’ towards people who have nothing. Offering them housing, food security and jobs should surely be the priority. The suggestion made by the PM appears to be a distasteful joke in times when flood-stricken people face continued peril and many parents find themselves left with no option but to kill children they cannot feed.
The politics of plots, however, seems to be all the government can think about. Former information minister Sherry Rehman has told us of plots given to seven ‘friends’ of the PM and the president in 2009. There are also reports of journalists awarded out of turn. Attempts to ‘buy’ favour by granting plots or other perks have become an ever-more consistent part of our ‘political process.’ For years this practice has acted to corrupt people and create a lust for ‘handouts’ of the kind now being offered to MPs. Awarding of lucrative jobs on the basis of nepotism is of course little different. This too has become a well-entrenched practice and one that the PPP government quite evidently has no plans to break with. The across-the-board offer made to all MPs is really intended to prevent anyone speaking out against the move. It remains to be seen if questions are put forward in parliament or a voice raised for the common man. The opposition parties must show they cannot be bought – Thenews