The Economist wrote,"Through the chopper’s open door, Shahbaz Sharif, pitches a sack of food, then looks down and heaves out another. Mr Sharif has spent almost every day since the floods hit marshalling dykes and dispensing relief. His rivals accuse him of taking political advantage from the deluge. But the country would be in less calamitous shape if more officials worked as hard as he."This is a recent post of a journalist friend on facebook. The Economist quote was intended for a huge international readership. This quote not only portrays Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as bracing a calamity, it also shortens all other politicians’ stature in the country.
The Pakistani media has gone to limits to criticise the PPP-led government. I wanted to write about the state of affairs in Punjab. The media’s inability to see the provincial affairs is surprising. The whole province is being run by police. PPP Federal Minister Babar Awan’s allegations that Punjab is being run as a police state carry weight. We all know who encouraged the police encounter culture in Punjab.
During the early days of the PML-N government in Punjab, most of my crime reporter friends used to forecast police encounters. A crime reporter would inform us well before time to align the satellite truck of the news station I was working in, as a police encounter was about to happen.
Every official from the rank of district police officer to station house officer is being appointed on the recommendation of the local PML-N parliamentarians.
These police officials, including the DPOs, can’t dare to say no to their local masters. The MNAs use the district police as a tool to smoother opposition members. I daily come across at least six or seven police FIRs that are chalked against the PPP workers in my district. The charges leveled against them range from incest to severe torture and they are totally baseless.
The MNAs involvement does not end here. The parliamentarians also force police to change the course of investigation, at a price – either money in the shape of bribe for police but received by the MNA or MPA or pledge for more vote and support in the next election.
The situation has worsened to the extent that people first go to the local handyman of the MNA before going to the police station for the registration of the FIR. Insiders in the PML-N have disclosed that during the party meetings between the chief minister and parliamentarians, the oft discussed topic is transfer and posting of favourite police and revenue officials.
The Revenue Department is also being run by the parliamentarians. Being a lawyer, I spend more time in courts than anywhere else. Revenue offices are also located nearby. I daily see vehicle of MNA or MPA parked outside these offices. The common practice among litigants is that they approach the revenue department after getting the MNA or MPA approach the department first.
And now something in honour of my local media friends. All major channels of the country have their correspondents/ reporters in Jhelum. These reporters are not paid anything. How do they earn their living? They act as pimps for minor officials in police and other department. The poor chaps have no option except to give their service at a price.