CROSS POST http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/23/comment/the-vip-culture-and-inefficiency/
How traffic rules are violated and public put through agony
According to a report by Duniya News (Feb 6, 2013) seven thousand flights were delayed, both domestic and international, during the five months prior to the report. The main reason has been owing to the VIPs boarding flights.
It may be reminded here that a woman gave birth to her baby girl in an auto-rickshaw stuck in a traffic jam when police closed roads to let President Asif Ali Zardari’s motorcade drive by during his visit to Quetta in early 2010. The President had the grace to apologise and announced a compensation of Rs500,000 for the family for the distress it went through. The baby came into this world in a rickshaw surrounded by vehicles.
Amir Latif states that VIP movement has caused traffic jams claiming lives. “Last week, a student of the University of Karachi died of an appendix rupture after being stranded in a traffic jam due to presence of General Pervez Musharraf in the city.”(Published PakTribune April 27, 2006)
According to another news report in May 2013, with the arrival of the Chinese premier, residents of the twin cities were once again at the receiving end as mobile phone services were suspended for three hours and roads were sealed.
Incidents like these abound around here. Many go unreported. Yet none of the governments in Pakistan, after having come into power, has tried to address the issue. Ambulances are also among the vehicles that are irrespective of the fact that there can be cases where the sick are being transported in a public or a private transport.
And it’s not only the patients in ambulances that suffer owing to the VIP movement but also the students going to their institutions or exams, and other people hurrying to their places of work. Each and every one is delayed, sometime for an hour or more to allow passage to the VIP.
This “VIP culture” is reflective of a deeper malaise that afflicts our country. It allows those in position special privileges at an extraordinary cost to lesser mortals. Laws applicable to the general people skip steps while being implemented on the VIPs. It pushes the ‘ordinary’ citizens in the ‘Economy Class’ of life, allowing first rights to those in the ‘First Class’. Although a certain protocol may be awarded to the government officials for security reasons, is it fair to do at the cost of a complete disregard to the civilian population? Should the roads be turned into a veritable red carpet for the VIP?
Imran Khan, after heavy criticism levelled against him for arriving at APS School with a 21-car motorcade (an allegation he denied), claimed that only six cars were used for his protocol and that he would no longer travel with heavy security protocol in the future. Six cars is not “only”, Mr Khan, for a nation like Pakistan.
Civilised nations make civilised, workable rules for their people. Such bias in the favour of certain privileged few must be deemed undemocratic.
Muhamad Faisal Ali in a report on protocol states hat 60 per cent of police wastes its energies on protocol duties. Quoting numbers can take up most part but they are mind-boggling. (Dawn Jan 02, 2012)
Then there is the allowance for mushrooming of plazas and malls with absolutely inadequate parking space causing vehicles to spill onto the roads or blocking areas used to park vehicles for such plazas. This inadequacy inevitably causes cars unable to get out due to some other vehicle blocking its way. Mehwish Ahmed, writing in Pakistan Today,says, “The area for parking vehicles, especially in metros, is constantly shrinking under pressure from the rising number of cars and bikes. People don’t have traffic sense. Traffic police and media should play their role in creating traffic sense amongst the people.” (April 11, 2011)
Then there is the issue of a lack of traffic monitoring which has become a nuisance. Most of the times, traffic lights/signals at main crossings fail to work, yet there is no one managing the crossings owing to terrible jams that ensue. Such blockage reportedly caused forty students appear late in a CSS 2015 paper of Pakistan Affairs set for 9am to 12pm. A student of mine, who was also affected, wrote to me, “Coming from Wapda Town, I had to reach BISE Lahore Lawrence Road. Due to traffic jam and no diversion given by city traffic police, I got stuck in traffic for three hours which delayed me in reaching the exam centre. As we reached late for the exam, the invigilator did not allow us to sit in the exam. The traffic police did not provide any diversion before coming up on Canal Road. They did not allow the traffic to pass from the as well. A container had stuck in the Campus Underpass which caused all this mess.”
A TV report states that the container struck in the underpass was from Swat and was being driven by one Qudratullah. One could ask if there was a signboard at a reasonable distance to let the driver know which lane he had to take. But even if there was one (the report claims there was none), was the driver literate to have read the message? Are there any rules to ensure a minimum literacy rate for drivers of such vehicles or a methodology (i.e., signs put up etc) whereby they can understand that they cannot use underpasses with heavy transport vehicles? Being an educationist, this incident has caused me deep sadness as this boy was one of the brightest in my class. I am sure there must be others that day that had much to offer to our civil services but for the inefficiency caused that day.
Should not the government make concession for these students and set another date for their paper instead of allowing them to be victimised for a delay the cause of which is now publically known? The cause is certainly not of their making and I fail to see why their future be put on stake for it. Through this space I make a special appeal to the concerned authorities to do what is just and not let the efforts of these bright candidates go to waste.
Are we trying to convey a message to our youngsters that the world in Pakistan will stop for VIP movement but no one would care if their world stops at an underpass?