Beggars, Dacoits and Jalsas

In a curious attempt to appeal to national sentiments, Shahbaz Sharif claims that PML-N’s jalsa is a “war to save the country” from the present government which has made Pakistan into a beggar state “despite having nuclear weapons”. This begs the question, how do nuclear weapons make money?

I suppose one answer would be to use nuclear weapons as a threat to extort payments from other countries. But extortion is the work of dacoits, not beggars. Surely Shahbaz is not suggesting that we sink to the depths of global armed robbery. So, then, how does he propose that nuclear weapons solve our financial woes?

The fact is, nuclear weapons don’t make money, they cost money. And lots of it. Shahbaz has his complaint backwards. We’re not a beggar state despite having nuclear weapons. If we’re a beggar state (and I hate that insult), it’s because we have nuclear weapons. It was ZAB who famously said that “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own”. Perhaps that made sense when we felt that we could not allow India to hold nuclear weapons over our heads. But we now have over 100 nuclear weapons. And according to the UNDP Human Development Report 2011, we rank 125th for population in poverty. We got our own nukes. For how much longer must we continue eating grass?

I would actually take Punjab CM’s complaint and rephrase it.

Despite being one of only four polio endemic countries globally, we continue spending money on nuclear weapons.

Despite having literacy rate of 57 per cent, we continue spending money on nuclear weapons.

Rather than holding street rallies, why doesn’t PML-N provide some leadership on the issue? Why not ask how many nuclear weapons we need to feel safe so that we know when we can stop spending on devices to kill our enemies and start spending on programmes for loving our children. Instead of protesting against increased power tariff, why not protest against continued resistance to reporting and paying taxes by the privileged elites.

Pakistan is not a ‘beggar state’, but we are a state with severely misplaced priorities. We would rather be number one in nuclear weapons than number one in literacy. We would rather sit in the dark than pay taxes. We would rather complain in the streets than make difficult decisions in Majlis-e-Shoora. Being a nuclear state means that we have the resources and the intellect to get rid of things like polio and illiteracy. What we lack is political will.

Politicians love slogans about how it’s time for Pakistan to take responsibility for itself and stand on its own feet. Okay. But responsibility requires more than slogans, and standing on your own feet means having the courage to get off of your arse. So why, despite having the opportunity to help build support for spending reform and tax reform, PML-N is sitting in the streets chanting slogans again?

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  1. Pingback: Nuclear Powers and Economic Powers « New Pakistan

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