Tuesday, November 03, 2009

PML(N): The One Dish Party

At a recent wedding in Lahore I was surprised to learn that the Punjab government has once again introduced the one-dish law at weddings - hosts are, by law, prevented from serving more than one item of food. The PML (N) had, in its last stint leading the federal government, introduced the same law in the rest of the country but that law didn’t last the test of time. This is a monumentally stupid, culturally insensitive and unnatural law, and speaks volumes about the strategic depth of the PML (N)’s thinking. It also remains highly popular in Punjab, which is why it was the first legislation passed by the Punjab government. The rationale behind this law seems to be that it prevents wastage of food and stops families from trying to outdo each other in the food department even when they can't afford such luxuries.

First of all, there are better ways of ensuring that food isn’t wasted. Most people I know don’t throw away the food that’s left over; they take some home, distribute some amongst family members and give out the rest to the poor.

Secondly, people who treat weddings as competitions and imagine that being outdone in their choice of menu by the other side is a slight on their izzat are idiots and will always try act stupidly. The one-dish rule doesn’t inculcate humbleness in these people, it only directs their energies elsewhere: if its not the menu, they'll be competing over the venue, the clothes, the jewellery, the event planner, the cars, etc.

And surely when it comes to humbleness, Nawaz Shariff should first tell his family members to stop importing Siberian Tigers and stripping forested mountains to build gaudy summer palaces.

I can’t help but feel that there may be another reason for the Nawaz League’s decision enforce this inane law, they hate Pakistani weddings that are heavily influenced by South Asian traditions. I'm going out on a limb because I have nothing to support this contention but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Shariff brothers considered the purging of ‘Indian traditions’ from Pakistani weddings as their obligation. They are after all important leaders in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Speaking of important leaders, shouldn’t the second largest party in the country, the leader of which has twice been elected Prime Minister show some sort of interest in issues of national importance such as say the civil war we're fighting, the outcome of which may well define our destiny? Ahsan has already pointed this out in his post here, and I'd asked similar questions here. I can understand the PPP’s hesitance on this issue, if things don’t go as to plan (whatever that plan may actually be) the pressure on them will be insurmountable therefore its best to keep the operation out of the public eye, but shouldn’t the PML(N) be voicing out some sort of opinion on the matter?

The only thing I’ve heard from the PML (N) has been their opposition of the Kerry Lugar, which by the way came about after the army had voiced out their frustrations over the bill’s language. In any event, the PML (N)’s opposition seemed to have little to do with the bill and more to do with their inherent hatred for America. It would have been nice to see a genuine debate on the bill, the PML(N) should have questioned the government how it allowed the statements requiring Pakistan ‘to do more’ to be inserted despite assurances by the Obama administration that this would not be done; it could also have questioned the government what is the point paying millions to lobbyists and PR firms and then have the Indian lobby kick our ass so handily, instead what we got was a farcical, myopic exercise in anti-Americana.

The PML (N) is in an enviable position, it is a political party not in power in a country faced with many, complex problems. It has the luxury of not having to prove the worthiness of its arguments, all it needs to do is criticize the government’s actions and present an alternative – it could be an unworkable, hair brained idea, but it should offer a solution to the big problems facing the country.

Instead, we get deafening silence on the biggest issue of them all: Militancy. Militants in NWFP. Separatists in Baluchistan. Terrorists in their own backyards. Nothing but silence from the PML(N). Can anyone please tell me the PML (N)’s plan to deal with these issues? There only answer seems to me to be: let the army deal with it.

The PML (N) has plenty of intelligent, politically savvy people in its ranks, but all of them seem incapable (or unwilling) of forming a policy that is based on a long term view, they instead seem to relish issues that bring short term popularity.

Case in point: The Sugar Crisis. I’ll leave it to the able chairman of the Competition Commission of Pakistan, Mr. Khalid Aziz Mirza, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to file a report on the Sugar shortage during proceedings in appeals filed by
different parties against the Order dated 03-09-2009 of the Honourable Lahore High Court, Lahore, which fixed the retail price of sugar at Rs. 40 in the province of Punjab (I'm trying to find the report online, once I do I'll add the link). The CCP states:

  • As will be revealed later in this Report, the Government of Punjab admitted during the hearings held by the Commission that no professional exercise was done to arrive at the cost of production-related data while fixing the “support price”.
  • Punjab government's crackdown adversely affected the supply-chain - trucks belonging to the USC were stopped from carrying sugar across provincial lines as well.
  • This crisis of non-availability was precipitated, in particular, by the actions of the Government of the Punjab in August 2009 when it sealed the sugar mills and seized the stocks lying with the mills. This contributed in a most direct manner to interference with the normal demand-supply linkages of the sugar market. The panic on the part of the provincial governments disturbed these linkages to the detriment of all stakeholders, especially those on the supply-side such as sugar mills, dealers and retailers.
  • It is the Commission’s considered view that the present crisis did not arise because of a price hike but more so because of mismanagement on the part of the Federal and particularly the provincial governments. The crisis actually began when the Punjab government panicked at the rising sugar prices in August and sealed sugar mills while seizing the stocks lying with them.

Just to be clear, the above-mentioned passages are mere snippets from a 48 page document that blames the federal government, provincial governments and the media for creating this crisis; but the Competition Commission holds the Punjab government to be most responsible. Moreover, it should be noted that the Supreme Court was not too pleased with the Competition Commission’s report as it did not agree that the market alone should determine the price. The Honourable Supreme Court can't just shed the limelight when popularity is to be gained!

In light of the above, the PML (N) doesn't seem like the 'business party' it fashions itself to be and one really has to wonder whether its policies have ever brought long term gains to Pakistan’s economic climate. No matter what one thinks of General Musharraf's regime, its hard to deny that his administration did bring about economic wealth (admittedly this wealth was divided unevenly) and introduced measures that would improve the country’s economic well-being and prove valuable in the long run. Let's not forget that before being thrown out in 1999 the PML(N) wanted Pakistanis to eat grass so that we could blow up a mountain as part of an advertising campaign launching our brand in North Korea and trade with North Korea, and once we'd all had our share of the grass we could return to our newly built ghars [houses], park our freshly re-painted yellow cabs and go to sleep.

The last point that I wanted to raise is that despite its lust for popularity, the PML(N) appears to have given up on the three provinces not named Punjab. A while back Nawaz Shariff made a hue and cry about him being barred from coming to Karachi, nobody’s stopping him now. And nobody’s stopping him from going to Baluchistan, where the federation is slowly losing its limited control.

It's time for the PML(N) to grow up and not leave the big issues to the army, it needs to have clear policies and act like a major political party.


Ali Q said...

Nawaz Sharif is in the business of cheap political point scoring.

For the life of me, over the last year, every time I have heard this man speak it’s about 2-3 things: musharraf’s trial, NRO, pakistan’s honor and a corrupt opposition.

Sir, pick up a substantive cause/initiative for the next 3 years (poverty? education? shelter? job creation? FDI? security?) and work towards fixing it (at least at punjab-level)

If you show results, you will get elected in 2013.

And when you do, repeal as many ordinances, run as many trials of as you want.

Indophile said...

About terrorism, isn't it the best solution, let the army 'really' deal with it.

Anyway good to see you coming out of your hibernation and writing couple of posts for a change.

karachi khatmal said...


to be fair, there was a time when the pml-n was more involved. shahbaz actually visited quetta and made remarks like "punjab aap ka barra bhai nahi hai, aap ka saga bhai hai" which when you think about it doesn't make any sense, but still.

and what's more disappointing is that when nawaz showed the media his copy of zardari's signed promises, and when they defeated the shutdown of islamabad and governor's rule, i thought they had mastered the beast that was the media and would now allow their intelligent guys like ahsan iqbal to come through.

instead, all we've heard about them since is scandals involving petty MPAs and outrage over kerry lugar.

also its good to see some orange links on the page again

Babar said...

In support of your hypothesis. Please note that Punjab govt. has repeatedly warned in recent days that they will not let the shadi functions go beyond 10 p.m. in night as the functions promote unislamic traditions. This is on record. Now this can not be linked to any wastage of food.

AKS said...


Thanks. You're right they've not always been so ignorant of other provinces. Once upon a time the PML(N) actually used to campaign throughout the country, they even managed to win a couple of NA seats from Karachi, albeit in election boycotted by the MQM. Today the PML(N) has zero chance of winning any seats from Karachi, I would imagine that even if the MQM and PPP were to boycott elections, the PML(N) would still not be able to win a seat in Karachi - the reverse swinging, philandering proto-neo-Taliban on the other hand probably would.

AKS said...

Babar, thanks for the info. This is ridiculous. As I see my friends get married and head towards my own wedding, I've come to realize how important an event a wedding is for Pakistanis. For the Punjab government to regulate how weddings are celebrated is stupid.

Tazeen said...


Whats next. In moments of sheer lunacy, the CM Punjab may also declare Shadi as an unislamic tradition. What will we do when our national time pass would be taken away?