Unanswered questions


The last three weeks have been horrendous in terms of travel for me. At the same time Ive been exposed to three countries in the Far East that I hadnt visited for three years. Its always interesting to compare past images with current ones, especially if there is promise and growth.

In the last two and a half years, spending a majority of my time in Bangladesh and multiple visits to China have opened my eyes to the results of creative thinking. Of course, both countries differ but there is a strong sense of vibrancy. In Malaysia and the Philippines, the trend is the same, the levels albeit different.

Barring China, these economies have passed through the slow-down and are now well on the way to recovery. Malaysia is a modern, international country, able to walk with the best. The vast road network, number of automobiles, energy in the streets, restaurants, malls and fantastic housing developments stand in confirmation. An objective lesson in how to do it.

The Philippines too is impressive. Manila has had traffic ailments, but they have been building road networks. Three years later, I found a huge easement making mobility actually pleasant. The city has erupted with new malls, exclusive shopping areas, new office and residential developments and there is the ever-present Filipino joie de vivre that makes life so enjoyable. The city is bedecked with outstanding restaurants filled to capacity, be they the exclusive ones or the ones on the squares and open-air areas.

Ive written often about Dhaka and its rapidly developing culinary tastes. During my time here, the affluence has become strongly visible in the form of eating-places and shopping areas that continue to grow at regular intervals. Thailand is a hustle and bustle of tourists and totally alive.

My most important discovery is that there are ready and logical answers for questions asked in the countries I mention. As a visitor of course one may be impressed with what locals may term perfunctory responses, as they say the grass is always greener on the other side. For instance, if you ask in Manila why the remittances have rapidly grown recently, they will tell you that there is a historical trend of increased remittances in the first two years of a new presidency. Ask the same question in Bangladesh, where last months remittances shot up to $1.09 Billion and they will tell you that the expatriate Bangladeshis working in the Gulf are more secure having their money in their own country rather than in the countries they are working.

I spent a week in Pakistan as well. All I got was a series of questions and all I heard were further questions. The entire time was spent in searching for answers. What I got was precious little. Its amazing, the lack of faith we have in our own ability to deliver and it is even more amazing as to how little we are prepared to sacrifice to achieve the very doable that can turn things around and prepare the answers required.

Weve been hearing about broad-basing the tax network for at least two decades but have only excuses for it not happening. I mean, is there no distinction between realities and farcical notions? Because that is what opponents are proposing. It is demanded of government to subsidise every aspect, be it fuel, food or clothing without it collecting the revenue needed to even begin to address the issue. The excuse used is that taxes are used for non-development expenses. Well, my friends, are subsidies not non-development?

The world over, you cut back on expenses when you cannot afford to pay. How did car-share begin? When fuel prices rose. The list is endless. People talk of political will. To an extent they are right, because no government wants turmoil in the streets. However, the onus is on government to educate the people. Therein lies an entirely new debate.

We talk of having lost the cricket world cup. Its way more than that. I want all of you to visit this website [http://www.boston.com/ bigpicture/2011/04/cricket_passion.html]. It says it all.

Now answer my question. Pakistan was denied this joy due to rampant terrorism. There is nothing of equal importance to the national cause in the recent past. That to me constitutes public interest. Why is there no suo moto order from the superior courts banning the outfits and organisations that feed this ogre? There is only an administrative order. An order from the court would ensure, must ensure, compliance by the administration. Isnt this what the current suo moto hearings are all about?

The quantum of time spent on recovering missing persons, who we know are suspects involved in terror, would be better spent in bringing to justice those perpetrating mass murder. Once this question is answered, we Pakistanis will be able to travel in peace and develop the economy rather than being hauled up at every port and interrogated.

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