Blowing in the wind

Over the top

At the recent Dubai Airshow, the only thing a Pakistani delegation might have recognised is the sandstorm that hit the event – not that there would have been any purpose in sending such a delegation in the first place. Others have the new age air technology and we are at best limping along on a broken rickshaw overloaded by people, a commodity of which we have no shortage.

Allah be praised. To compare where we are and where the Mideast is heading would be ridiculous in the extreme. Best to leave things as they are.

But much as we would like this surge in the aviation future that seems destined to happen in the Mideast to their oil-rich reserves and our corruption-rich present day existence, the awesome aviation revolution that is around the corner cannot be simply pawned off on oil reserves alone.

It is very recent that the world had written off that geographical entity when the whole structure came down and experts predicted the end of the game. Beg, borrow and steal, the economy has bounced back if the airshow is any indicator – and it is daunting.

Quite simply, Emirates – which began with just a single jet plane in 1985 – is repeatedly voted the airline of the year, a genuine recognition of merit unlike the cardboard shows we put out annually. But it’s not that. This airline, which carried 39 million passengers, last year is poised to raise that figure to 70 million by 2020, just six years on.

The three airlines that comprise the Mideast – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar – based in a limited territory but travelling to just about every part of the world, announced plans to buy 350 more long-range planes from Airbus and Boeing. The order is a walloping $162 billion with deliveries extending well into the next decade.

Just Emirates alone ordered 150 of the new Boeing 777X with an option of 50 more Airbus 380s, the world’s biggest aircraft, a financial undertaking worth $99 billion. Experts called it ‘the largest ever aircraft order in civil aviation’ and this aggressive drive has the airlines of the world running for cover. “The airline’s strategy is simple”, said an industry analyst. “They want to take over the world.” Chalk and cheese? Hardly, you’d be forced to admit.

This is the big league, gentlemen, and the stakes are global. And where are we? The difference defies description. We never tire of claiming that we taught 28 airlines to fly but that is history and best confined to the archives. We may have taught them but we unlearnt whatever we knew and in the process rampant corruption, political appointments, incompetent and unqualified heads and staff – and all the things that can be wrong with any enterprise – have brought down a good airline.

Shame on us all. It was one good thing we had and therefore we killed it. People like Zardari ruined PIA by loading it with thousands and then went public vowing to save PIA. Hypocrisy? There must be another word stronger than this to explain such criminal behaviour.

Where have we gone so terribly wrong is a question we must face and then do whatever little we can to stabilise the derelict ship called Pakistan. The UAE might be oil-rich but they are no great legendary workers. Our people – intrinsically bright – have helped other nations develop but abandoned their own. What happened to our priorities? Why are we still searching for our ideology? What will happen if we find this elusive bird? Will we then miraculously discover the magic potion that will eliminate in one fell swoop all that has gone awry here?

Will real faith descend? Will the extremists finally be exterminated? Will corruption away? Will discipline replace chaos? If nothing else, will Pakistanis start to queue up like they do when they are abroad? Above all, will we begin the long journey and become what we should have? The answer, as the song went, is blowing in the wind.

The well-heeled Pakistanis have already weighed their options and made plans. Almost all send their children abroad, possess dual identities, have investments stacked away, and watch as we dismember our country. When the time is right, they will flit away like thieves in the night, play golf and lead the good life, but what about those who barely make it from one day to another? With no options, where do they go? Most importantly, with no education and no jobs, they are destined to a life of poverty, deprivation and eventually crime. With family planning having failed completely – don’t believe a word that Islamabad tells you – nothing will ever work here and every good measure will be auto programmed to self destruct.

Those who spend long hours toiling away for laughable sums of money will sink further. Things are so terrible now that nothing will succeed. In all this we have lost direction completely and our precarious value system has cracked from one side to another. Why this should have happened is not the kind of thing that one should read on a Sunday morning.

Our rulers, such as they are, find answers in grandiose schemes that benefit less than 10 percent at the cost of the remaining wretched souls. Thus the motorway, a leaking financial disaster from which we will not recover, or in Lahore more recently the metro bus that is another financial disaster which will go on losing money.

Two projects that we could have done without. One day the fancy escalators that feed the metro will come to a stop and all that money would have sunk without a trace.

From the airshow to the army show and how the entire media went over the bend and spent days and days on the nation’s favourite pastime – speculation. What a farce we have reduced everything to. At least I do not know of any country where a handing over of command should receive the kind of mad and pointless coverage that we bestowed on what is a normal event.

It’s a wonder Daniel Craig didn’t show up asking for a martini – shaken not stirred. Had he, our anchors would have asked him between a ‘choti si break’ what his thoughts were on the new chief. Please, where has good reason and taste fled?