Graves of the Rich Are Palaces; Houses Of The Poor Are Graves
By Imtiaz Gul
Garhi Khuda Bux (Sind) – Once again, the tide of goodwill in the aftermath of the super-flood favours Pakistan. By himself flying over the affected areas and later giving a graphic description of the devastationthe UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon persuaded members of his organization to step forward and help Pakistan cope with the consequences of what he described as the “slow-motion tsunami.”
And rightly so. It is indeed a “slow-motion Tsunami” because it will now amplify the consequences of a system that rests on a morally bankrupt, intellectually poor, politically self-serving, culturally bigoted and financially corrupt ruling elite comprising politicians, bureaucracy, feudal lords, generals and their apologists in all spheres of life.
And the Garhi Khuda Bux – the ancestral town the Bhuttos – exemplifies the disconnect between this ruling elite and the hapless masses on the one hand, and the misplaced priorities on the other; a huge domed complex now stands over the old graveyard where all the Bhuttos are resting. The three-dombed marble complex is now called the Mazar- the mausoleum, built with public money – drawn from the provincial and the federal kitty. A huge boundary wall, running into hundreds of meters, is being built as the foreyard of the mausoleum, all with expensive holed-blocs, imported from Karachi.
Both and inside the mausoleum, dozens of half-naked children and elderly locals are idling around. Some barefoot, some without shirts, you can count the rib-cage of these emaciated figures. Their faces betray the story of poverty and the miserable life they live under the shadow of this towering complex. Looking at the physical expense and the financial expense incurred on it, it appears as if poverty , education and health facilities for the thousands living by the mausoleum have been taken care of.
The lay-out of the graves inside offers even more disconcerting and reflects how the quest for personal and undivided glory precedes human relations; beside the grave of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is the resting place of the daughter i.e. Benazir Bhutto. Behind these two lie the graves of grandparents but where are the two brothers – Murtaza and Shahnawaz – we ask one of the frail care-takers. He points to two graves behind us – several meters away from the two P.M. graves behind a huge column. Rather than being beside their father, the two brothers were buried at the foot-side of senior Bhutto.
We try to ask for the reason and none of the “wretched of Garhi Khuda Bux” dares tell us the truth; they say the mazar committee incharge must have decided where the brothers would be buried. We don’t expect any better explanation from these down-trodden faithful followers of senior Bhutto. We can only infer that the sister was so overwhelmed with power and authority that she decided to put the brothers away from their father, practically in isolation of others.
Once outside the Mausoleum, we witness more scenes of grueling poverty in the village, with men and women toiling in the sweltering humid heat. This place of phenomenal contrasts only a few kilometers away from Rato Panjdero, Rato Dero and Larkana, the town which the Bhuttos used a launching pad for their political careers.
While driving past these poverty-stricken villages, one wonders how these poor farmers and daily wage workers feel when their representatives zoom past them in their land-cruisers or flying over their heads in helicopters. The dividend of empowerment flows to the elected ones and those empowering them remain stuck in perennial poverty.
Larkana itself represents another distressing story of neglect and extremely poor governance. Dusty, broken and tattered roads, choked sewage lines boiling on to the roads, parts of the town littered with garbage. This is the scene today of the town that gave Pakistan two prime ministers.
Almost a 100,000 displaced from Garhi Khairo and Shahdadkot in particular have taken refuge in Larkana, which is protected by two protective dykes – Nusrat Loop Band and Aqil Aghani Band -. Dozens of heavy machines – tractors, excavators – have been working round the clock to reinforce these dykes to protect Larkana from the wild overflow of the Indus.
One wonders whether other towns currently submerged in water – Kubo Saeed Khan, Shahdadkot, Thattha, Nasirabad, Rojhan Jamali and scores of others also received the same unusual vigilance. Probably not.
Mother Nature played havoc in October 2005. It is wreaking havoc again in August 2010. It has dispossessed the majority of those living along or near the Indus River basin, while those empowered by the majority are once again stuck in their point-scoring, selfish squabbles, eyeing dividends that will flow from the aid for those affected. God save the hapless majority.
Gul focuses on the issues of politics, governance, security, terrorism and extremism.