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EDITORIAL: The prime minister’s lament that the country was a victim of “elite capture” which over time deprived the middle and lower classes of the opportunity to progress and prosper was certainly not lost on the segments of society whose pain he was trying to describe. But since he might have seen this trend develop from the side and not liked it, they were the ones whose dreams were snatched away by this “elite capture,” so they should be forgiven for not listening to these sermons with much enthusiasm anymore. There is of course no doubt that everything the PM said about this phenomenon when he inaugurated a low-cost housing project in Lahore the other day was true. The elite does indeed live inside a bubble that it has created for itself. It includes the cream of our politicians, the highest rising civil servants, the champions of big business and high-ranking officers who have been in uniform. This bubble has homes, hospitals and schools the likes of which everybody outside it will never even come near as they spend their days juggling shrinking wages and increasing cost of living in inadequate houses. To top it all, the law also applies differently to everybody with access to that bubble.

So we have the textbook cases of concentration of wealth in very few hands and a constantly widening gap between haves and have-nots playing out when the rich, powerful minority also pretty much controls the long arms of the law. But this has been happening since forever and what Imran Khan said about it on the campaign trail played no small part in his party finally coming to power. Yet since then the only thing that has changed is that the PM and almost everybody else in government talks about this a lot more often while not much has been done about it on the ground. And people are beginning to lose interest in these claims because there’s little to suggest that anything is going to change anytime soon; not the least because a number of the bubble’s inhabitants serve in the incumbent government as well.

No doubt a lot of countries face such problems but ours is compounded because of the complete inability of the law to catch up with the elite. The rich and powerful also lord over a lion’s share of the country’s resources and much of the agrarian workforce puts in long hours only to make the businesses of politicians grow. In fact they have their claws buried so deep into the soil that any politician or political party that defies them soon finds out that it is simply not possible to come to power without first standing on their shoulders. And then all promises of change are simply rubbished to the dustbin of history forever no matter how much the head of state or the head of government beats his chest about it. The people have seen this cycle of unfulfilled promises so many times that they no longer take such things at face value.

Perhaps a good way to change their minds would be to stem the rot in the ruling party and show at least some of the more controversial members the door. And the law must be allowed to take its course. Then a lot more people would not only listen to government spokespersons a lot more attentively but also take them for their word again. Now the prime minister shouldn’t just tell people what is wrong with the country and that he’s going to turn it into a welfare state, but he should also enlighten them about the steps he has taken to reverse unfriendly trends. And he should get into this habit very quickly. It’s not like there’s much time left before the next campaign kicks off and that would be the perfect time to sell any progress worth mentioning on such fronts.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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