We hate the sinner and love the sin
When everybody ganged up on the communications minister before last Eid, his quick-to-smile face was also in the discussion. That was when he thought he owed us an explanation and said in a press conference that he was born a laughing baby before pleading why he shouldn't be blamed if his face lit up with a smile every time he opened his mouth. Reports claimed that the giggling minister was visibly embarrassed like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He was trying to cover his smile with one hand in the manner a lampshade diffuses light.
That this minister is still sitting tight in his chair shows that his good luck is as enduring as his smile. The roads are beginning to look like the surface of the moon again as hastily done patchworks are coming off like plaster falling off a crumbling house. Those who vowed to unseat him may have gone home, harried and tired. But the man, who was the center of the obstreperous attention, is still going strong laughing his way to the bank. The lucky ones stay lucky no matter what rest of the world likes to think of them.
Let's face the fact. The heat turned up on the communications minister not because he had done anything wrong. We really do not have a strong case against this man except for the miserable condition of our roads, which are virtual deathtraps. The underlying assumption is that the minister wasn't doing his job. He should have literally kept his eyes on the roads from the driving seat of his power position.
What piqued us more is what we believe we know about this man. We hear his fingers are in many business pies. We hear his company represents Chinese companies like a stalk holds inflorescence. These are but unsubstantiated rumours hard to prove because when an affluent man sits in public office the line between him and his money becomes a no-man's land.
It was Machiavelli of all persons in the world who left government service poorer than he had entered it. "My loyalty and honesty," he boasted, "are proven by my poverty." Perhaps that is one way to find out which a private man in public office serves better between his country and bank balance.
Not so when a private man concurrently pursues his business interests as a public figure, because it creates confusion. It becomes difficult to tell, which of the two interests is moving faster than the other. Even worse if both are moving at the same speed, because illusion of speed makes it tricky. It might seem neither is moving fast enough.
That is why more democratic countries require politicians to leave their private businesses at the doorsteps of public office. Even an unconscionable Dick Cheney had to appear distanced from Halliburton, while he was the vice president of the United States. In this country, we are running in the opposite direction. We are taking politics to the doorstep of business. If observed from space, they might even appear indistinguishable from each other.
We hear dreadful stories of party nominations being auctioned for money. We hear that cabinet positions are allocated depending on one's ability to bankroll the party. That is why we have no choice but to accommodate profit motive and patriotism in equal space in our imagination.
Few years back a commerce minister had inaugurated his own hotel business while in office. A former foreign minister had opened his car showroom as if it was some national project. Their ribbon-cutting pictures were flashed in the media unabashedly putting political face to their personal flourish.
In all fairness, this communications minister has been a victim of circumstances. He never went out and personally sabotaged the roads. He was not sitting behind wheels when reckless drivers crashed into other vehicles. He has been busy with mega deals -- flyover, beltway, monorail, and subway. Friends say he is taking our road communication to the next level. Foes say he is more interested in big-budget projects because they make more business sense to him.
But, if unsparingly judged by performance, other ministers are not doing, if not worse, better than him. Prices of essential commodities have turned into roulette board betting. Denial has become the best way to safeguard law and order. Foreign policy is often an alien subject to the concerned ministry. An avuncular minister is obsessed that small investors are responsible for stock market manipulation. The shipping minister has gone amphibious, spending more time on land to meddle in the road transport business.
Oye, Oye. All should know it's our fault if money-based politics is debased by money. We hate the sinner but love the sin. Nothing will change if one minister goes. Money will create many more.