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Only a prosperous society can pay Rs 1000 for a maund of flour!

Most governments and political parties make calculations and self-assessments on the basis of their wishful thinking. It is never easy for them to digest any ‘evidence’ that may be in contradiction with their wishful conclusions. It may be expedient for them to remain divorced from the ground realities. Or they may harbour sincere convictions about their assessments. But one thing is certain. They love to evaluate their performance, position and chances quite highly.
Has there ever been a government in Pakistan that has not celebrated its exceptional and unsurpassed achievements? And has any political party ever failed to place itself above all the rest in popularity and potential?
A classic example of how misleading and self-deceiving this exercise of evaluating oneself and one’s chances highly can be, was the Electoral Extravaganza of 1970. I am using the term ‘Extravaganza’ in order to throw light on the state of mind (and self-deception) the anti-Bhutto forces were in. I remember a heated discussion I had with a leading pro-right analyst (who continues to be a top anti-PPP analyst even today).
“The Jama’at is certain to get thirty seats in the National Assembly,” I remember him saying. “And the Muslim League is going to trounce the PPP in some key Islam-loving areas.”
“On the contrary,” I remember my contention,” the Jama’at in my opinion will end up with not more than five seats. And the traditional winning candidates of the Muslim League will all meet their Waterloo in these elections.”
A few days later when the tidal wave of the PPP support swept away most of the acknowledged war-horses of the Right, those Jama’at pundits who had predicted a historic triumph for the ‘Islam-loving’ were no where to be found.
If the elections scheduled to be held on January 8, 2008 turn out to be even half as fair and transparent as were those of 1970, we may witness the unfolding of yet another ‘shocker’.
The mood of the electorate can be judged from an observation a cynical member of the civil society made to me the other day: “if the people want to continue to eat flour priced at Rs one thousand a maund, they should swarm to cast their votes for the government that has made it possible.”
We were talking about the chances of various contestants in the elections. During the discussion, he made yet another interesting observation of great cynical value: “How may commoners living close to, or under, the line of poverty understand what is meant by the terms index and stock exchange?
The situation acquires an intriguing ‘dimension’ when it is remembered that in this grand era of high prosperity (and booming consumerism), Washington pumped in several billion dollars into our economy (unaccounted for). In return our soldiers are laying down their lives to win a war that will have no end.

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