Why politicians don’t care about us

We have seen videos of newly completed Islamabad airport flooded due to recent rain and many videos like it of other mega project disasters over the years. We may think that people who oversee these projects are bad at planning, just stupid and dumb. I think this is deliberate.
There is a reason our streets still flood in 2018 after little rain. Pehlay gali paki hoti hai, phir aglay election k pas ja k yaad aata hai k gas k pipe tou daay nahi. Sarak ukharo, pipe dalow. Phir logo k gas k meter approve hotay saal lag jata hai. Har koi apnay gar k samnay pipe dal k speed breaker banata hai. Phir aglay election aatay hain tou pani k pipes k liay gali ukharo. 5 saal tak pani na aay tou pipe replace karnay k liay gali ukharo. Nali ya tou banatay nahi kyunkay gali is shaped like a nali, owr agar banatay hain tou aisay k galdi mei ganday pani ki waja say chal nahi saktay. Phir dobara election aajay hain owr logo gali paki/repair k liay vote detay hain. Yun 50 saal guzar gaay tou politicians ko kia zurarat hai to fix what’s ain’t broken. This system is working. If they make a functional street design once and and build all streets accordingly, the cost will be one time. Then they could spend excess money on education and schools or anything else. Agar har election k time koi nai cheez banti tou kuch taraki nazar aati. But they are not stupid. Why make people aware of their situation or educated them about their rights when it will only lead to them asking for more. Jo awam 50 saal say gali paki honay k nam par vote denay ko tyar hain, unay unki soch say zaida daay kar aadatain kharab karnay wali baat hai. So the best way is to invest in useless or showoff projects that need to be repaired, rebuild or abandoned within a few years. The wheel keeps turning without moving further. That’s how you win elections in under developed country in any part of the world.
But this time people are demanding dams, mostly because its ramzan and everyone is thirty. Most have their wells dried because water level is too low and tanki wala har maheenay pani mehnga kar raha hai. So now we are vocal but it’s too late. Even if we start building dams today, we will have to go through a few years of water scarcity and food shortage. Still, Better late than never. Had our politician been sincere, they would have focuses on improving the education system and people today would have been aware of their social, political, judicial and democratic rights. When people are aware, they demand their rights and that is the public pressure that shapes democratic government. Uneducated people are easy to manipulate in name of religion, cast and hate politics. Democracy is about people and cannot work without an educated population. So for any sincere government the priorities will be
1- Education
2- Education
3- Dams (because it’s already too late)
because nothing else really matters unless we fix the system.

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Reham Khan’s book

I think this ‘leaked manuscript’ is a fake, circulated deliberately through ‘reliable sources’ to stir up controversy. Dragging in Wasim Akram’s late wife into this is a desperate attempt to get a response out of him and cash in on his global appeal. IK and WA are our most globally recognised celebrities and attacking them is a good way to sell a book. Talk of abortion and homosexuality will also attract global media attention. She is not even denying writing any such content and even confirms that parts of her book were stolen. She is practically welcoming lawsuits against her, so that if she is unable to provide evidence to backup her claims in court which may lead to removing some parts of the book in the published version, she will be able to play the victim card and call it an attach on free speech or silencing the truth. It works in her favour in every possible scenario and to that I say, well played.

Corruption in Perspective

You hear the word corruption all day. You know our politicians are corrupt and its not okay, but then you see the figures and put them to perspective, all you can think about is how not okay it is. Let’s put into perspective our mega projects with a few recent projects across the world.

Lahore metro bus = $296.5 million (1 route. 220,000 passengers per day. 40 rupees subsidy on every 20 rupees ticket. Loss: $27.76 million per year)
Curitiba metro bus = $138 million (Full city transit network, 2.3M passengers. Self-sustaining, no subsidy)

Faizabad interchange = $1.2 million (we can make 23 interchanges like Faizabad across Punjab in a year for the same money we are spending on subsidy for Lahore metrobus)

Lahore Orange line = $1.55 billion (250,000 passengers per day)
City of Pearl, Manila = $1 billion (8000 houses. A train and a water taxi network to connect to Manila. Housing and jobs for 50,000 people)

Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus = $420 million (1 route, 100k passengers)
Dubai Sustainable City = $354 million. (Providing housing for 3500 residents. Produces more electricity than it consumes)

Detailed look: How we could have made a transit-network

Currently Pindi-Islamabad metro has 64 busses. Each cost $80,000 which is close to what a London double-decker bus costs, $83,000. London bus network has 6000 buses that cover an area of 1572km^2 and Pindi-Islamabad have a combined surface area of 1005km^2. London has a population of 8.8 million while twin cities combined have 3.1 million, which is 3 times lesser. Assuming we have buses covering both cities end to end, we will need 2000 buses to meet our population’s demands for next 20 years. Buying 2000 buses will cost a total of $160 million. In comparison, only the construction of Pindi-Islamabad Metro lane cost us $420 million. If we build 500 ‘tube stations’ across the twin cities (Curitiba Design), include an ITS (Intelligent Transport System) that is a computerised grid network to manage all buses across the city, pay for their maintenance, fuel and salaries of the drivers, we will still be spending 3 times less than what twin city metro project spent on construction alone.
You must be thinking these are just hypothetical numbers and reality will be different. Let’s compare it with a working system. Brazil is a country far poorer than ours and many people live under poverty line, but things are changing since the 2000s. Rede Integrada de Transporte (also known as RIT) is a rapid bus transit system in Curitiba that provides transportation to 85% of its population. It includes 157 bi-articulated (a bus split into three sections like our metro buses) and 29 single-articulated vehicles (like large shuttle buses) with 357 ‘tube stations’ (which is a very simple but cost-effective design for a computerised bus stop). They cover an area of 81.4 km and facilitate 2,300,000 passengers per day. This system is digitized with e-tickets and centralized computer based network that regulates buses routes and timings. The system is self-sustaining and government does not subsidize or claim to pay anything since they achieved sustainability in 2002. Development costs today to expand the pre-existing two-way roads to create a separate lane in the middle for buses and emergency vehicles have been estimated at $1.5 million per kilometer, which gives us a total of $122 million dollars. Adding buses, they spent a total of $138 million and now the system is working on its own. If we take this model and spend equal to what Pindi-Islamabad metro spent in total, we will be able to provide this type of transportation for 4 large and 4 relatively smaller cities. Think about it, 8 cities easily covered in the price of one route between two cities. Not to mention the $1.7 million (2 billion rupees) subsidy per year.

What about sustainability? Before we make a rough estimated for running the system, read this extract about Pindi-Islamabad metro (Wikipedia but with sources):
“According to official numbers, a single bus trip costs 9,100 PKRs while it earns only 2,600 PKRs incurring loss of 6,500 PKRs each trip. The huge subsidy contributes Rs 2 billion loss every year, however, raising the cost of ticket, may result in total loss of already dropping passengers.[8] After heavy loans accumulated on Punjab govt. in paying subsidies, it was decided in 2016, to divide the load between Punjab govt. and capital development authority (CDA) on the basis of length in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.[9] However, CDA refused to pay for losses of Metro bus attributing to lack of funds in 2016. Federal govt. provided funds to CDA to shoulder the burden of Punjab Metro authority in 2016, however, in 2017 the problem surfaced again, raising question marks on long term losses and financial burden of under utilised project.”
So government is paying 40 rupees in subsidy on every 20 rupee ticket, meaning each ticket should be 60 rupees to make it even. It is to be noted that our metro route covers 18.6 km (Google maps). In 2012, Regional Transport Authority (RTA) issued the notification raising the public transport fares from Rs 12 to Rs 15 for four kilometres, Rs 18 to Rs 20 for 4-8 kilometres, Rs 22 to Rs 25 for 8-14 kilometres, Rs 25 to Rs 30 for 14-22 kilometres, Rs 27 to Rs 35 for 23-30 kilometres and Rs 40 for more than 30 kilometres. These fares are still the same after 6 years, but it must be kept in mind that the vehicles that operate are vans and pickups, ‘wagons’ and ‘suzukis’ and for air conditioned double buses with proper seats and modern facilities like wifi, people will not mind paying a few rupees extra. If we increase each stop to stop fair by even 10% (e.g 22 rupees instead of 20), we will be able to make ends meet without any loses. If we do not want to increase the fare, we can use advertisements. In 2017/18, London Transport made 12% of its revenue by selling advertisements posted or played in buses.
Transit cards: Like in all modern cities nowadays, if all citizens are issued transit-cards that they swipe when entering the bus, not only will ticket payment be easier but the ITS will be able to track which routes have more passengers at which hours and direct the buses accordingly, making the system more cost-effective. Weekly, monthly and annual packages can then be introduced that will fix a travel quota in kilometres for each person, assuring regular passengers. Peak-hour timings can be introduced to make people other than students, teachers and govt. employee avoid using transport during opening and closing times of a work day.

It is not that we do not have money for such a public transport project, nor will it take more than 1-2 years to build. If we add money spent on metro projects in rest of Punjab i.e. Lahore metro bus $296.5 million, Lahore orange line $1.55 billion and Multan metro $290 million, the total is $2.5 billion spent on metro projects in Punjab. Dividing it by $138 million as our average public transport cost per city as calculated above, they could have provided transportation facilities for more than 18 cities across Punjab. If we remove 50% for corruption, it’s still 9 cities with good, modern public transport networks of thousands of wifi and air-conditioned buses, instead of hundred buses on 5 small routes in 4 cities. But buses that run on ground are not fancy. They have been saying from the start that metro projects are to ‘make Lahore like Paris’ making it clear that these are meant to be show pieces rather than practical solution. Public transportation in our country has always been a front to justify construction projects. Governments prefer mega projects related to construction for reasons we all understand. Not only do they provide work to their own companies, but also when mega projects are involved that are dealing in billions, a few hundred million corruption is less noticeable. Anyway, what’s done is done. Now the problem is that although Metro buses are easily the most expensive and wasteful project in Pakistan’s history, after spending all that money, Govt. is still paying millions in subsidy to keep ticket prices low. The infrastructure build has less durability and won’t last long without extensive maintenance and someone will finally have to put an end to this service to stop further loses. Meanwhile our other roads and streets are still stuck in the cycle of digging and reconstruction for 70 years. We need to move beyond roads now. Our fundamental problem is education, because a population aware of it’s issues and thoughtful enough to do something to can fix them is the key to success in the long term. But no Govt. wants progress when they can still get votes from people in name of ‘paki gali’, water pipes, gas and packs of biryani. This system have been working out great for politician for half a century and they is no need to educate people and make them self-aware. So, all we can really do is pray for a sincere leadership.

Why Metro, why?

Dams pay for themselves by producing electricity and irrigate land to payback the debt in full and become profitable over time. On the other hand these metro projects with millions in subsidy and annual interest on massive loans are a burden on the economy. There is no denying that Metro was a wasteful project but the real question is, did it really cost this much money? Here is a list of other projects that have been completed in the same time and less money, very recently.

Lahore metro bus = $296.5 million (1 route. 220,000 passengers per day. 40 rupees subsidy on every 20 rupees ticket. Loss: $27.76 million per year)
Curitiba metro bus = $138 million (Full city transit network, 2.3M passengers. Self-sustaining, no subsidy)

Faizabad interchange = $1.2 million (we can make 23 interchanges across Punjab in a year for the same money we are spending on subsidy for lahore metrobus)

Lahore Orange line = $1.55 billion (250,000 passengers per day)
City of Pearl, Manila = $1 billion (8000 houses. A train and a water taxi network to connect to Manila. Housing and jobs for 50,000 people)

Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus = $420 million (1 route, 100k passengers)
Dubai Sustainable City = $354 million. (Providing housing for 3500 residents. Produces more energy than it consumes)

Traffic Issue

If they treat congested market places as tourist spots by making parkades alongside main roads, ban all vehicles from entering markets’ inner streets (or limit them with a tax/ticket for entering and issue passes for any residents) and have electric shuttles roam around the streets like they do in parks, it wont cost that much but shopping will be so much easier and also streets will look much better. This will also solve the problem of vibrations and smoke damaging historical and old architecture buildings which are commonly located in our bazaars but neglected. Obviously its practicality depends on the area and availability of a nearby highway or wide road to provide alternate routes but in most places I think it can work.

How to be unbiased on the internet

An unbiased person is a myth. Everyone picks a side, some just express it more passionately. Only ones who are truly unbiased are those who either dont know about the issue or have no interest in it. But there is a simple way to trick people into thinking that you are the voice of reason.
Facebook is a better platform for this, but if you are limited to 140 words, try: “I am a ___(opposite opinion/ party/ belief) supporter but this (current issue you want to talk about) is pointless and they/we are wrong.” (it’s lying but its okay, the likes will wash away any guilt that you might feel.)
If you are on fb, think of your post as an essay and not something that’s ‘on your mind’.
1- Casually present the issue.
2- Briefly mention both sides of the argument and say both are right.
3- Point out borderline ridiculous arguments of the opponent side or make up some weak ones on your own, then go on to prove them wrong. Do the same for your side, but keep the list short and dont include any of opponent’s argument that might actually hurt your point. (This will be 2/3 of the essay and better have bullet points or people will lose interest).
4- Now you have the reader on your side, who now sees you as an unbiased person and a voice of reason.
5- Now the iron is hot, time to say what you really want to say in a very civilised language, add a few wordy terms of intermediate vocabulary as icing on the top and bam, you are now an intellectual unbiased person and may even win the support of some people who have been indecisive so far.
6- Say something positive about opposite side and mention that you understand them and dont want to hurt their feelings and that they have every right to keep that opinion, you just want them to think with a cool and open mind. (This is necessary cz if the opponent tries to defend his/her opinion in the comments, s/he will look bad and people will take your side, seeing the comment as an attack on a person who is not saying anything wrong.
7- Once posted, do not comment or get into a discussion directly with someone. Let your like-minded people shame the opponents for saying anything. If you are mentioned/tagged, keep repeating that you are not saying that your side is right, you just want people to think with a cool and open mind.
Now you will see “achievement unlocked: voice of reason” notification on your right. If not, try again.

we vote for ourselves

It is understandable to get frustrated when after everything our politicians have done, the masses still vote for them. We think there is something wrong with them. Do they only have short term memories? Why are they not rising against the oppression? But everyone experiences the world differently and thus sees it differently too. All citizens want what they think is best for the nation i.e. themselves. Those who have totally opposite views from us are just as patriotic as we are and are right in their opinion as much as we are in thinking that they are wrong. We can say that the core problem is flawed democracy or dictatorship because both produce results that we don’t want. But that is how the world is. We should know our place, as one vote among millions. It’s about majority, not ideology. But that also doesn’t mean that our vote doesn’t matter. It matters because we vote for ourselves. For example, if I don’t want Muslims of the world to suffer and expect leaders to at least condemn attacks against Muslims of Syria or put Kashmir and Palestine issue first, I will vote for someone who promises this and I trust him to keep that promise. Then if that person loses and the rulers do not speak when Muslims die, my conscience will be clear because I used my vote right. If he wins and then breaks his promise then he is in wrong because I did my part right, thus my conscience is still clear. That will be a lesson for me and I will vote for someone else next time. That’s how democracy works. The problem comes when we give people another chance. Life is too short to give people second chances. As they say, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
There is no need to spread ‘awareness’ either. Maybe the people who are voting for the same person again are doing it because they are happy with them. No amount of arguing or debate can change someone’s opinion.
Listen to all politicians, ignore the hate speech and focus on their promises. Who’s promises align the most with what you want and can you trust that person to deliver on that promise? Did they made such promises in the past and not deliver? Think about these things objectively and then vote, not for family or people or change or anything, but only to satisfy your conscience so that next time when you see (Allah help us) pictures of dead Muslim children or you do not get a job because of corruption, your conscience will be clear because you were not part of the problem.