The Pakistani government and media seem too preoccupied with granting olive branches to the Taliban, so much so that a slew of issues - from spiking fuel prices to minorities persecution - are going blithely unnoticed.
In Peshawar, a suicide bomber blew himself up killing four women, while two others who were strapped with bombs managed to escape. It is rare if something of this nature does not happen in Peshawar and even after the olive branch to the Taliban, the bombings haven't stopped. In Karachi, the regularity of violence has reached mind-numbing levels and not a day passes without killings despite the targeted operation.
The interior minister issued a statement banning the refurbishing of cars into bullet and bomb proof vehicles in that city. He was taking note of news that some companies in the country especially in Karachi were converting vehicles into bomb- and bullet-proof ones which are illegal. He was concerned that the level of safety in such converted vehicles is not guaranteed and rather can put precious lives in danger.
Those precious lives are already in danger and that's probably why it's easy to extort money from hapless citizens who are looking for a foolproof system to live and not be shot at or worse blown up. Can't blame them really. But a bullet-proof car did not help the trigger happy cop Chaudhry Aslam in Karachi who on the day he was killed didn't reportedly use his bomb proof vehicle for some reason. And it is from ashes that heroes are born like the teenager Aitzaz who stopped a suicide bomber outside his school and was killed or all the polio health workers who continue with their duties despite being petrified.
Another set of unlikely heroes are the marchers from Balochistan who are on their way to Islamabad from Quetta, demanding justice for the over 18,000 people missing. No one's paying much attention to them even though their stories are heart-rending and the missing persons and the newly discovered mass graves are grave violations of fundamental rights. No endless TV talk shows on the missing Baloch or 24 hour coverage.
Too much to expect
The Taliban talks dominate the headlines and so do talk shows on the much exhausted subject, despite the sense of déjà vu. While few believe this will bring peace, the exercise has to be carried out to the bitter end by everyone concerned, in a manner of speaking.
On the other hand, the gas and fuel shortage is reaching alarming levels. In the capital, it is common to see people scrounging for firewood or carrying large head loads of wood and sticks. Gas supply is erratic and if you cannot afford the diesel for a generator, or have a decent inverter, the only option is to burn something to keep warm. And now the capital development authority has decided to evict slum-dwellers after a high court order, making things even more precarious for those who barely eke out a living.
The circular debt for power is touching Rs.180 billion, six months after the government coughed up almost Rs.500 billion. Power shortage is acute and there is frequent load shedding. Long queues are not uncommon for CNG and people have to wait for hours for the rare opportunity to fill gas in their cars. With all its problems, some of it inherited from the previous regime, the government has embarked on some programmes for the youth and employment schemes. It is dead set on enforcing the rule of law, like all democratic governments are meant to.
But to showcase its noble intent, it zeroed in on former President General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf who has got himself admitted to hospital with a heart ailment and has not made an appearance in court. While he has been summoned again on February 18, with an assurance from his counsel, seeing is believing. The special court trying him for high treason has become a venue for slanging matches between the prosecution and the defence and the chief judge Faisal Arab has had to pull them up more than once for behaving like schoolboys.
The government's draft ordinance to given enhanced powers to the police and the security agencies also seems to be in trouble, with lawmakers opposing its stringent provisions.
Near the National Press Club, small groups of protestors gather each day. It's the displaced members of the Mehsud tribe one day, or the Shia community which is under threat the next, or the people who demand self-determination and an end to the human rights violations in Indian Kashmir or slum dwellers who are evicted or Christians who are persecuted. The groups are not large but determined and hope their voices are heard some day above that of the gun-toting Taliban and their supporters. That could be too much to expect.