VIP culture on roads

Governor Punjab, Lieutenant General (Retd.) Khalid Maqbool has strictly instructed the authorities not to stop the traffic or turn off the traffic signals when he is out on the roads, as has become the norm for VIPs’ movement. The governor took this decision when a traffic constable stopped an ambulance so that the governor’s car could pass without any hold up. Governor Khalid Maqbool was appalled at this incident.

On any ordinary day, if you happen to be travelling on the road and suddenly witness a flurry of activity amongst the traffic police, 99.9 percent chances are that a politician or high official’s car is about to pass. All traffic is immediately stopped and traffic signals are shut down so that the traffic constables can let the VIP pass in peace.

Another scenario is when there has been a traffic jam for half an hour or so because some minister is supposed to pass any minute. It does not seem to matter if he gets delayed and turns up on that road after an hour. The other commuters are not allowed to move their vehicles till the ministerial procession has passed.

One of the main reasons for lawlessness in our country is that law-enforcers are themselves lawbreakers. They behave as though they are above the law. It is said that good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly while bad people will find a way around any laws. Numerous police cars escort the VIPs while thousands of vehicles are diverted as the police block roads to facilitate the VIP movement.

The reasons for our failure as a people and a nation are many — weak institutions, corrupt and inept bureaucracies, inefficient economic managers and various other factors. However the grave reality is that we have been unable to live down the legacy of our colonial heritage. It is not at all inaccurate to say that the VIP culture that exists in Pakistan today derives its basis from the colonial mentality among our elite that we were supposed to have left behind half a century ago.

It is understood that the security of the rulers is important, but do they realise the reaction of the hundreds and thousands of people stranded in their vehicles for hours? Ordinary citizens are equally in a rush to reach their destinations, but power seems to have blinded the rulers and like some of their predecessors, they have taken to the slipperiest path to unpopularity.

It is really commendable on the governor’s part to talk about eradicating ‘protocol’, but despite such ‘announcements’ made by several politicians at one time or another in the past, no change in the VIP culture has taken place. If the governor is serious about this issue, he should know that just passing orders is not enough. Being a retired army officer, the governor is a strict disciplinarian and would expect his orders to be carried out. He should make an inquiry after he passes a road and see whether the traffic police actually followed his instructions and did not create any difficulties for the ordinary citizens. In order to ensure proper implementation of the traffic rules and save the citizens from the aggravation of being delayed by the security and protocol considerations of the high and mighty, the VIP culture has to go. Security can and should be handled with an eye to inconveniencing citizens as little as humanly possible. For ‘protocol’ there should be zero tolerance. It is hoped that the Governor’s fine example would inspire others amongst our elite to emulate it as well.


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