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What on Earth is Wrong With South Asia

ASOKA S

Asif Ali Zadari, the widower of former President Banazir Bhutto is the new President Elect of Pakistan. He was elected though the electoral vote process with a substantial majority.

Zadari spent two terms totaling 11 years in jail in the 90's for corruption charges, both occasions for stealing wealth of Pakistani people to buy prime real estate in major countries. This happened during his wife's tenors in office. He is believed to have been a 10% man and stolen over 100 million dollars though kickbacks. But now he is Pakistan's Chief Executive. WOW...Incidentally for our region this is very outstanding on the part of the Pakistani Judicial system who actually put this man in jail. Whereas in our own Lanka no politician has spent a day in jail for stealing people's wealth. But many of them have overnight gone from rags to riches surprisingly, and even purchased large chunks of overseas real estate too while retiring to the West to enjoy the high life.

If you look at South Asia, family dynasties have ruled this region of the world often. Bandaranaikes of Sri Lanka, Ghandis of India, Bhuttos of Pakistan, Ziaur Rahman and Wife Khalida Zia have all taken center stage in one of the poorest regions of the world. Of late one has begun to see commoners like R. Premadasa and Rajapaksha of Sri Lanka, Manmohan Singh of India (who engineered India''s economic boom by the way) to name a few. One could argue that the poverty in this region may well be related to family dynasties ruling this region. Talent and social outlook of R. Premadasa does not necessarily have to be in Sajith Premadasa for example. Premadasa struggled to go from rags to riches by sheer talent and competence whereas his son had a silver spoon upbringing with a different exposure to life events. For all practical purposes Sajith may well be a very clever individual but I am using him as an example.

In late 1980s I witnessed first hand a political lobbying business agency in Colombo 2, who was run by a spouse of a then a very powerful politician of the UNP. The new office off the duplication road had several dozen solid trunks of Teak Wood as supporting columns fresh from the Mahaweli jungles which were being cleared before being inundated. This politician originally hailed from the hills of Lanka with meager family resources. I remember very vividly how the spouse of this man found the new window type air conditioner in her office too noisy and wanted it replaced with a split air conditioner immediately as she could not bear the little hum of the unit. A note from her to another Minister was a great success by the way.

So a second generation of many of these (so called) leaders are now sitting pretty in the Parliament waiting to lead our poor nation. It will be a matter of time before these idling rich political kids become our heads of state of tomorrow and the political dynasties will continue... Lanka will also continue to be plagued by poverty, as in our political arena the best man (or woman) does not win. It is the best connected who wins in the end...




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