Too many candles for fourth birthday

It couldn’t have been avoided. There were simply just too many candles for a fourth birthday.The disorder in parts of Punjab that peaked on Sunday could as yet be termed as a show of controlled aggression, a sign that things could deteriorate fast. In fact, it could well have been the biggest issue by now but for an opposition which finds it more expedient to take on the treasury over issues such as the resumption of supplies to Nato.

Tyres were burnt, and attempts at ransacking the shops made as groups of people suffering long hours without light came out again on Sunday. In Faisalabad, there were clashes when rioters tried to force shopkeepers to shut down their business.

Scattered protests took place in Lahore and the adjacent districts of Kasur and Sheikhupura. These could have been much larger rallies. They may have had the blessing of some individual politician or a party, but the orders to bind these separate groups of protesters into a single large procession ready to march are yet to be received.

Popular causes pursued openly by political parties make much more sense. One unfortunate result of these power protests lacking the ownership of a political party was that the rioters felt free to vandalise small merchandise, such as the fruit vendors and small shops in Faisalabad as well as small businesses in Lahore.

No political party can afford such negative publicity and the organisation of a protest by a brand does bring a certain discipline and purpose to it. Even violence has to be directed against the truly deserving for it to have effect. The news reports of Sunday’s demos, supportive of the power-denied as these had to be, were no less sympathetic to the small business owners targeted by the rioters.

The protests brought to the fore groups angry yet disorganised. Absence of open backing by a political party to channel their anger into an organised push could lead to stronger, uglier shows of violence. The police were ineffective, which could encourage a repeat, even though Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited Faisalabad on Monday to educate the aggrieved on how not to conduct a just protest demonstration.

The politicians were aware, if not fully committed to the popular cause. In Lahore, Nawaz Sharif made fun of Prime Minister Gilani’s wish — he had hoped for a congratulatory happy fourth birthday message from the PML-N chief.

What a farce this once entertaining circus has become. There are so many repeat telecasts that you can’t miss it, no matter how many hours without light you may suffer.

Everyone knows we are confronted with an even tougher summer than the one last year: less power, more to pay to Wapda. For the PPP government the more worrying aspect should be that it cannot carry on with an innocent face, blaming the lack of an adequate system, or even a future plan, to deal with the electricity shortages on the Musharraf regime.

The PPP’s shortcomings are all the more pronounced in the energy sector given the high promises it had begun its latest stint with. There has been news of some motley units added to the national grid but these do not show in the supply.

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