Sunday, January 15, 2006

Image building

Letter to Dawn, Karachi published on January 15, 2006

It seems Pakistan is not the only country that spends lavishly and unnecessarily for personal comfort of few individuals or to project a "better image" to the outside world ( special VIP planes, frequent overseas trips and large entourages etc.) There are others, even poorer than Pakistan, who indulge in similar luxury and are accountable to none. Sudan is one.

Recently, General Hasan Al-Bashir of Sudan decided to buy a luxury yacht , built to order in Slovenia, for $4.3 million. The yacht was shipped to Sudan and then had to be towed overland to the River Nile in time for the African Union summit conference that was held in Khartoum a few weeks ago. The general was hoping to impress the African leaders by ferrying them up and down the river for evening soirees.

The streets of Sudan were scrubbed clean, but unfortunately they are not wide enough to allow a yacht of this size to pass through easily. Overhead electrical cables had to be cut to make way for the boat, plunging numerous villages in darkness for days; trees had to be felled along the roads, and even bricks had to be pried loose from the walls of the private properties along the streets. However, the yacht could not make it to the Nile in time for the summit. And the New York Times, in a story dated January 31, laughed loudly at this wasteful luxury by one of the poorest countries of the world. Some image building!

New York


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