Taxi Driver Analysis
Sitting on a warm evening, inside a cool air conditioned taxi in Dubai, I spoke to my driver about the recent situation in Pakistan as well as the current and previous governments. His overall analysis regarding Pakistan can be summed up was “they (current and previous government) are thieves, they steal from us to provide their children with a brighter future. They do not value our children or our future, the one who has a clean conscious has been placed under house arrest, the ones fighting the system are too good to become victorious and the rest are like sheep!!”
But this feeling was reiterated in every taxi I sat (if you’ve ever visited Dubai you’d know how many taxis one sits in), whether the taxi driver hailed from Peshawar, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore or even Gujranwala. The fact of the matter remains that they all echoed the same voice.
The first day, as I was on my way to the hotel I was staying in, my taxi driver who was from Peshawar, told me he had been living in Dubai since Asif Ali Zardari came into power. “He was and still is a thief who had no legitimacy in Pakistan, soon as he came to power, that’s when Pakistan became ruined! When the President of the country becomes the biggest crook, then what will become of the rest of the country? Soon as I came to know that Asif Ali Zardari would be the President of Pakistan, I knew what would become of Pakistan as well.” When I asked him about Imran Khan attaining success and becoming almost like a savior of the masses, he replied “I’ve heard from my family members back home that the situations has improved in KPK somewhat. The policing, health and education systems are performing better. My family members informed me that financial corruption has decreased substantially. Imran Khan is a good man for Pakistan,” he said.
I then asked him why he hadn’t returned to Pakistan. “Pakistan is different now, it’s dangerous, and there is no proper sense of security! I could drive around all day and night here and no one would even look at me. The situation was better when Pervez Musharraf was governing the country, he made some mistakes but Pakistan was a lot safer then as compared to what it is now. Currently, the same people who had robbed us all our lives, are back in power,” he said. I had reached my hotel by this time but was determined to talk to more people and extract their opinions.
Taking a jeep into the middle of the desert is an amazing experience and is even more exciting when your driver is from Faisalabad and is playing “Nit Khair Mangan” the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s song, during your journey. He told me, “Dubai is an amazing place and is a home away from home! The country was built due to the efforts of foreign labour. Nearly half of these foreign laborers who helped in the building process of Dubai were comprised of Pakistanis. Had our own governments not been so nepotist and corrupt, we would also be in the same league.”
He also disclosed the fact that he had left Pakistan in 2008. “I left Pakistan in 2008. How could we possibly stay in a country that is going to be governed by the very people we thought we were free from?” I was surprised that this was another driver who was reiterating the same stance that my previous taxi driver had stated. “The awaam doesn’t need anything other than safety, employment, health and education. Provide us with these and the rest our children will provide for us as we have equipped them with the necessary tools. Take these opportunities away from them and they have no choice but to leave Pakistan or turn to a life which we don’t want for them.” Sad as it was, he was speaking the truth. “Imran Khan can do nothing while Nawaz is in power, if the root of the flower is messed up how can the flower grow or function?”
In a cab which was enroute to the mall, my driver from Hyderabad stated, “I was a cabbie in Pakistan and I still remember back in 2002 working for about 6 to 8 hours a day and then rushing home to spend time with my family! Times were good then as I was earning a good wage and was able to spend time with my family. Power outages weren’t an issue then so we would enjoy quality family time together! When the next government came, I was working for around 12 to 16 hours just so that I could put food on the table for my family! And what did I go back home to? A house with no electricity, consuming meal in the dark with the weather being extremely warm. I came here when Nawaz Sharif was voted in, I couldn’t take another 5 years! Now I work here and my family is living a comfortable life back in Pakistan. I am not there but I am working and earning more here.My family has a better life and due to the UPS, they are managing better.”
On my last day whilst I was on my way back to the airport, my driver, who was from Rawalpindi and lived near Adiala Jail there, remarked, “I was a huge supporter of Pakistan People’s Party, my parents were not educated and had always been fed the roti, kapra aur makaan slogan that the Bhuttos were famous for. But after we had spent some years under their administration, we realized this wasn’t a slogan, it was a way to trap the uneducated and poor people. I say this with regret that I should have supported Musharraf back when he was ruling Pakistan. If he was governing our country still, I would still be in Pakistan doing the job I got in his tenure!”
It seemed to me that these were the voices of the normal, average Pakistani. But then again, who ever listens to the average Pakistani?