He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, the state minister for the interior. But perhaps a tool nonetheless.
In the federal governments of most countries, the finance minister is deemed to be the prime minister’s deputy. Even in countries that actually do have a seperate position of deputy prime minister, there is a feeling that the finance ministry is the most important portfolio for the prime minister to dole out. He or she is, afterall, the defender of the exchequer. And money is the where-it’s-at of governance, isn’t it?
However, in Pakistan, that coveted slot, in the public’s consciousness, was the interior minister. The boss of the FIA, the IB and the federal police forces, in addition to Fata, and one that had close tie-ins with (if not control over) the provincial police forces. In a power culture like ours, this was the biggest deal. Even at the provincial levels, the home ministries were always retained by the chief ministers themselves, with the exception of Sindh, which had developed a tradition of having a dedicated minister as well.
With the prime minister holding on to the portfolio himself, it was natural to assume that the minister of state is going to be the de facto interior minister and all eyes were on whom he would select. The elevation of rabble-rousing Shehryar Afridi to the position raised quite a few eyebrows but there was some muted optimism as well because this fellow wasn’t a Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chauhan. He was – even if rarely – at least capable of showing grace.
Well, the man has been a bit of a joke in office. Many from Pakistan’s lively online communities have taken to ridiculing his tough-man antics, calling him Sanjay Dutt regularly, a title that one hopes Afridi realises has been given in jest.
It’s all fun and games if it were only his clownish disposition that was the topic of discussion, but the man doesn’t stop at that and has been known to be rather curt and acerbic to individuals posted on duty. As the sporting analogy goes: form is temporary, class is permanent. One hopes the minister learns some grace.
But the very latest incident where he has courted controversy is a bizarrely hyperbolic claim where he said that 75 percent of the girls and 45 percent of the boys of the students of the ‘top notch’ schools of Islamabad were using ‘ice,’ one of the street names for crystal methamphetamine.
Even the inner-city areas of down-on-their-luck American cities, where this drug abuse is rampant, won’t have these stats. Had the actual figure been 4 percent in Islamabad, the news would have been talking of nothing else. It would have been a state of emergency, so to speak.
None of this is to say that the drug is not being used in the city. Its use should be checked and, this being Islamabad, is squarely his responsibility, along with his IGP ICT, to keep it in check. But, as this column has been used to explain many times, the reckless use of statistics robs all numbers of their value.
The fight against drugs should be taken seriously and the minister should take heed of the story of the boy who cried 75 percent.