They can always garner support from their fellow kinsfolk who would in turn pressure their elected representatives to respectfully install them without any “ifs” and “buts”, in return for a bribe of votes
If I come for you, you come for me. If I stand for you, you stand for me. If I give you comfort andsecurityagainst a flock of bloodthirsty hyenas from another tribe/caste/village, then you will do as I wish. Maybe submit your right to vote to me?
This tit-for-tat espouses what we call a ‘strong sense of community’, one which takes pride in its people, its power in numbers, the idea of stability and of course coming to another’s aid in adversity. Obviously, one must be of a crude heart not to applaud such a social setting in a globalised world jostling for individualistic gains.
Yet, our Pak sar zameen has witnessed its demonising power, virtually moulding the state into a play show. Its actors are politicians and state institutions. Its directors and producers are the mighty patriarchal feudal groups relying on the invisible hand of patronage from their kinship network and vice versa. Its audience is the group of delusional people bursting out with excitement to look at Nawaz Sharif’s overvalued and overrated mega projects and seeing long-term growth and prosperity through them.
Also, there are those under the false impression of a revolutionary change through ousting an elected prime minister for alleged financial misfeasance. It appears as if the finality of this revolution is to see off Nawaz Sharif to Raiwind. The whole idea of this change is illusory, for it grasps only the form, which is curbing financial corruption, and shockingly ignores the substance which requires more than chanting slogans in front of a crowd spinning in a state of trance for change. It calls for challenging the enigma of nepotism in the heart of Pakistan’s society without which, financial corruption, and inefficient administration shall always remain another story of the day.
The venom of favouritism that lies in our kinship oriented society has shackled our appetite to progress. Coming to the basics that are worthy of attention, it is common to hear that the job market is insufficient. However, when it comes to someone from a prominent clan looking for a job, they can always garner support from their fellow kinsfolk who would in turn pressure their elected representatives to respectfully install them without any “ifs” and “buts”, in return for a bribe of votes. The unquenchable thirst to be re-elected would make said representative’s appointment indispensable but it comes with the cost of having less competent individuals running institutions. As it is often heard in Pakistan, it’s called Sifarish (bribe).
The green hills and the pleasurable stillness of Islamabad may leave a visitor mesmerised but a causal day in the Pak Secretariat is an antithesis of the city’s charm. There, our political representatives are at the tip of their toes requesting favours from the concerned minister, which often leaves a lasting odour on the country’s institutions.
Two results are vividly foreseeable; first, the birth and persistence of an unequal society and second, the powerlessness of the state, which was once known to have absolute control by renaissance thinkers.
Inequality of opportunity is a consequence discriminating those with weaker kinship, regardless of their ability to outperform those with stronger kinship links. This mechanism therefore frustrates Article 25 of the constitution affirming equality to all citizens. Perhaps, this is suo moto material, is it not? But who would dare to do the herculean task of stretching the despicable wrinkles in our society?
While addressing the Larkana Bar Association, the ex-Chief Justice, Anwar Zaheer Jamali said,
“If the court takes an action against an incapable person a certain lobby comes to its rescue.”
More daunting is the powerlessness of the state. With appointments made from the lowest ranks to the top often conflicting with merit, appointees with stronger kinship often take precedence, legitimised by the state. Expecting these appointees to work for the state would be a fallacy, for they will act at the request of their feudal whose benevolence has chained them as moral debtors. Thus, institutional catastrophe becomes inevitable. Just like in the old days, when kings expected servitude and loyalty – similarly, feudal lords uninterruptedly rule and expect loyalty from their kinsfolk.
From all this, one has to admire the diligence of the new honourable chief justice for expediently invoking a suo moto action against a Jirga decision in which a girl from one of the parties’ families was being forcibly betrothed to a member of the other party as a means of settlement. Maybe in light of our degenerated institutions, the court might have understood the futility in expecting action from the local police, who are themselves a product of nepotism and silently endorse practices of their fellow kinsfolk. An action against their tribe would be equivalent to treachery and would bring shame to the family, followed by an eventual shun.
In his book, The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience, Christophe Jaffrelot writes that one of the deadliest syndromes present in today’s Pakistan is an inefficient police, which is marred with corruption and is unable to stop tensions because of being the beneficiary of nepotism.
An unavoidable question comes up: why do we always bother the highest court in the realm for an issue ideally suited for the lower courts and enforced by the local police? Wouldn’t it be better if the Supreme Court is given time to deal with the plethora of cases that are already pending?
We therefore stand within a horrifying dilemma of choosing our social system as it is, against the much desired notion of having institutions such as the landlocked Prussia of the 19th century, which guaranteed security and expansion. The competition is fierce between communal power and the stability of our institutions for lasting growth and change.
It can either be as Aristotle said,
“Equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally,”
And as Hazrat Ali (RA) remarked,
“A government of a non-believer can survive. However an unjust government which encourages and promotes nepotism, favouritism and ethnic strife cannot survive”
Or, may long live the king(s)?
Until this decision is made, we shall continue to breathe in a patrimonial democracy, idolising our political representatives as demi-gods.
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The author is a final year student of Law at the University of Sussex.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.
Jinnah’s vision for a better Pakistan was quite clear: he wanted the new country to be a democratic welfare state adhering to the rule of law, good governance, emancipation of women and tolerance vis-à-vis minorities. Unfortunately, his vision for a better Pakistan got blurred and was not transformed into a reality because of his demise a year after the creation of the country and the failure of his successors to follow his directions. Unity, faith and discipline, which was an important message of Jinnah was forgotten with the passage of time and the culture of patronage, corruption and nepotism permeated in the societal and state structures of Pakistan.
At a time when Pakistan is celebrating its 67th independence anniversary, one needs to examine why the country drifted away from Jinnah’s vision for a better Pakistan and how one can expect ordinary people and those at the helm of affairs to transform Pakistan from a failing, to a successful and vibrant state. Economic breakdown, energy crisis, absence of the rule of law, rampant corruption, nepotism, intolerance, violence and terrorism and low quality of life of people are the major challenges faced by Pakistan today. The culture of greed and sycophancy seem to have become an acceptable way of life. Perhaps, Jinnah didn’t visualize that in the coming years, Pakistan would deviate from the path which was set by him and transform as a state viewed by the world as instable, corrupt and violent.
Vision for a better Pakistan, as articulated by Jinnah, needs to be modified in the light of new realities. Eight important characteristics of vision for a better future of Pakistan which can certainly bring a positive and qualitative change in the country are: i) providing compulsory and good quality education to all the school-going children of Pakistan regardless of their economic or social background, ii) providing the youths of Pakistan better employment opportunities without compromising on merit, iii) emancipation of women and utilizing their talent in a productive manner, iv) focusing on human development, particularly by building modern infrastructure, enhancing per capita income and gross domestic product, v) enforcing the rule of law and writ of the state, vi) eradicating corruption and nepotism at all levels by inculcating better work ethics and promoting tax culture, vii) upholding of merit and accountability in all the professions, viii) providing access to basic utilities, particularly clean and safe drinking water, electricity, gas, efficient and affordable public transport to the people of Pakistan, ix) following a policy of self-reliance by depending on national resources instead of seeking foreign aid and assistance, and x) an independent foreign policy which can rehabilitate self-esteem, honor, dignity and sovereignty of the country.
The characteristics mentioned above cannot be achieved unless a practical methodology is formulated by the national leadership of Pakistan with clear vision, commitment and dedication. One cannot expect Pakistan, which has gone downhill over the past several decades and is considered as a failing state, to seek positive transformation in the mode of governance unless there is a change in the way of life. Attitudes and behavior of people and those who wield power must change by pursuing an approach which gives preference to national interest instead of personal interests. Efficiency, honesty, tolerance, moderation and a sense of accountability, if inculcated in the behavior and attitude of the people, can go a long way in pulling the country out from the brink of predictable disaster.
How it can be done and what are the impediments to transform the vision of better Pakistan into a reality requires a major change in mindset of those who matter. Certainly there is no shortcut to achieve ten characteristics particularly when there is no dearth of talent, enterprise and hard work in Pakistan. In other countries also, where the challenges of human development, human security, corruption and nepotism were rampant, have progressed well and are better off today because of their leadership which provided their people a sense of direction for a better way of life.
The foremost impediment to achieve the goal for a better Pakistan is the mindset of the people and not just those who are in position of power. To a large extent, such a mindset is negative, less knowledge friendly, inward, authoritarian and accepts corruption and corrupt practices. Unlike societies, where the traditions of enlightenment, freedom, accountability and best practices in research and development shaped policies, in Pakistan, and for that matter in many post-colonial states, a major impediment for a better way of life has been the lack of ownership in terms of being responsible for protecting national assets. If analyzed historically, the British managed to colonize and control a huge landmass from the borders of Afghanistan to Myanmar and from the borders of Nepal to Sri Lanka for more than one century and with hardly 30,000 force because of internal divisions and the culture of greed among local people? When the British rule ended in August 1947 in the Indian sub-continent, its legacy remained, particularly in the new state of Pakistan where tribal-feudal culture based on patronage and power remained intact. That culture is considered as a major impediment for a better Pakistan.
On May 18, 2011, the New York based Asia Society released its study on “Pakistan 2020 – Vision for building a better future.” The study compiled by a group of eminent American and Pakistani experts examined in detail issues faced by Pakistan and suggested a road map to build a better Pakistan by the year 2020. Seven core issues which were considered essential by the study along with the suggestions for a better Pakistan were: strengthening democratic institutions, strengthening the rule of law, improving human development and social services, especially in health and education, developing the energy infrastructure, assisting the victims of the 2010 flood in their recovery, improving internal security and advancing peace process with India. The study also argued that, “preventing Pakistan from further deterioration will require a sustained, long term commitment from the government of Pakistan, the United States and other international stakeholders to promote genuine reform in the coming decade.”
Political parties, whether in the government or in the opposition will have to change their mindset by playing a leadership role for the development and progress of the country, instead of engaging in political squabbling and rhetoric with each other. Unfortunately, to a large extent, political parties are run without a professional approach. Lack of accountability in the rank and file of political parties followed by the absence of commitment to solve the issues at the grassroots’ level is a major obstacle to transform Pakistan as a success story..
Till the time, criminalization of politics is eliminated and a civilized culture of political behavior is established, Pakistan will continue to face a huge credibility gap and crisis in the functioning and performance of political parties. Pakistanis also must realize that their social backwardness, low quality of life, societal violence and economic predicament has much to do with their own failure to inculcate habits which are responsible, honest, knowledge friendly and conform to proper work ethics. If bad governance, corruption, nepotism, inefficiency, intolerance and militancy are common in Pakistan then it is a reflection of the attitude and behavior of people which conforms to the feudal and tribal culture. The reason why the military usurped power four times (1958, 1969, 1977 and 1999) was primarily because of mediocre or below mediocre political leadership which failed to put its own house in order.
Those holding positions, particularly of vital responsibilities must make sure that they formulate and implement policies which can eradicate corruption and mobilize resources for providing good quality of life to people. The elimination of VVIP culture is the most essential requirement on the part of elites who must make sure that they are not above the law and will prevent the wastage of national resources for personal patronage and benefits. Ironically, no government in Pakistan, whether civilian, military or quasi military has been able to refrain from practicing and promoting VVIP culture. With 140 billion dollars of foreign and domestic debt, low per capita income, huge shortage of energy resources, acute poverty, illiteracy, severe unemployment, periodic acts of violence and terrorism and lowest in human development index, Pakistan is in deep crisis and its elites must act in a responsible manner in order to prevent its transformation from a failing to a failed state.
Is it not true that three major adventures which caused Pakistan a great deal of harm and damaged its position happened when the military was at the helm of affairs or had a dominant role in matters of statecraft? Operation Gibraltar, which was launched in the summer of 1965 to support what was perceived as Kashmiri uprising by sending forces across the ceasefire line was a fiasco and led to the outbreak of September 1965 Indo-Pak war. “Operation Search Light” which was launched on March 25, 1971 to suppress what was called anti-Pakistan elements in the then East Pakistan led to the dismemberment of the country and the emergence of Bangladesh. The Kargil operation in the winter of 1998-99, which was launched during the second term of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif aimed to capture strategically located heights of Kargil and Drass mountains across the line of control for tactical reasons was a source of great embarrassment to Pakistan because it miscalculated the Indian response and finally had to agree to New Delhi’s terms that Pakistan withdraw its regular and irregular forces from such heights. Furthermore, as a result of Kargil crisis, the atmosphere of Indo-Pak goodwill and amity which was created as a result of the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Vehari Vajpaee’s visit to Lahore in February 1999 was vitiated and the two nuclear armed neighbors were at the brink of a war. It was the result of the mediation of the then U.S. President Bill Clinton when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Washington on July 4, 1999 that war in South Asia was averted. It means, military needs to rethink its policy of adventures, both outside and inside the country.
The new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing the daunting task of dealing with issues which are critical in nature. The government must enforce economic and educational emergency so that performance of factories, industries, financial and educational institutions is improved. Likewise, the rule of law needs to be enforced by de-weaponizing Pakistan and exercising zero tolerance against those who are found in acts of violence and terrorism in the country. Without political will and determination on the part of those who matter, the vision for a better Pakistan, as articulated by Jinnah cannot be transformed into a reality.
The writer is Professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi and Director, Programme on Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution.