It is often nicer to believe your destiny is in your hands than that your fate is sealed by nature or circumstance. So it has been with successive generations of Pakistanis and their erratic lives, and the sudden feeling that, like a 20/20 cricket match tied at the last ball of the game, their lives’ brutal endings will only be decided at the moment of their deaths – by pure circumstantial forces!
On the border where Dubai meets Sharjah (2 of the emirates in the U.A.E.) a 7-square kilometer landfill, possibly 100 feet high, looms over Sharjah’s Industrial area 15. An unending line of loaded trucks carry Dubai’s household and commercial garbage to this dumping site. Across from this landfill, thousands of immigrant workers live and make modest earnings so that they can support their families back home. On Fridays (the weekly holiday), in blazing summers and mild winters, all year around, hundreds of workers rove over this dumping ground with large plastic and jute sacks on their backs scrounging for items out of this massive pile of garbage that can be sold to raise a little extra money- perhaps for an evening meal or a gift for their wives or families. Indeed, it is not a pleasant sight to see these deprived people indulge in this sort of activity. But they say they are destined to it and are thankful for this opportunity. Sad, but true!
Amongst these human scavengers, many are Pakistani nationals. Now ironically, Pakistan is a country where its incumbent President is alleged to have a personal fortune of over 10 billion dollars. Its serving Prime Minister’s wife is reported to have had a bank loan of over 500 million rupees cleared by paying just around 45 million rupees. A federal minister has earned over 200 million rupees in just over a year’s time – mind it without paying taxes or evidence of any legitimate commercial activity. Rumour has it that another federal minister has recently bought property worth 70 millions in a foreign country. The Pakistani government has recently paid 1.6 million rupees to replace tires of a state-provided car for the Speaker of the National Assembly. A famed political worker of the ruling PPP has charged 30 million rupees as his legal fee to assist a client who is known to have de-frauded a nationally-owned bank to the tune of trillions of rupees. And the most honourable and honest member of the Federal cabinet (as he is well known), who has recently resigned from his important portfolio, has declared his assets in Pakistan as approximately Rs. 75 crores with a personal commercial investment of Rs. 3 billion. The tales of wealth and power, combined together, are endless and mind-boggling in this country. And yet, some of this country’s most unfortunate citizens are “human scavengers,” rummaging around garbage dumps abroad for a modest evening meal on their days off. Some others who are equally unfortunate and reside inside the county do the same. While many of the suffering masses, though not subjected to the indignity of “human scavenging,” commit suicide, sell their offspring, are forced into prostitution and crimes and, in an overall dimension, live a life of horrors, deprivations, ill-health and inescapable poverty.
Perhaps some of Pakistan’s ruling elite and upper class will explain and justify this cycle of “impecuniousness” and “misery” in the lives of the majority as “sealed destiny” by “nature” – or as a failure in individual capabilities amounting to inability to change their fate. However, the fact of the matter is that the rise of disastrous political capitalism in Pakistan since its early inception has been the fundamental cause for the unending cycle of socio-economic-deprivation “horrors” in the lives of common citizens. Historically, what the ruling elite has failed to understand is that the ultimate goal and the sole objective of “Politics” in any civilized society is a Moral-Social-Contract between the rulers and the governed in that the former will serve the public with limitless devotion, enthusiastic dedication, unfailing honesty, absolute integrity, endless resolve, zealous discipline, fervent sincerity, unbending goodwill, expedient management skills, inventive socio-economic-political strategies and tireless hard-work to offer the citizens equality of socio-economic rights, fairness before the law, social justice, equal opportunities, and a life of peace, continuous prosperity, personal freedoms, human-rights and the security of their lives and property.
Can we see any of the above in the present or past of Pakistan’s political history?
How does someone justify the presence of such immense disparity in the level of “windows of opportunities” in a banker’s so-called legitimate and honest earnings of billions of rupees and a “human scavenger” destined to a life collecting from “garbage bins” for an evening meal?
How do we rationalize human “ghettos” simply three kilometers from the Presidential Palace in Islamabad?
How can we fathom the explosive and exploding exploitation of the nation’s assets and resources for the explicit benefits of a selective political ruling elite when the masses are increasingly marginalized on a daily basis?
It leads to a straight-forward and simple conclusion: this country has become a “Brutal State”! A state which, now under the present political dispensation (more than ever before), is clueless to the very fundamental of “Politics” as a “Moral-Social-Contract” between the citizens and the elected rulers for the common good of the general public.
Admittedly, it is true that political-capitalism has the inherent capability to raise and accumulate immense wealth. But it happens at the expense of massive socio-economic disparity at all levels of a society. It is not a historical accident or a celestial intervention in “human fate” that, on one hand, there are Pakistani citizens who scour “garbage dumps” to earn a daily living, while on the other hand, a cabinet minister makes a cozy million in a matter of days. It is the brutal state and its power-centered political-capitalist functionaries who are responsible for the state of affairs in which this country finds itself today.
Just imagine, the democratically-elected national legislative assembly in Pakistan has not enacted even simple public-welfare legislation to correct the structural socio-economic imbalance in the country. There has not been a national debate so far, in the contemporary so-called democratic era, to set-in a political discourse to reform the systemic drawbacks in a sixty-year old conspicuously promiscuous political-economic organizational structure that, from its very conception and philosophical fundamentals, is corrupt and inefficient to the core. The PPP leadership wants to maintain the political “status quo.” On the other hand, amazingly, the main opposition party, the PML(N), and its leadership have not even raised a finger to correct the prevailing inadequacies of the present socio-economic-political system and the need to reform it from within its core values. All one hears from them is to “save the democracy” and continue to support the status-quo of the system.
But imminent collapse is in clear sight!!!
Let us not pretend that we are not aware of the people coming onto the streets out of shear desperation, deprivations, horrors of their lives, state brutality, failure of political management, and a visible hopelessness that drives people to violence, destruction and anarchy. What else do we expect?
Ironically, in what could be termed a “comedy of errors” at this moment of extreme national crisis, the President has pledged to donate his organs after death. I wish he had offered something better to the millions of the living-dead in the nation! After all, a living legacy in one’s lifetime is far better than a noble deed after passing away! How symptomatic of a figurative character that believes in a sybaritic existence!
And the Federal Interior Minister is absolutely wrong when he says that demonstrators in the recent Islamabad violence were hired-hands. No, they were not!
These demonstrations are the early signs of what is going to be a nationwide outcry against the state’s brutality – its socio-economic-political failures, its inefficiency, its mismanagement, its fundamental flaws in understanding what “Politics” truly entails in a country like Pakistan: the need for a Moral-Socio-Economic-Contract between the people and the rulers to serve the masses!
Dr. Mubasher Hussain and Imran Khan are absolutely right when they say that this country needs a revolution. – A revolution that must redefine the core values in our political system. Nothing less will work in this country!
That’s the lesson to be learned from recent public demonstrations and violence in Islamabad!
Let us not pretend that we don’t know the truth! The brutal state exists in Pakistan… But it cannot survive anymore! !
Dr Haider Mehdi is an academic, political analyst and conflict-resolution expert based in UAE. He is a regular contributor to www.oly.com.pk