Facts Vs Fiction

Dr. S. M. Rahman

Corrupt in arms - more in the waiting!

Human perception is notoriously selective in nature. Our biases and prejudices tend to influence how one evaluates social predicament of a nation. Attributional error is inherently tilted towards seeing ‘reality’, in subjective terms, but maintaining the aura of objectivity. Facts and fiction dichotomy though conceptually valid is intensely intermingled, and as such hard to discern in any absolute sense. The social scientific approach, nevertheless, aims at optimizing objective determination of facts, to separate from fiction which often masquerade as ‘truths’, Pakistan’s psycho-social and politico-economic assessment, despite complexity and conflicting views, tend to depict a linear rising curve of decay. The social indices, which portray robustness of a society are shockingly disappointing and compared to our neighbour – India – we are left far behind. India is now rubbing shoulders with economic giants of the world, notably China.

Pakistan’s poverty culture presents a dismal look, which prior to the calamity of flood was abysmally low ($1.25 cents a day, per individual) among 34% of the population, now exceeds to 40%. One redeeming factor of the natural disaster has been that the people have seen how pathetic is the plight of the poor segment of the society as compared to the relatively well off and those intensely corrupt elites, who have shown a steady rise ever since President Ayub Khan’s era. They have promoted a “culture of corruption” to a shameful level, and the credibility of the government has taken a nose dive. The hollowness of the so called trickle-down economic paradigm is quite vivid as nothing seems to trickle down to the lower segments and their predicament is inverse function of the greed and rapacity of the exploiters. Much greater tragedy is that the donor class, both from within and without, is reluctant to provide aid, as it rightly apprehends that the ‘funds’ for the victims, would flow into the hands of the ‘looters’, who have no moral qualms.

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They did not even feel the disgrace or insult when the Secretary General of United Nations made an explicit assertion that the much needed funds for the relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected people are not forthcoming to the desired extent as transparent modalities of distribution are not ensured. What an image we have built of our country and yet the ruling elite is hyperbolically boastful of its so called achievements and quite ironically the law minister does not see that the ‘law and order’ is the worst casualty. The police force is callously indifferent to lynching of innocent youth and targeted killings not to speak if the VVIP class and its enormous security and protocol paraphernalia.

The father of the nation had all-together a different perception of the kind of Pakistan, he would like to see. Pakistan was meant to be for the uplift of the poor and under-privileged class and not for the ‘money-barons’ who have insatiable appetite for wealth and privileges. That Pakistan, he said, he would rather not have if it were meant for the lustful and corrupt administrators and politicians. The country unfortunately is being controlled by the dexterous wielders of corruption.

Myrdal, a great sociologist of our times, has described the nature of what he calls the” “Soft Society. Ours is essentially a society, which Myrdal describes: “The prevalence of corruption is another aspect of the soft state and generally implies low levels of social discipline…This spread of corruption, in turn, gives corrupt politicians and dishonest officials – a strong vested interest in retaining these discretionary controls. Among the sophisticated grows the idea hat corruption, like inflation, is an unavoidable appendage of development. The effect of this is to spread cynicism and to lower resistance to the giving and taking of bribes.”

Corruption is endemic, not sparing even cricket, which smells filthy. The dirty fish are some of the players and the management at the top, under control of the President. The recent revelation that within a span of six years, the wealth of the members of the parliament and Provincial Assemblies has increased by three folds and compared to the preceding year, it has doubled. It is only tip of an ice-berg, two-third of which is below the water. The figures are much too deflated, and an objective assessment would reveal even greater disparity between them and the people whom they are expected to serve. There exists a culture of concealing of wealth, lest the income tax and other agencies demand the payment of the governmental share or instead heavy bribes to the tax collectors.

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The economic profile of the country is exceedingly deficient viewed from the alarming inflation which has risen to 44% during the last three years, based on the prices of food and petroleum products. The worst sufferers are the poor and the middle class segments who have braved quite stoically the inflationary malaise to a level of 61%. The discontent breeds frustration to a threshold of intolerance, while often results in revolts and rebellion. The prediction is that of doom and a bloody revolution, which may not occur in Pakistan, as the civil sector is progressively becoming more vibrant and is concerned for the poor, whose miseries have multiplied several folds. The true extent of the flood catastrophe is neither objectively assessed by Pakistani nor foreign evaluators. The devastation of the agricultural sector, God forbid, points towards impending famine if aids are not commensurate with the magnitude of calamity. Around 20 million hungry people may become prone to create a condition very close to social anarchy. Happily, the armed forces enjoy the trust of the people and are playing a commendable role for the relief and rescue operation, but it seems problematic if 40,000 troops could be maintained for the so called war on terror. The world has to wake up to this grave danger which Pakistan faces.  The media has emerged as a force of positive change in the society.

The political situation of Pakistan is quite murky and ironical as the government shows total indifference to what a ‘democratic’ governance demands. Actually a government exists only in name but is hardly kicking. It has shown blunt defiance to the judiciary, due to the macho’ Law Minister, who is utterly predisposed towards sycophancy of the President and humiliates the apex judiciary. The Chief Justice however has given an unequivocal message that the intervention becomes absolute necessity in order to protect the sanctity of the Constitution. If the NRO beneficiaries are not removed from the coveted positions they hold, the judiciary shall act as per Constitution to ensure the implementation of the apex court’s order.

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Despite the gathering storm of anarchy, there is a silver lining as the four forces – the Judiciary, the Army, the media and the civil society, may prove palliative for the malaise of bad governance that afflicts the society. The intervention has become imperative if the government continuously maintains its arrogance against the judiciary. The change, however, shall maintain the sanctity of the Constitution. “The only cure of grief is action, said G.H. Lewes.

Dr S. M. Rahman is Secretary General FRIENDS founded by General Mirza Aslam Beg, the former Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan. He is widely acclaimed for his intellectual and scholastic contributions through various mediums. He is widely travelled and has lectured in many renowned universities of the world and Think Tanks.

He has authored several books in global and regional issues. Now he is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.