By Humayun Gauhar
When a person dies his organs fail one by one. It is called systemic failure.
The human body houses the soul. Its organs must be kept clean and healthy to keep the body clean and healthy in order to keep the soul clean and healthy and allow it to grow by acquiring more and more knowledge. Unknown to the body, all organs work in tandem to make it function properly and keep the system of life and soul going.
Organ failure leads to a weakening of a body’s immune system that then cannot protect it against germs, viruses and bacteria within and without, leading to grievous ailments and diseases. Often, the cause of death is not organ failure but some ailment brought on by organ failure.
Society is a living, growing organism. It is the body that houses human beings. The highest form of society devised by Man so far is a State in which human beings of various ethnicities, languages, cultures and religions voluntarily coalesce around a shared ideology or belief system to improve their lot. A State has organs too. The three most important are parliament-legislature, the executive and the judiciary. In a healthy State each organ is independent of the other but all work in tandem. In an unhealthy State they work at cross-purposes, often overstepping their boundaries. That creates acute contradictions leading to a decline in the human condition and a loss of stake in the State, for what is happening is at total variance to the purposes of creating the State.
Organs have sub-organs that in a State are called institutions. Some of the most important State institutions are educational, health services, housing, public transport, the central bank, the armed forces, the civil bureaucracy, law enforcement, revenue collection agencies, to name a few. How healthy they are and how well they perform depends on the health, cleanliness and performance of the three organs of State that they work under.
These three State organs also have to be kept clean and healthy to perform their functions in tandem to keep the State alive and well and its people thriving. If they start working at cross-purposes the State’s organs and institutions start failing, its immune systems weaken and it becomes easy prey for societal viruses that lead to many diseases.
The symptoms of State diseases are corruption to the point of loot and plunder, overspending, militancy and terrorism, religious intolerance, clericalism, injustice, poverty, deprivation, illiteracy, homelessness, inadequate healthcare, joblessness, insecurity, bad and expensive food and water, rampant Mafiosi, drug addiction, economic decline, over-indebtedness, loss of sovereignty and independence, slavery and bonded labour, increasing poverty-driven prostitution, decadence and debauchery, wishful thinking, delusions galore, harking back to a great past with no future in sight…all caked with a heavy icing of hypocrisy.
When things become really bad the government (which comprises all three organs of a State) becomes a Mafia itself, as do the institutions working under them. That is when the people become totally naked, helpless and insecure, not knowing what to expect from one blood-soaked eve to the next frustration-filled dawn, all at the hands of their servants whose salaries and perks they pay with their hard-earned money. If not treated quickly and properly, the State heads towards collapse. Pakistan is headed that way. Pick any history book and you will find many states that are now in the graveyard of history for just such reasons.
A failing political executive always passes the buck on to civilian and armed bureaucracies, forgetting that bureaucrats too are servants of the people, subordinate to the political executive and charged with implementing its policies. In fact, they are part of the executive but not political, or should not be. They should not be treated as competitors or enemies but important cogs in the State machinery. Make them work for you. If they don’t implement the political executive’s policies they should be changed or retrained. If they still don’t take you seriously Mr. Politician, it is your fault. Did it ever occur to you that they might be right? But if you trash these important institutions entirely you will be like a secretary without a pen, a soldier without a gun, an actor without a stage or a batsman without a bat.
If you look at Pakistan’s organs you have to be blind not to detect system failure. If organs start falling like dominoes it becomes irreversible systemic failure. If we do not cure our multifarious, multidimensional diseases fast we will soon reach systemic failure.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and East European countries happened right under our noses. It didn’t happen suddenly. Systemic failure took years in the making. They just ignored it, pretending it wasn’t happening, deluded in their military might. Our ailments have reached the stage where we need to wake up and start treatment quickly – or else.
The most dangerous congenital disease we suffer from is our continuing mental colonization and thus lack of a native ideology cast in our history on the basis of which to conduct our statecraft. This disease has led to our current problems for we are forced to work within the parameters and traditions of alien philosophies, norms and systems that we don’t understand because they do not come from amongst us. The Raj continues in our minds so instead of growing our own organs we have transplanted them from Britain and some from dated Muslim history to create the false impression of the indigenous. Our body has started rejecting these transplants. Wake up. It’s high time for a team of good doctors.
If you look at it clinically, all the organs and institutions of our State are crumbling. The biggest failure is the State’s inability to earn its keep. Thus it perennially spends more than it earns, perennially taking loans to bridge deficits by collateralizing the future of our children. Our external debt doubled during the last elected government. It printed billions of Rupees to meet domestic expenditures. Our total debt is in danger of overtaking our total annual earnings or GDP. This condition has become untenable.
Our real economic growth is negative while real incomes are being squeezed. Our trade gap is only managed by foreign remittances, much of which is black money recycled back and whitened. Pakistan’s economy was given three near-fatal blows: one, nationalisation of services and industry by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; two, freezing of foreign exchange accounts by Nawaz Sharif and, three, the reversal of the Steel Mill’s privatization by the Supreme Court driving future buyers and investors away. One more stupidity will be the final, fatal blow.
The last parliament-legislature made three amendments to the constitution without taking ground realities into account. But it failed in its most important duty of keeping a check on the corruption and poor governance of the executive. The provinces were over-empowered in relation to their capacities, probity and honesty and wasted unconscionable amounts of money on airy-fairy schemes. The list is long and sad.
As the lifeline of a body is food and water, the lifeline of a State is money. Without money it cannot function just as a body cannot function without food or a car without petrol. Our parliaments and executives cannot bring everyone who should be paying taxes into the tax net, not least because they are major tax evaders themselves and also because they don’t have the ability and knowhow. This is double organ failure.
That there are some 2.5 million cases pending in the judiciary with many undertrial prisoners having spent more time in jail than they would have had they been convicted for their alleged crimes is a sign of acute organ failure. What say you about a State that cannot even dispense justice? Our judiciary is in danger of becoming a parallel executive not least because of the failure of the executive. But the most pressing question, more important than any issue of the State, remains unanswered: what was in Atiqa Odho’s alleged bottles?
The executive is headed by a council of ministers in which the prime minister is first amongst equals. All are selected from a small pool of parliamentarians. Their quality needs no comment. It is known to all, a few exceptions notwithstanding. The most compliant bureaucrats are recycled from government-to-government so fresh and contemporary ideas are few and far between. Since bureaucrats have no constitutional protection they are reduced to personal servitude of the executive and do as they are told, often without regard to propriety or legality. Police, the revenue collection agencies, city development and municipal authorities et al are dens of thieves, extorting money from hapless citizens. Our intelligence agencies have become a law unto themselves. That this is so even in the most developed and ‘democratic’ countries doesn’t justify is. If I go on this article will become a book for which neither you nor I have the time or inclination. Do me a favour: THINK.