by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 52, No. 10, Jumada' al-Ula', 1444)
Pakistan’s dilemma is eerily similar to the Titanic that hit the iceberg. The elite that had wined, dined, and danced during the voyage took to lifeboats once tragedy struck while the rest were left to go down with the ship.
Never before have any elite shown greater incompetence and greed than those in Pakistan. Born in blood, sweat and tears, Pakistan was hijacked by a criminal syndicate comprising feudal lords, the bureaucracy and military. They immediately busied themselves with plundering state resources. Later, the judiciary also joined the nexus of gangsters.
In recent times, another criminal gang, euphemistically called the media, has also joined in plunder. This nexus of thieves, rapists and murderers is largely responsible for the dismal state of affairs in Pakistan. There is no evidence that they are prepared to let go of the usurpation of power because with it comes access to state resources and opportunities for corruption.
In ayat 16 of Surah al-Isra of the noble Qur’an, Allah (swt) warns us: “When it is Our will to destroy a community, We convey Our last warning to those of its [ruling] people who have lost themselves entirely in the pursuit of [worldly] pleasures; and if they [continue to] act sinfully, the sentence of doom passed on the community takes effect, and We destroy it utterly.”
This should alarm every thinking Pakistani about the fate that awaits them. Destruction will not be confined to the thieves alone. Everyone will go down.
It gives us no pleasure in stating that Pakistan ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Its education and health standards have fallen and irresponsible policies have caused massive environmental pollution degrading the quality of life for people. On almost every index, Pakistan’s performance has declined.
The hope that Pakistan would be a model Islamic State was dashed soon after its emergence on the world map. It was inevitable given the kind of people that captured state power. While corruption may be the oldest profession in human history, the Pakistani elite have taken it to dizzying heights.
They steal and lie and terrorize those that try to expose their wrong-doing. Political activists have disappeared without a trace. Conscientious journalists like Arshad Sharif were not only hounded out of the country but murdered abroad. Others face a similar fate.
For decades, the overriding concern of Pakistani rulers has been to get handouts from abroad. These have now largely dried up because the donors have realized that the money is pilfered out of the country. Interest payments on the mountain of debt cannot be paid taking Pakistan to the brink of default. Under such circumstances, how can the country make progress?
There is another phenomenon peculiar to Pakistan. For months, there was intense speculation about the next army chief. Such obsession points to the dysfunctional state of affairs. Nowhere else in the world is an army chief considered so important. What is special about Pakistan?
The military, or more particularly the army, is involved in every facet of life. In addition to defence, which is rightly its domain, it interferes in domestic politics, and dictates the country’s foreign, economic and social policies. The men in uniform display undisguised contempt for civilians whether politicians or the bureaucracy.
They have repeatedly stormed the corridors of power and taken over the affairs of state directly. Had military rule solved the country’s problems, the people would have accepted it but alas, that is not the case. Every bout of military rule has made matters worse while stymying the development of civil institutions.
Successive military rulers have accused the civilians of corruption and incompetence. This is completely true. But military rulers have been no better. The top echelon of the armed forces is just as corrupt. It is astonishing (or perhaps not so astonishing) to find so many Pakistani generals and their families have become billionaires.
Corruption has been institutionalized. In the armed forces, all officers of senior rank are allotted vast land holdings upon retirement. This is also true of the senior bureaucracy as well as the judiciary but it is much more widespread in the armed forces. Why should army officers be rewarded in this manner?
They are also the principal purveyors of western values into Pakistan’s predominantly religious society. While people’s religiosity may not meet the standard, the fact is that most people want to lead a relatively honest life. When they see some people get rich overnight, this also affects the thinking of ordinary people. They too want to get rich quickly.
Is there any hope for Pakistan? It can only be saved if the mafia that controls every facet of life is divested of these powers. This will not happen without some heads being rolled and the current system demolished completely.
Unfortunately, few people in Pakistan are thinking along these lines. It is time to take the blinkers off and get real.