Where in the world can a ‘businessman’ become a multibillionaire in a short amount of time? Where in the world would any businessman share his ‘profits’, in billions, with politicians, journalists, media owners, bureaucrats and military generals? Where in the world can a businessman exercise so much political clout and power and with many political actors and parties under different regimes — military and civilian? Where in the world would any businessman publically brag about getting his work done through bribes and get away with it? Where in the world can an accused ‘businessman’ facing hundreds of court cases for years remain not only free but have the gall to attack the highest court in the country and brazenly question its integrity as an institution by calling a press conference? Finally, where in the world would the most powerful persons serving in the state — notably, military generals — work for such a ‘businessman’?
It happens in societies like Pakistan that have an absolute decline in good old values such as self-respect, dignity, integrity, honour, hard work, individual self-reliance and most importantly, sense of rightness, rightful earning and living within one’s means. It happens when lust for power, greed, ambition, freeloading and envy overpower weak individuals to accept free money and kill their self-conscience for material gain. When those occupying the ‘holy pulpit’ of the ‘free’ media — portraying themselves as purveyors of truth and speaking for public interest — take bribes to spin stories and become attack dogs for criminals and powerful sections of the society, there should be no qualms about them being morally dead.
There are many other symptoms of failure of the state and society in the land of the pure. In my opinion, a society’s decline starts with the decline of the state — loss of legitimacy, weakened rule of law and misuse of state power and institutions for personal gains. In fact, an outcome of the decline of the state and society is that the most corrupt figures — enemies of the people and society — become perched in the most powerful positions in the state. Just look around and you will see who is who, what position and influence each one of them occupies and how they evade any accountability. The last factor, which is the public, is crucial. The moral degeneration of Pakistan has travelled steep down; quoting Robert Fisk, “from top man to shoeshiner”. When a large part of the economy, society, politics and state institutions fall so low, corrupt individuals and groups occupying powerful positions acquire a vested interest in further decline of the state.
Such a system of loot and plunder that we have seen in Pakistan for decades is now unfolding with greater clarity than ever before with the power and influence of a real estate tycoon. The so-called ‘businessman’ works by sharing his plunder with those who matter in the system of power. Such ‘businessmen’ cannot afford to keep all the booty themselves and, by necessity, must share a good portion with those who might question them.
It is all blood money of the poor, helpless thousands of people whose lands have been taken over either by forceful sale or illegal allotment and occupation. What a cast of characters that have become our rulers, media anchors, owners and ‘businessmen’. Will the real people of Pakistan stand up and stand up to them?
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.
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