It is known that the streets of Karachi display mounds of litter like a badge of dishonour. It is known that one reason for this litter being littered everywhere is the near total absence of a modern garbage clearing system. It is also known that the primary reason for the permanence of litter is the universally acknowledged incompetence of those who wear their mandate on their sleeve, not on their heart.
So why the pretend-cleaning by the MQM? Wounds suddenly require more salt?
It is known that public schools in every province (yes, including the Shining Punjab) are in a shambles. It is known that Pakistan still remains the shame of the educational world. It is also known that money is being thrown around to do “something” and fix the broken system. Known, too, is the fact that none of the mandated messiahs in the provinces have education as their top priority (yes, including the Shining Punjab).
MQM starts cleanliness drive by spraying over own slogans
So why the back patting over claims that Pakistan is on its way to becoming a knowledge economy?
It is known that social indicators of Pakistan are one of the worst in the world. It is known how many children die at birth and how many grow up malnourished. It is known how many of our fellow-citizens do not have access to clean water, and how many cannot access basic health facilities. It is also known that every international and local institution worth its name has produced a report documenting the horrors faced by the underprivileged in every province (yes, including in Shining Punjab), and how the situation remains as bleak as ever (and worse in Sindh). The sins being committed in Thar by the party that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari owns are well known; but many more such sins are perpetrated by the Mandated Ones on a daily basis across the four provinces. It is surely known that the social safety net as we know it, either does not exist, and if it does somewhere, it is in tatters.
So why the beaming faces; why the triumphal high-fives; why the victory dance when real victory is yet nothing more than a mirage?
It is known that courts are populated more by justices and less by justice. It is known that the legal system is controlled more by lawyers and less by law. It is known that black coats now proudly perpetrate black deeds. It is also known that everyone within the system knows that the system as it exists today is broken. It rots. And yet, most of the black robed and black coated custodians of the system squeeze it to their perks, pelf, power and privilege. It is also known that the criminal justice system is begging for reform, but this reform is not coming. It will not come and the citizen will remain at the mercy of the sharks that wear black, and do black. Courts are high and courts are supreme, but affordable and accessible justice for the citizen, clearly, is not.
So why the celebration over an independent judiciary? Why the pomp and show of judicial references, judicial councils and judicial commissions?
Infant mortality: The lost children of Thar
It is known that fundamental rights are not fundamental to a citizen’s existence in Pakistan. The Mandated Ones have them, the privileged ones have them, and the bureaucratic ones, the resource-rich ones have them. But others don’t. Changed Pakistan? Better Pakistan? Shining Pakistan? It is known that even today, who you know here in this country, is more important than what you know; it is also known that application of law is as uneven as the roads in Sindh. It is well known that these knowns are known to the Mandated Ones and yet, this too is known that the harshness of these fundamental realities will not transform into the warm radiance of fundamental rights. Today, the law mocks those who cannot mock it back (yes, even in Shining Punjab), and there is nothing to suggest this shameful situation is about to change.
So why the constant mantra of the supremacy of law? Why the unending invocation of the common man’s name to build a democratic narrative that dead-ends itself in a blink?
Know this then: the known knowns are known to all who are mandated to be in the know. And yet they are knowingly relegated to the obscurity suffered by the unknown knowns.
Is it not known that the grandeur of the high offices bestowed on the Mandated Ones is equalled or surpassed, not by the dignity of citizens but by the magnificent aura of the robed? Is it not known that the glorious traditions of parliament and the sanctity of the rules of business of the State are equalled or surpassed, not by the iron core of citizens’ rights but by the steel frame of a suppressive colonial structure?
And so we know this: that kid will not go to school. That woman will not recover from childbirth. That man will die for want of medical care. That litigant will surrender his dignity in the courthouse. That complainant will endure torture in the police station. That road will never be built. Or cleaned. And that person with perks, power, pelf and privilege will continue to hover above the law.
Why then are the known knowns not knowingly set right? Why is the festering wound at the core of our being bandaged with shining highways and gleaming bridges (and not even those in Sindh and Balochistan)? Why is it so difficult, nay impossible, for the Mandated Ones to wake up one day and pledge: “I shall cure the core”? The core is after all not an unknown known buried somewhere deep inside the chamber of secrets. It rots in the open.
It is said, the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. Really?
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2016.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.