Integrity and character

Published: January 24, 2017
The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad and is author of Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbut Tahrir’s Global Caliphate

The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad and is author of Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbut Tahrir’s Global Caliphate

On January 20, immediately after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Obama family moved to a rented apartment after spending eight years at the White House. Also, Obama paid for groceries from toothpaste to toilet papers and dry cleaning from his own pocket. Even the family vacation was not free. Similarly, after the ceremony, Joe Biden, Obama’s deputy, carrying his own brief case, took the famous Amtrak Acela Express train to get back to his hometown Wilmington. Poor people! Aren’t they?

Incredible examples of personal integrity by two highest ranking office holders of the sole superpower; Biden held public office for 43 years following his first election to the Senate at 29. Nearly 35 years in the Senate and eight years as the Vice President yet he couldn’t afford to pay for the expensive cancer treatment of his son anymore. And who was the son? The Attorney General of his State of Delaware. He also had been an Iraq war veteran before becoming the Attorney General. But the cancer treatment ate up all his savings. Then came his father to the rescue. But even that was not enough. And just when he planned to offer his house for sale to mobilise funding for the son’s treatment, President Obama loaned him funds from his personal savings to prevent him from selling his home. Biden himself recounted this before a TV audience with tearful eyes. Unfortunately the son died but not after the father had given all his best.

Neither Obama nor Biden boast tonnes of money, multiple houses and fleet of cars, escorted by massive security after all these years at top posts. And with heads held high, they walk out of their official residences to private homes and public transport. Do or can these examples shame the rulers of this unfortunate country? Can they match their lofty and hollow rhetoric with the humility of these two statesmen? Certainly not. There, the retiring heads of governments leave the 1st House in personal vehicles. Here, our leading lights deem it below their dignity if dozens of security men are not around them even after retirement. Here, our rulers — not to mention their own entitlements, appoint near and dear ones to posts which entitle them to treatment abroad. They deem it a shame if they can’t multiply their possessions.

How does one grade the integrity of rulers who consider it a privilege to spend nearly a billion rupees public funds for reinforcing security around their private homes on the outskirts of Lahore. Fleets of state security for their extended family and friends is their privilege at the cost of the public. Here, the fleet of a former prime minister grew from a leased car to nearly two dozen limousines and expensive sports cars in three years. His homes quadrupled, while his sons blew away ill-gotten money at a famous casino.

There in the West, parents beg teachers to forgive and accommodate their scions at schools even if they may be right. Here, ruling elites have the teachers apologise to their erring sons and daughters. There, you can’t physically touch even a beggar, here our power-drunken elites: ministers, advisers, technocrats, judges thrash and abuse their subordinates.

A present spokesperson did it recently to a staff. A judge has been indicted for the torture the family committed on a ten-year old maid. A former law minister who was more of a thug than a minister in his appearance and demeanour publicly slapped and manhandled a waiter at a restaurant and then a civil aviation officer at the airport. Without any action of course. Events of the last few months only inject a sense of despondency and helplessness, prompting even people like us to wonder whether issues such as moral integrity, transparency and the rule of law should at all be discussed in this country, where the mighty ones get away with broad-day murders while the weaker ones are made to pay even for small deviations from law, a country where tax frauds worth billions by the elites go unpunished and are vehemently defended by cronies, while the honest and powerless ones are made to run from pillar to post to extricate themselves from the clutches of the corrupt bureaucracy.

A country for the rich and influential politicos, journos, generals and their legal associates indeed.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 25, 2017 - 3:38AM

    An honest reflection of the overwhelming Greed and Entitlement that Pakistani Elites/Feudals exhibit!
    So much for honesty and selfless public service in The Land Of The Pure!Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jan 25, 2017 - 11:56AM

    Obama is a millionaire by quite a margin, not sure about Biden though. Why go so far when your neighboring PM is a better example of simple living and no assets to show for years of public service. Does a Westerner have to be appreciated more ? A country where a citizen on the lowest strata can rise to the highest post in the land, will always thrive. Recommend

  • Aziz
    Jan 25, 2017 - 3:06PM


    Hitler also lived frugally but killed millions of innocent people. The PM in the neighbouring country has blood on his hands. There are better examples in other countries that can be quotedRecommend

  • TamedCynic
    Jan 25, 2017 - 4:09PM

    And you just forget to mention Donald Trump who made it to the seat of the US president despite refusing to public his tax records, conflict of interest and sheer bigotry and ignorance.Recommend

  • vinsin
    Jan 25, 2017 - 6:48PM

    So Obama didnt kill innocent people around the world? Can you prove PM in the neighbouring country has blood on his hands? And since when that is the criteria for Muslims to have not have such PMs.Recommend

  • curious2
    Jan 27, 2017 - 4:17PM

    USA Presidents get Secret Service protection for a minimum of 10 years after which they are suppose to pay for protection themselves — however all recent Presidents have extended that protection “cost free” to former Presidents. The VIce President only gets protection for six months. Recommend

  • JKhan
    Feb 1, 2017 - 8:54AM

    I doubt if anyone from two brothers could even spell the two words INTEGRITY and CHARACTER correctly.
    Such columns must be repeated and rubbed in while PANAMA is leaking, profusely now.Recommend

  • Haris
    Feb 1, 2017 - 9:49AM

    The Character and Integrity of the leaders will always be the same as that of the general public (this is common sense and I bet even provable by mathematics). We as a nation need to take deep look upon ourselves as an Individual and a nation. Recommend

  • Xnain
    Feb 1, 2017 - 10:35AM

    “Neither Obama nor Biden boast tonnes of money, multiple houses and fleet of cars, escorted by massive security after all these years at top posts”
    I think the writer hasn’t really seen the security of the POTUS, had he just googled his personal transport i.e. the beast, he wouldn’t have made such a comment. Recommend

  • HonestPerson
    Feb 1, 2017 - 11:52AM

    Are you describing our Army generals as well? Almost everything you have written applies to them fully: land, security, fleets of cars, picking up and thrashing whoever they want. There’s no generals taking buses either.Recommend

  • Mahboob Ali Naich
    Feb 1, 2017 - 1:01PM

    What a wonderful write up by Imtiaz Sb, if permitted i will go for Sindhi translation. Recommend

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