Pakistan’s ‘ghairat’ came calling once again on the afternoon of March 16, 2011. The chartered aeroplane carrying Raymond Davis had grossly violated the ‘honour space’ of Pakistan. Public sentiments were invoked to avenge the fractured ‘national honour’. Few were willing to admit that our state, inundated with loans and lackeys, happily discovered the shortest ‘sharai’ path that links Kot Lakhpat with Lahore airport. A dynastic ruling elite with a penchant for lawlessness and a total lack of concern for its citizens could not possibly have chosen any other course. It may be interesting to examine five other apparently isolated events that happened around the same time and which can explain why Raymonds will continue to happen in Pakistan.
While Raymond was on board a flight out of Pakistan, so was the chief minister of Punjab, making a brotherly get-well visit to London. The head of the PML-N had opted to have a stent inserted into his artery at the elite Central London Hospital. Instead of improving local hospitals, the ruling elite prefer to fly out to exotic locations, often utilising funds siphoned from the taxpayers’ account. Can the interests of poverty-stricken Pakistanis be defended by a ruling elite that has its vital interests deeply embedded in foreign lands? Till this situation is reversed, Raymonds will continue to happen in Pakistan.
Another event that took place around the same time as Raymond’s departure was the shocking revelation by the National Database and Registration Authority that out of the 80.2 million votes that chose our ‘honourable’ parliamentarians in 2008, 36 million were bogus. That means that approximately 45 per cent of the members sitting in parliament have entered through questionable corridors. Add to this another 57 confirmed by the Higher Education Commission as fraudulent degree-holders and 298 who refuse to submit their degrees for verification and you have an exceptional composition of delinquents who would be happy to partake in every conceivable crime.
Why should a foreign country respect a Pakistani court, when the Pakistani government itself refrains from doing so? Only four days before Raymond’s expeditious release, the ruling party called for a province-wide strike to protest against the Supreme Court verdict of annulling the appointment of the NAB chairman. A lawless state machinery, at war not just with its people but also with its own institutions, is hardly expected to produce results any different from what it did in the Davis case. Around the same time as Davis was sipping coffee on his flight out of Pakistan, the prime minister was signing documents to extend the services of the top man in the ISI. It is irrational for us to recycle the same dynastic politicians, bureaucrats, judges and generals and then also feel stunned at getting the same disappointing results. A cartel of fossilised ruling elite dedicated to extending its own life cycle cannot be expected to defend the interests of its people. Raymonds will continue to happen as long as we continue to tolerate a ruling class that lives beyond its means as well as its warranty period. The fifth and perhaps the most important event was an act of omission, hugely underplayed and least protested. Davis was projected as if he was the only foul fish that we had in the country. What about the 500 or so other CIA security contractors who are engaged in similar dirty tricks? Why did we not demand a collective exodus of these criminals?
While we brood over the fast track dispensation given to a foreigner, we do not seem perturbed about the quality of justice delivered to our own citizens. We have a judicial system that can conduct a trial and release a multiple killer in two hours but do nothing about the 8,000 prisoners still languishing in jails for having been sentenced to death over the past 20 years. We are upset at the indecent haste shown for Raymond, but we have no programme to improve our dilapidated judicial processes. Raymonds will continue to happen in Pakistan for as long as we do not address the causes that create them. Neither the state nor the society seem ready to take on this challenge.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2011.