The only way to build an organised society is to push back militarisation. The world tells us that civil society is far better than the army at arranging localities. We insist on the army. The only way to remove corruption from public life is to institute temporal accountability, not defer to spiritual accountability. The world tells us that even non-Muslim leaders can run corruption-free states better than what exists in Pakistan, yet we insist on nitpicking the private religious views of not only our leaders, but our citizens. The only way to ensure the welfare of the people is to actually collect taxes, and then redistribute them. The world tells us that extremely successful welfare provisions can be arranged even among people who have no concept of religious alms-giving, yet we judge a person’s piety by how much he gives to the mosque and not by whether he pays his taxes. To the Pakistani ear this all sounds like a paradox, but that is why Pakistan is where it is today.
Voluntary relief work, necessary in itself, will fail to fix the country’s healthcare, energy, infrastructure, educational and security concerns no matter how widespread it becomes. Human society long ago realised that these are matters that require managing on a nationwide scale. Governance was the name given to that management system and good governance is what people need. Strengthening the avenues of expression between citizens and the state through civic accountability and democratic participation is the only way to create governments that fear the people. Political awareness campaigns teaching people their rights and encouraging them to act on them are essential. This starts on a local level and grows from there.
So, this is an appeal to all Pakistanis. This is a warning to those who would have unaccountable rule over the people, turning free men into slaves. This is a declaration of war against corruption and a rally cry for democracy. Henceforth, no civil aid relief should be distributed without an accompanying message of accountability delivered to the state agencies that are actually responsible. No local area should be cleaned up without taking local authorities to task for why they fail to do their jobs. No private ambulance services should be hailed as saviours of the people without the state health system not being scrutinised for why it fails to deliver. No extremists should be challenged without simultaneously demanding from government the creation of a nationwide counter-extremism strategy. No school should be built in any village without the nation’s educational powers being held to account. All civil society action, relief work and educational initiatives must be coupled with a clear and loud voice to the authorities saying: why were such young volunteers able to do this, while the power of the state stood by for decades, receiving bribes and failing its people? The only way to improve the functionality of the Pakistani state, and to make it serve its people, is to accompany every act of welfare with a call to civic action. We must simultaneously give and galvanise. We must donate and demand, build and blame those who should have built. Only when the government fears the people will it respond. And only when the government responds will the nation improve.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2010.
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