The ball is in our court

Trashing one's country to fit in with a foreign crowd, or to look cool, doesn't say much about us.

Basil Nabi Malik November 19, 2010
The ball is in our court

I have often wondered about the predicaments that afflict this country, and the solutions that may help resolve them. Like most columnists, I seem to dwell on the former more so than the latter. As a clumsy attempt to rectify my lopsided approach, I have decided to write a positive column articulating things we need to undertake to effectively change society.

As a starter, rather than trying to change everyone around us, let us simply change ourselves. As a people, we are too obsessed with what others are doing, may be doing, or could be doing. The maulana with the long beard and short shalwar should aim to better himself in the eyes of God rather than browbeat everyone around him into changing into his prototype of excellence, whereas the secular liberal should exhibit a certain degree of tolerance and attempt to keep in check his condescending attitude towards all those who overtly show their 'faith'. The average Pakistani, portrayed as a perpetual victim, should think for himself rather than ascribing to the world views of the likes of the secular liberals or the religious fanatics.

Perhaps we should also commit to honest work in our daily lives without resorting to silly shortcuts which eventually result in greater troubles. The standards in any society can be deciphered from their work ethic. And unfortunately, our work ethic revolves around the notion that the term efficient signifies more remuneration for less work rather than getting more done in less time for greater remuneration.

Furthermore, let us have a bit more respect for our country. Trashing one's country to fit in with a foreign crowd, or to look cool, doesn't say much about a person. We may have a multitude of issues but we also have a massive reservoir of positives, such as our national heritage, pristine tourist sites and unmatched hospitality. Let’s start highlighting that, along with the obvious negatives that need to be corrected, to send a more balanced picture of our homeland.

As a necessary offshoot to the above, let us stop criticising others for doing exactly what we do, albeit on a grander scale. People in Pakistan are quick on the draw in criticising a specific Urdu news channel for 'sensationalising' tragedies and dramatising every situation for ratings and personal benefit. However, how many people in Pakistan would refuse to use the present situation for personal benefits, if the possibility arose? When in New York, I saw Pakistani students brag about how they used the fact that they were from a Taliban infested country which oppressed women to gain sympathy and special treatment in various situations, such as university applications.

People crib about the lack of taxes our political and administrative elite pay to the national kitty. True, but very few of us would pay the same if the said amount was not being cut from our paychecks. So unless we positively assume the role of good Samaritans rather than unwilling participants, the only difference between us and them, unfortunately, is lack of opportunity.

In a nutshell, we can’t hypocritically be part of a society which takes bribes, encourages nepotism, discourages hard work, and applauds shortcuts, and at the same time criticise the society for being as it is. After all, either we are the change that we want to see in Pakistan, or the product of the change that was Ziaul Haq. The ball is in your court, Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2010.


Ijaz | 13 years ago | Reply Mr Basil, you are way off track and like few other columnists. Almost all over the world, salaried class have their taxes cut at source. The problem lies with the corruption ridden FBR bureaucracy in Pakistan and the proof of this lies in their huge assets which they cannot account for. Perhaps Mr Basil is aware of many retired income tax and custom officers who have gone from rags to riches. Tax evasion is not considered a crime in Pakistan, nor is corruption by paid government servants considered a conspiracy to deprive the exchequer of its much needed revenues. There is no concept of a Conflict Of Interest, which is a very important ethical code that is binding on those doing public service such as bureaucrats, elected politicians, judges and those holding constitutional office in Pakistan. Those who don't pay taxes in Pakistan are the self employed professionals, traders, industrialists, businessman, landlords and the lobbyists. In the Western world, tax evasion is a big crime and anybody of any consequence if caught is made an example out of. In a democratic welfare state, the system thrives on taxation,accountability and social justice. Tolerance for dissent and right of others to do as they wish, as long as they do not break any rules is another important basic requirement. I agree with Mr Basil that this intolerance is as much within the so called moderate civil society or the religious fanatics. This is what happens when religion, instead of good governance becomes the business of the state.
babar | 13 years ago | Reply Dear Malik Sahib The path to hell is paved with good intentions. That said, the argument for Good Samaritanism is flawed. Firstly, "Constructive" Criticism is a must for a developing and healthy society. Our penchant for hiding anything unpleasant merely gives moral space for the corrupt. Secondly, absent a system of decency the good samaritans are the first to perish. Taking your example of tax evasion, the person who decides to give taxes volunatarily ends up giving when few others do. Hardly changes the system. The better thing is to help change the system. To do that you have to first identify the problem and then provide working solutions. By complaining about intellectuals who complain about society's ills you contribute to the status quo in the system that obviously not working very well
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