We fail to participate in democratic processes while we recognize democracy as a utopian ideal form. We fail to contribute to the national kitty while demanding increasing state services. We can apply the same line of argument to other segments of society. We must recognize our own failures for allowing society to reach the state it faces today. All of us may be part of the solution, but we are also part of the problem. Our actions/lack of action can rightly point to helping maintain the status-quo, the political-military musical chairs that we have today accepted as part and parcel of everyday Pakistani life.
Politicians and generals may belong to a class of their own, they may be totally disconnected from society and have little or no appreciation of the suffering of the common man. Intuitively however there is a stubborn link between those who exercise power and those who have to deal with it. The powerful are a reflection of society at large. While many chastises politicians for corruption, many of us also secretly envy those who can stop traffic at their beck and call, fly off to other countries for “personal visits” and at the very least never have to face the spectre load shedding. Similarly we admire the generals for their power and authority. They perpetuate one of our countries dominant narratives that read: Pakistan army, disciplined, ready to sacrifice and at the nation’s service, ever ready to stare down those who would look at us with an “evil eye” or with “nefarious designs”.
We must begin with admitting to such guilty pleasures and recognize how the current narrative of corrupt politician versus disciplined solider are mutually dependent. One wouldn’t be able to survive without the other. It is us a society that allows for this perpetuation and here is where we as a society are at fault and must ultimately take responsibility for our nation’s current state.
While there is no denying the inequity between those holding power and the countless millions who toil away day in and day out, our inability to help ourselves seems to have become pervasive. Our inability to take responsibility for anything that happens in our country has made us impotent. The moment a sad case of terrorism hits the headlines, the news has hardly unfolded before conspirators are identified. Israel, India and America are to blame the narrative goes. By accepting such events as fait accompli we are rendered impotent before even having the opportunity to ask some obvious questions.
For arguments sake lets says global power players are conspiring against us and supporting fringe groups to plants bombs to portray us as an unsafe and violent country, this still does not explain how such individuals are able to move around easily, how they are able to come so close to military installations and check points without being challenged, how Afghan “shadow governors” are able to travel from the hinterlands of Afghanistan and end up being arrested in Karachi or southern Punjab and the list continues.
These are but a few questions that we as a nation must ask. Whether or not a conspiracy against us exists does not absolve the government from its responsibility to protect its citizens.
After all it should not matter who is at the source of terrorism, terrorists must be stopped either way. By remaining silent and not asking such questions we contribute to the perpetuation of the dominant narrative. Unchallenged by the population the powers to be are able to keep society numb.
Case in point the assertions made by Rehman Malik in regards to holding evidence of Indian involvement in terrorist activities. He has claimed time and again that he has evidence; however, he adds, such evidence will only be presented at an “appropriate time”. In the mean time people continue to die going about their daily business.
Two questions arise, first, if India is involved and the honourable Minister does hold evidence then why is it not splashed across the global media (nay sayers would suggest that too is a conspiracy against us), taken up with important capitals and pressure borne on the Indian government? After all, if he holds evidence and is not using it to protect Pakistani citizens then is he not complicit in the death of countless civilians?
Alternatively, he may not have any evidence; instead he has something even more valuable, the belief that any statement with the words “foreign involvement” will stop anyone from asking all those questions for which he has no answers.
Our inability to help ourselves has permeated into every aspect of our lives. Criticism of the conditions attached with the Kerry-Lugar Bill, IMF emergency arrangements etc though valid beg the obvious question, why do we have to borrow vast sums to begin with? Popularly IMF and foreign aid conditionality’s are considered to be part of the “nefarious designs” to undermine the Pakistani state. We as a nation are more than happy to accept this narrative as fact.
If our elites, large agriculturalists, civil servants, military officers, self employed businessman were paying their taxes honestly and not hiding behind various exemptions, their power and influence we wouldn’t be in a position of asking for foreign assistance to begin with. Is this not part of being a patriotic citizen? Its amazing that the same people who claim to be willing to give their lives for Pakistan, find it a challenge to stop at a traffic signal let alone pay their taxes.
Again, even if foreign governments and multinational institutions are out to get us they are not the ones who stop us from paying our taxes, paying our electricity and gas bills, for smuggling goods into the country etc. Instead it seems as if it’s a source of pride to be able to dodge taxes, smuggle goods through customs or steal electricity.
Actions of society at large contribute to the very economic morasses that force us to accept humiliating strings attached to foreign funding. What is perhaps telling is that given all the hue and cry few if anyone has actually changed their perception of civic duties such as payment of taxes given our acceptance to foreign aid and international bailouts.
This author may be painfully cynical but he argues that as a nation we are innovating in the use of political narratives to their “logical conclusion”. That is to absolve the entire nation from taking any responsibility for anything that happens on its soil. Our political and military elite are in a perpetual struggle of mutually declaring the other as an integral part of the political process while at the same time declaring the other as its worst enemy. As a society we too enjoy a similar disdain towards responsibility. We recognize the importance of state institutions but we are not willing to contribute towards strengthening them.
With another 23rd March upon us, flag waving, silencerless motorcycles, fireworks and patriotic songs will fill the air. However, that is not the end of our civic responsibilities. Let along paying taxes, electricity etc, getting a driver license made or stopping at a traffic signal does not seem to be a civic responsibility.
While we can rightly place the blame for many of our problems on actors beyond our borders and indeed who are beyond our control – this cannot be allowed to be used as an excuse to accept the status quo as a necessary fact and absolve any government whether civil or military from its responsibilities. In doing so we are complicit in our nation’s failings and pawns in the hands of those who mean us harm.