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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Marketing Spirituality

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the current de facto leader of the opposition who is being questioned by NAB on the charges of "assets beyond means" raised a very interesting point on the floor of the house. According to him, money made through marketing spirituality should also be subject to audit and accountability.

There is an interesting saying,”It takes a thief to catch a thief.” Under this purview, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the current de facto leader of the opposition who is being questioned by NAB on the charges of “assets beyond means” raised a very interesting point on the floor of the house. According to him, money made through marketing spirituality should also be subject to audit and accountability.

Marketing Spirituality 

After his historic election victory in the 1970 elections, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the Quaid-e-Awam triumphantly declared that politics had been cleansed forever of the influence of the ‘Pirs and Mirs.’ The legislature in which he was the leader of the house with Wali Khan as leader of the opposition was outstanding. The level of debates and discussion was very high and meaningful. Two constitutions were framed by this legislature, the 1972 version in which the head of the government was President and the 1973 consensual document in which the Prime Minister (PM) was assigned this responsibility.
Unfortunately that period was short lived, Zia brought back the dark ages in July 1977.
Money without trail is mostly black, that is why assets are held in factitious names (Benami). In the stolen money heaven of the world, billions of dollars remain unclaimed in Swiss Banks. Kings, dictators, corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, Generals hide their bounty for rainy days. In many cases the accounts are kept secret even from family members.
It is alleged that the Shah of Iran in the end trusted no one. As his Queen Farah Deeba being a commoner was still respected by the public, he felt threatened of her as well. I am sure some of the unclaimed money in Switzerland must his stolen from Iran.

Assets beyond means

Assets beyond means is a very powerful tool to combat white collar crime. Now that PML-N stalwarts are being squeezed they are pointing at other grey areas of minting money. My father, a worker of the Pakistan Movement after entering into business refrained from politics. He believed that business and politics could not coexist. According to him only those unscrupulous businessmen entered politics who wanted to make a killing instead of an honest living. marketing spirituality  

Should the money raised through spirituality have a trail?

I am sure as PML-N is a party of interests with no ideological base most of its stalwarts will have trouble in defending their assets. As PPP started with an ideological base,  it still has a few surviving comrades. The big question raised by Khawaja Sahib is , should the money raised through spirituality have a trail? Personally I think yes as a lot of money crosses hands on the ‘Platform of Spirituality’. This resource is then used to fulfill personal needs and gain political power and clout which is not linked with spirituality at all.
After the first martial law of 1958, the Auqaf Department was split into two: Hindu and Muslim sections. The large Sufi Shrines that generated a lot of funds like the Data Sahib at Lahore or Baba Farid at Pakpattan were taken over by the Muslim Auqaf department; the descendants of the Saints were allowed to use portion of the funds to meet their needs while the rest were kept into a Foundation Account to be used for other purposes which included upkeep of the building  or for  the Public Kitchen (Langar).
The entire income was recorded and accounted for. A money trail was established with proper bookkeeping. The scope of these Shrine Foundations must be expanded to bring the money of the devotees into the mainstream of society instead of Personal Ledger Accounts (PLA) of the descendants, to be used and even sometimes misused by them as it is effortless easy wealth. There is another pertinent saying, ‘Easy come easy go.’

While establishing  links with your creator, you still think about bread

It is indeed interesting the Sufi’s and the Darwesh shunned worldly and material pursuits of life. The Royals used to sit in their feet not the other way around. Now their descendants are living off the income of their Mausoleums which has to be checked and regulated as this is public money, which should not go into private coffers.
Sadequain the great artist called himself a ‘Faqir’ and he lived by the order of ‘Faqiri’, never touched or counted money. Whatever he needed always came his way, in case of a delay he would request his creator through calligraphy and there it was. Sufi’s followed similar traditions of simplicity by shunning the pleasures of life. In the Baba Farid Museum there is a wooden bread that the Baba had to suffice with during his long durations of fasting, when his Murshid say him in the act he was scolded.
‘While establishing  links with your creator, you still think about bread’ were his remarks. Baba apologised and rose to be one of the most revered Holy Men of the sub-continent. The ‘Bahishti Darwaza’ at his shrine is  opened for the public annually during his Urs and thousands of devotees pass through it every year. The politicians did not spare the Shrine. There is an ongoing investigation into illegal allotment of Mausoleum  land against Mian Nawaz Sharif the Ex-Chief Minister and Prime Minister.

Marketing Spirituality does not make sense

A few years back my late brother who lives abroad had an abdominal disorder for which there is no scientific research or treatment, but in this part of the world it is recognised and treated both spiritually and physically. The centre of nerves under the belly button moves it is called (Naaf in Urdu). He came with a reference of an unknown Hakim who had a small shop in Mozang Chungi.
Together we went there, the Hakim made some measurements between his belly button and nipples and then recited some verses. After he was done, the center was back in place and the distance was equal on both sides. Impressed by the treatment, my brother gave him money which he refused to accept saying, ‘This is a gift I cannot accept money for this treatment otherwise I will lose it.’
For my US settled brother it was a big lesson that money is  not everything in life and that it cannot coexist with spirituality. If not checked, we will lose our spirits before which even the mighty were helpless. He walked away a healthy man without spending a rupee.
Now that the pilferage of public money is being investigated, I strongly agree with Khawaja Sahib that it should  not be limited to kickbacks and commissions only. Everyone in public life must have to provide a money trail of their assets including those living off the income of the Shrines of revered Saints. Public money is for public use only.
The operation clean up must continue  till all the drains are plugged up and pilferage of of public funds is stopped, only then will the Islamic Republic of Pakistan be able to enter the 21st century. marketing spirituality  
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation; he can be reached at his email fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.