Politicians, by and large, tend to be unscrupulous and corrupt the world over, nowhere more so than in Italy. It has been politically one of the most unstable countries in the world, having changed governments almost as many times in the past seventy years. Yet, it continues to prosper and its GDP today is greater than that of Russia! It was the same with France in the years following World War II when governments played musical chairs on yearly basis or less.
What makes the difference in their case is that the civil administration and judiciary act independently. The day-to-day working of the country remains unaffected and continues to run smoothly and efficiently regardless of who is in power. If there is a political crisis, its magnitude and impact is limited and easily contained. Running a country is above all else a management and administrative issue at every level that has to be handled by trained and experienced professionals and cannot be left in the hands of political hacks.
It was more or less the same in Pakistan until the civil service and judiciary were politicized and rendered subservient to those in power. Standards in the services declined and inefficiency, corruption and favoritism became rampant. Their role has changed from service of the people to service of the man at the top. In the absence of any organized, resolute and effective protest, institutions became self-serving and things went from bad to worse.
Who is responsible?
Without going into details, if there has been a failure in Pakistan, much of the responsibility rests with the people themselves who have not played their part in protecting their rights. Most of the issues lie predominantly within their pale and not that of the politicians alone who are mostly in it only for themselves. Others that do not can also be directly or indirectly influenced by them.
There is legitimate concern about corruption among government officials
We don’t have to accept it as a fact of life and live with it. The people who indulge in it do not come from some alien planet. They are someone’s father, uncle, brother, husband, cousin, friend, neighbor or are related in some other way. It will make a world of difference if we, as individuals, make a point of disapproving, disowning and reporting on such people but we don’t.
If our politicians are corrupt and ineffective it is because there is little accountability. It is naive to expect these people to police themselves. The voters could form committees to monitor the activities of their representatives — their conduct, attendance in the assembly, how they vote, what they achieve for the constituents, etc. and publicise it to shame them.
The lack of literacy and poor quality of education in schools and colleges is a serious issue. In the ultimate analysis, whatever happens, is linked to it in some way. If each literate person were to teach an illiterate one for a year, it is possible to virtually eliminate illiteracy in five or six years. Similarly, volunteers could take it upon themselves to help out in schools and colleges in their localities. There are scores of other fields such as medicine, sports, arts, hobbies, etc. where help could be easily provided.
Andrew Carnegie, a steel magnate, built and stocked 2,600 public libraries in the US. It must be well within the capability of many thousand people in Pakistan to donate at least one such facility, if not more. We owe it to the country that gave us everything. Nations are made great not by their governments but by people like Andrew Carnegie. Some time ago there was a TV series under the name ‘Little House on the Prairie’ that is well worth watching in this context.
For a country to prosper economically, it needs investment
It is a sad and regrettable fact that people with disposable capital in Pakistan prefer to invest and create jobs outside the country, making her poorer and politically and socially vulnerable in the process. Investing in countries where one is never fully accepted or respected while taking away jobs and promoting instability at home, is not something a patriot would do.
The role played by the media in Pakistan has not always been positive or constructive. Like the politicians and the civil and military bureaucracy, they too have not been free of ineptitude and corruption. Citizens can form media watch committees to ensure that they do not compromise and remains focused on national issues, serving only the national interest.
We allow maverick interlopers to seize power, without protesting and let them run our lives as it pleases their whims and fancy. When foreign troops and aircraft attacked our villages and killed innocent people we took it lying down nor were we outraged when our leaders illegally hand over our citizens to foreign powers to be abused and tortured.
Read more: Pakistani politics in crises?
We have abandoned our religion to ignoramuses to misinterpret and exploit with impunity. As a result, a significant segment of our youth has been led astray and driven to different extremes. There is no shortage of talented scholars, artists, sportsmen and individuals with a host of other skills. If there is to be a future, they need to assume responsibility and play their part. Things do not improve on their own. Also, bad things happen only when good people allow these to happen.
The spirit is not lacking
It is not the spirit and capability that are lacking. What is needed is some initiative, organization and planning at the local level. We saw these at work after the earthquake in Kashmir and the Northern Areas as well as the floods in Sindh and Punjab when Pakistanis set an example to the world, manifesting Iqbal’s contention: ‘Zara num ho to yeh mitti bahut zarkhez hai saqi.’ We need to recreate the same spirit.
Criticism for the sake of criticism, frivolous sermons and gratuitous advice, served out to people who have repeatedly demonstrated their inability to deliver, is an exercise in futility. We need to move on and play our own part in the best way we can. It is highly unrealistic to expect a Messiah to descend from heaven and redeem our future.
The writer is a retired naval officer and is the author of ‘Pakistan: Roots, Perspective and Genesis’ and ‘Muslims and the West: A Muslim Perspective.’ The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.