Even in the flux of the political drama surrounding Panama Leaks, on Thursday, our media waves paused to report (and celebrate), one Mr. Sadiq Khan’s election to the coveted post of Mayor of London. Despite not having contributed in any meaningful way, to the financial, political, or ideological arsenal of Mr. Khan’s campaign, the people of Pakistan, including several political leaders, have been quick to claim this as a ‘victory’ for Pakistanis. The truth, as hard as it might be for us to accept, is that if you asked Mr. Khan (in a hypnotically truthful moment) what was the greatest challenge that he had to overcome during his campaign, he would most likely say that it was his Pakistani/Muslim identity.

And this is just the truth of the world we live in today: Each of us have played our part (either actively or passively) towards creating a Pakistani identity that is viewed by the world, through a prism of religious fanaticism, cultural orthodoxy, and governance failure. So before we indulge in the seductive allure of claiming Mr. Khan’s victory for ourselves – by saying that he speaks our language, believes in our religion, and identifies with our cultural values – let us muster the humility to accept that Mr. Khan got elected as the Mayor of London not because he was of Pakistani origin but in spite of it.

But away from this, Mr. Khan’s victory is remarkable for a number of trailblazing reasons; not the least of which is that he has risen to power from the most unlikely and humble immigrant background. With parents that moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and were constrained to doing menial/manual labour for their survival, Mr. Khan has broken through countless glass-ceilings of status quo to demonstrate that the spirit of democracy is alive and kicking in the heart of our former colonial masters.

While being awestruck by the phenomenal story of Mr. Khan, it is important to ask ourselves whether his story or anything close to it can ever be emulated in the 200 million strong bustling democracy called Pakistan. Could the son or daughter of a struggling immigrant, who belonged to minority religion, be elected to a high public office in Pakistan? Does our political structure, despite being democratic in nomenclature creates space for upward social and political mobility? Can a Sadiq Khan (read: Joseph Masih, in our domestic context) whose parents immigrated from a country with which we have strained political relationship, be elected the Mayor of Lahore or Chief Minister of Punjab? Does our dynastic democracy, which is split not between political parties, but instead between the Sharif clan, the Bhutto Clan, the Khan Clan and the Mullah Clan, accept and celebrate outcasts who challenge the foundations of our status quo? And what have we done with minority political leaders in our land? What did we do with Shahbaz Bhatti? Or with Veeru Kohlan?

And why go so far as the culture of national politics to understand the entrenched social class structure within our democracy, even on a personal or societal level? What have we, as individuals, done to rectify the wrongs within our status quo? Have we not quietly but surely given up the dream of a classless society? Have we not, as a nation, made peace with the idea that how one’s life turns out eventually will, for the most part, be an accident of birth? What have we done for the implementation and enforcement of minimum wage standards in our domestic household workers, without which it would be impossible for their children to dream of a better future in our country? What have we done to enforce the laws concerning street children, who are constrained to sleep alongside barren roads, within a stone’s throw away from our lavish houses?

Ironically, Pakistan has two basic laws that govern this area – The Minimum Wage Ordinance, 1961, and The West Pakistan Minimum Wages For Unskilled Workers Ordinance, 1969. Under these laws, respective Federal and Provincial governments have determined the minimum payable wages. Most recently, in June of last year, Federal Government notified an increase in the minimum wage to Rs. 12,000 per month, whereas the provincial government of Punjab Sindh and Balochistan increased it to Rs. 13,000 per month (with the exception of KPK, where minimum wage is still Rs. 12,000 per month).

The State’s inability and lack of seriousness towards enforcing minimum wage standards is evident from the fact that (according to labour department statistics) in Lahore there are less than 20 labour inspectors. In the entire province of Punjab, there are a total of approximately 100 labour inspectors. And herein lies the problem: is it even possible that in a province that has over 100 million residents, and thousands of small industries, shops and commercial establishments, a total of 100 people will be able to enforce the minimum wage laws? Is it not, then, true that we as a nation have no priority in ‘fixing’ the minimum wage (and thus, by extension, the minimum basic standard of living) in our society? And is only the government to blame for this, or do we all share part of the guilt? Just because the government cannot enforce the minimum wage, must we continue to pay our cook, or driver, or sweeper or guard the minimum possible amount that we can negotiate? And if so, can we really continue to live in our deluded moral comforts, and pat ourselves for donating pocket change to the local mosque?

Similarly, what about the implementation of the Punjab Destitute And Neglected Children Act, 2004? Why have no special measures worth mentioning been taken by the government for the protection of these children? Even otherwise, are these children just the government’s responsibility? Do we, as a society, as a people, owe no part of ourselves to them? Will these children and their fate forever be invisible in a self consumed society? Will our laws, its implementation and enforcement, forever remain impotent in rescuing these children from the depths of their solitary misery? Or is there some way for us to find the necessary state resources and individual efforts that extend the promise of a full life to these unfortunate street children?

We must praise Mr. Khan’s story for being remarkable and inspiring. But in the same breath, let us also recognise that the ‘kafir’ country of United Kingdom, and her predominantly non-Muslim citizens, allowed for this story to become a reality. Sadly, the Sadiq Khans of Pakistan cannot dream of such success. Because in this land, our deprecated moral values, tainted religious philosophies, and dynastic political allegiances, would only accept a Sadiq Khan who drives the local commuter bus, much like his father before him.