STRAIGHT TALK

I always feel depressed when I return to Karachi from a trip abroad and this time was no different. I was saddened by the vast contrast between the quality of life in the cities of Pakistan, compared to other cities in the world.

Returning from Dubai and driving through the noisy, smoked filled Shahrah-e-Faisal, with its rickety old buses, trucks, taxis and cars, I realised that one of the reasons for this vast difference is the lack of Good Governance and the total disregard for the Rule of Law.

The city of Dubai is noise and pollution free and you will not find a single street that has potholes or dug up roads nor garbage or overflowing gutters. And though new Metro stations are being built in the central part of the city, there is no traffic chaos or blowing of horns. Well marked diversions have been placed in advance to ensure a smooth flow of traffic. But with our cities, it is quite the opposite and you will not find a single road that is not dug up or does not have potholes, especially in the Defence area. Most of our roads are dirty, with encroachments, building material scattered all over the roads, overflowing gutters, uncollected, stinking garbage and ugly plastic bags.

And this example of good governance is possible simply because the Rule of Law is strictly enforced, despite the fact that you hardly see any traffic police on the roads, everybody respects and observes the traffic laws, including our usually unruly Pakistani drivers. There is neither honking of horns nor jumping of lanes, as they all know that any violation of the law and they would be on the next flight to Pakistan.

But the same drivers behave totally different when they return to Pakistan and quickly revert back to their old, undisciplined behaviour. This Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde change in personality is immediately apparent the moment you land at the airport and includes the behaviour of our educated and privileged chattering class and those in the government.

This strange transformation is also reflected in our daily lives and our attitude and behaviour towards each other. What causes this sudden transformation is beyond my understanding, but some psychologists are of the opinion that we lack discipline and accountability as a nation and deliberately break the law, because we know that we can get away with it.

One of the reasons that we have not been able to improve our system of governance or establish accountability is because those in the government do not want to bring change for the better. But if we were all held accountable, including our leaders and politicians and punished for violating laws, our behaviour would change immediately.

But one cannot just blame the government for this sorry state of affairs, as Pakistan’s non-voting Chattering Class lives in a different world. We seem to have distanced ourselves from reality and have abdicated our responsibilities to the nation and its 170 million underprivileged citizens, who are the real stakeholders of the country.

We pledge our love and alliance to the nation, but seek safer and greener pastures outside Pakistan and prefer to stay away from our ‘beloved country’ for security and safety reasons and wait for things to improve before we return. We flout the Rule of Law with impunity and do all the evils that we blame the government for, but complain the loudest against the erosion of national values, increasing corruption, lack of good governance and the enforcement of the Rule of Law and the desperate need for change.

We prefer to sit back and just chat about the sorry state of affairs from the comforts of our drawing rooms or lush green lawns of our golf clubs. We wish to change the destiny of this nation, but remain mere spectators and cynical, as we feel that we are powerless to change the course of events.

Most of us do not participate in the political process or even bother to vote and yet when corrupt leaders and politicians are voted back into power, we are shocked and wonder as to how stupid we could be. We are all sincere for our love for Pakistan, but unfortunately mere love and affection is not going to change the destiny of this unfortunate nation.

Sacrifices will have to be made, which the ‘chattering class’ is not prepared to do, as we do not have the spine to take a stand. Because of our lack of participation in the political process, we have been made the sacrificial lambs, thanks to our misguided leaders, who have milked America and our allies for billions of dollars to fight the extremists. And now, after hundreds of innocent lives have been lost and we have been declared the most dangerous country in the world, our leaders have the audacity to tells us that the corrupt and undisciplined LEAs are not trained to combat terror, due to ‘insufficient budget’ and therefore unable to protect the lives and properties of The Chattering Class.

The footage of police brutality being shown on our TV channels is just the tip of how bad things are in the country of the Pak and the pure and nothing is new. It is a ‘Time old tradition’, like Honour Killings and should have shamed the nation many years ago.

Instead of just chattering and complaining, there should have been massive demonstrations and protests, with ‘Million Men Marches’, demanding an end to police brutality and bad governance, but yet we have remained silent, as we do not wish not break our silence of the lambs and speak up.

That is where the core of the problem lies; the Chattering Class does not really care and does not wish to ‘rock the boat’. They do not wish to leave the comforts of their drawing rooms, as it does not ‘concern them directly’ and leave the ‘dirty work’ to others.

If Pakistan is to be saved, then it can only happen through a change in the mindset of those in the government and the Chattering Class. We will have to play a more positive role and take ownership of our country and demand good governance, the rule of law and accountability of the guilty. We will have to get involved in the political process and vote for honest, sincere and visionary leaders. If we don’t then Khalil Gibran’s poem, ‘Pity the Nation’ will become a reality sooner than we think.

 (email: trust@helplinetrust.org.pk)