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Corruption: A twinborn with Pakistan

March 8 2013




Corruption is not only bribes and embezzlements. The betrayal of one’s commitment or trust, the breach of financial or material norms of morality is also corruption. Using a holy name for personal or worldly motives can also be corruption. Corruption is a consuming sickness with a strongly contagious character. All of us know that it has disrupted our social, political and spiritual life in Pakistan.

Corruption is like dodder, the yellow vine that wraps around trees and saps their life. Once it falls on a society it is a curse that grows from one branch to the next and then to the next until nothing remains visible, except a yellow sickness of corruption. Even such guardians of morality as religious and academic institutions become deeply corrupt. The struggle against an evil depends on the ethical standards of a society; it is our response of dismissal or approval that matters. Corrupt attitudes cannot combat corruption. A corrupt supervisor aids corruption by asking his share, thus, adding to the sum total of disaster. Armed forces and the judiciary, which a society nourishes with its blood to act as its immune system, join the invading parasite; these killer cells then no more fight the intruder but instead attack the body they are deputed to defend.

In our case, corruption was twin-born with Pakistan. Those who now dominate this society carefully conceal Pakistan’s history of the early years. They talk of corruption but do not discuss its genesis and causes. It is an inglorious chapter of early Pakistan, wherein lie the roots of corruption, opportunism, religious blackmail and a lack of empathy.

Our leadership had no vision of the problems our people would face in partition. There was, therefore, no plan for the rehabilitation of refugees. While our bleeding immigrants rotted in camps, the widespread plunder and occupation of the Hindu and Sikh evacuee property proceeded like an Eid festival. The clever opportunist got the best of god’s plenty. Leaders sat in Rehabilitation Offices bargaining their shares. Dirty stories of sex abuse in refugee camps also circulated. That was even before the start of Property Claims.

Then, the episode of Property Claim started. But what was a Property Claim? Large crowds of people migrated from India to their new homeland, Pakistan. Many of them had left their homes and belongings in India. But there were countless others who left no significant property in India or left only a petty asset. Although, there was no foolproof system to know who left how much, yet everybody was free to declare that they had left this or that, and could demand an equivalent in Pakistan. This was called a claim. But how did they prove their claims? Obviously they had no documents.

This provided ground for lies which could not be verified except through personal testimony. Even that was not necessary. A “sympathetic” officer, a Pakistan Movement activist, a politician, could change your destiny by accepting what you claimed. Evacuee property, urban or rural, residential or commercial left by the migrating Hindus and Sikhs, came as “Fazl-e-Rabbi” to many who did not qualify. This happened most glaringly in the industrial, commercial and trading professions where Muslims had little or no experience. The new business class that emerged was provided with no training in business, its ethics and its temperament.

Muslims had a domineering feudal or agrarian psyche in the subcontinent before the British rule. During centuries that followed, they remained most of the time in rebellion and alienation, except a tiny class of civil and army servants. The inspirational work of poets and orators like Iqbal deepened our self-image as warriors. Therefore, the business community kept their feudal and warlike moods, lacking the democratic temperament of a genuine trading class. For centuries they had contemptuously called Hindu business people “banias” and had taken pride in being aristocrats and warriors. It was, therefore, natural for the business community and the civil servants of Pakistan to accept landlords, generals and Ulema as their leaders. The landed aristocracy as the innovators of corruption, with a history of serving the British purely for gains, was happy and safe in a land where there would be no land reforms and no accountability.

It was in this setting that the era of permits, licenses and allotments started. Soon US Aid started pouring in. It was free for all at the upper levels of society called the establishment. The ugly race for easy wealth started and introduced the culture of “overnight riches”. The rest is history replete with stories and scandals of corruption and nepotism. One wonders today what could be the rationale of mutual charge-sheeting and complaining of corruption. But it is so natural in a society of narcissists. A narcissist throws out his guilt onto “others”.

In Pakistan, corruption has assumed the status of fitness, a standard of intelligence, a norm of social worthiness. But it is equally standard and worthy to condemn it. Every one of us has an ‘authentic’ list of another person’s misdeeds and an equally strong urge to wet our own beak the same way. This combination of practice and dismissal, of doing a thing that we condemn, breeds hypocrisy which serves to perpetuate malpractice. A society that believes in a noble religion but practices the opposite of what it admires has to comfort itself with something big. Our establishment, therefore, promotes and provides exaggerated Islam with rituals like prayers and pilgrimage, which regularly washes the daily accumulated burden of shame and allows us to restart afresh the next morning.

Is there a way out, one asks? Yes, every new generation is born clean with innocence and a faith in goodness. This society in which almost everyone is soaked and dripping, from a premier to a peon, from a mill owner to an hourly helper, has hardly anyone to lead the youth. They have to carefully forge their way to a future. Studying good societies and asking intelligent questions is a tool to discover the path. Democracy can provide them the stage to play their role. Let us hope they will choose to live and grow with the world of science and creativity which is the only uncorrupted path.

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan

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