Who is responsible for the mess in Pakistan?

Architects of our own fate
the News, July 27, 2009
Zafar Hilaly

It has become almost a fad to decry the absence of good governance and lay the blame at the doorstep of civil servants, politicians, “key stakeholders,” a euphemism for generals, and others. However what few shed light on is why they have failed so often and so regularly.

The failure is one of society as a whole. In other words, failure taints the rich and the poor alike, the educated and the illiterate, the political activist as much as the silent majority. It is a comprehensive failure of a life credo and a value system; of a work ethic and mores that we, as a society, rather than merely individuals, have crafted and by default adopted. This credo/value system to which most subscribe is threatening to convert Pakistan to a failed state.

Some deny this and say that it is more in the nature of a systemic failure. The dysfuctionality of the system itself is the fault of the credo and values that society has adopted. A good or a bad Constitution or even the existence of a Constitution; a good or bad service structure or a military more focused on its duties is not the reason nor the answer. It is our collective approach to life and living in society that is to blame.

What, for example, can one make of a venerable Haji returning from having performed Haj and trying to smuggle in a VCR without paying duty (when duties were required). Who, when asked: “Babaji, why did you, of all people, have to lie and say that you had nothing to declare?” responded: “Duties and taxes are manmade laws and have nothing to do with God’s commandments. There is no sin in breaking them.” He, and the millions of our fellow citizens who agree with him, choose to live by such a code thereby making in this case the financial viability of any regulated society impossible. In other words whatever may be wrong with the system, much more is wrong with us.

Similarly, when asked what the justification was for the Taliban blowing up schools, a leading cleric on a recent TV panel discussion remarked that it was because “the Army used school buildings as fortifications to fire on the Taliban.” When told that the area in which the school was situated had never been visited by the Army he remarked that nevertheless it was “potentially” an Army fortification. When further informed that actually the blowing up of the school had everything to do with the Taliban’s belief that girls should not attend schools and not the Army’s presence, finding himself cornered he conceded disarmingly that he did not agree with that aspect of the Taliban’s credo.

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