Two insightful articles on the political state of affairs in Pakistan

Owning up to our fake degrees by Mosharraf Zaidi
The News, July 17, 2010

When the nation was aflame with moral outrage last year in November, it was because our collective anger about corruption in Pakistan had seemingly boiled over. The NRO was leading the headlines, and the PPP's lashkar-e-haq, led by the venerable religious and legal scholar, Dr Babar Awan, was producing a steady stream of some of the most creative legal arguments we've ever heard in this, the most creative of Islamic Republic endeavours, ever.
Then, in April this year, Pakistani morality came to know and hate the name Jamshed Dasti. Dasti, an otherwise nothing politician from Southern Punjab, had to resign for having a fake degree, but was still nominated by the PPP, backed by the prime minister, and pulled out another win in the bye-election for NA 178.

The Dasti saga has now generated an entire industry of moral outrage over fake degrees. Pakistan's moral compass is, once again, in full bloom. Fake degrees are the new NRO. Perhaps seeing a smiling Jamshed Dasti's virtual middle finger is not enough for the urban middle class's insatiable appetite for undignified political awakenings. Which is just as well. The PPP-PML-N--PML-Q nexus of incredibly resourceful political operators are just fine with being labelled village idiots by the uber-sophisticated and morally righteous, newspaper-reading city-folk that hate them. If the Dastis of this world are laughing it is for good reason. The three mainstream political parties in this country are not in any way in short supply of Jamshed Dastis. In fact, there are plenty more where he comes from but there are none of where the moral outrage over fake degrees comes from. The joke is on us.

What is the outrage over fake degrees really all about? It is about two dangerous and depressing trends. First, it is about demonising politics and politicians. Second, it is about evading individual and collective political responsibility in Pakistan's urban centres. Both trends threaten to keep Pakistan locked up in the 19th century -- where banning Facebook, destroying the Universal Service Fund, taxing the transactions of the urban middle class, and empowering people like Jamshed Dasti all make eminent economic, political and social sense. Getting our understanding of the fake-degree outrage is essential not because of its moral semantics. It is essential because allowing ourselves to be carried away by our emotions about cheating and corruption is to the detriment of this country's future.

For complete article, click here

Mocking accountability by Babar Sattar

Legal eye
The News, July 17, 2010

What our country is presently witnessing is a gory conflict between a new Pakistan struggling to resuscitate ethics and morality in public life and the old guard insistent on defending and retaining a depraved political ethos as Pakistan's perennial ground reality.
This is a fight between two mindsets. The constructive mindset craves change and understands that we cannot afford to cast our future in the shadow of the past. And in the building of a better future the hope lies in institutions and individuals able to learn from past mistakes and willing to take corrective action. The other mindset invested in preserving the status quo is rational too. The institutions and individuals that owe their power and pre-eminence to a debased ethos, tribal loyalties and corrupt processes wish to stay in charge for as long as possible. This lot is loath to change the way it has been doing business.

Some words of Urdu are not amenable to ready translation. How does one translate "badmash," for example? A bully and rogue put together? The status quo mindset of our ruling elites is infested with a syndrome of "badmashi," the ways of the bully and the rogue. This cultivates a sense that they are untouchable--i.e., neither subservient to commands of the law nor constrained by public morality. Over the life of our country's existence the stigma attached to illegal and unethical conduct has been steadily diluting. The mindset responsible for transforming us into a predatory state has been trickling down and is now threatening to convert us into a predatory society. It is manifested in the now rampant general derision of legal authority and public disregard for an ordinary sense of fairness.

For complete article, click here

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