The Epidemic of corruption
How many men in Pakistan have a net worth over a billion dollars? How many with a net worth of a 100 million dollars, or 10 million? How many in between? There is no easy answer to this question, but it is an interesting question nonetheless. One begins to wonder how such fortunes are acquired, since it is the wish of many men to expand and multiply their financial interests. So why is it that only a few, a minority within a minority succeed in such multiplications, while the average citizen is stuck into a trap of continuing poverty and helplessness. Let this question be an academic question, not filled with meaningless rhetoric or political point scoring. Perhaps the answer might influence the destiny of our beloved nation for the better.
There is a profound relationship between money and power. Those who fully exploit this relationship yield desirable results in places like Pakistan, where cash is king. It is generally accepted that if the price is right, anyone can be bought, from the Prime Minister to the policemen who guard him. Why does one always think of the men in charge of the affairs of Pakistan when analyzing great wealth? This is a pertinent question to be asked in my opinion. The reason is that the politicians, generals, civil servants and other men responsible for the collective functioning of the State have historically misused their power in order to make money. This was true yesterday and this is true today, and from the way things are going, this will be true tomorrow. It must be understood that it is very tempting to use power in such a way, when one phone call or one signature can bear a profit of millions, thus, people who judge should first look in the mirror before passing any judgement, which is why I am clear on the fact that I am not in a position to pass any judgment on any individual whatsoever, albeit, to ask a question is my right, and I shall exercise this right till my last word.
In 1976, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins authored a book titled ‘The Selfish Gene’. In this book, Dawkins builds upon the theory conceived by George C Williams in his earlier work named ‘Adaptation and Natural Selection’. Dawkins argues that we should develop a gene centric view of evolution, rather than a group centric view, the implication of which is that it is easier for man to behave altruistically towards those beings who are genetically similar or related to him. This is confirmed with the fact that family structures have passed the test of time and society has proven that such a structure holds ultimate precedence and sanctimony in comparison to any other structure. So how is this relevant in the context of corruption in Pakistan? Earlier, we spoke about the great wealth of great men. I believe that the entire concept of wealth and the continuation of it by inheritance confirms Dawkins’ stance that man acts selflessly primarily for his kin, while the rest of mankind remains a victim of the ‘selfish gene’.
Lets ask ourselves this question. Why do we seek wealth? Is it just for us, or is there some other consideration which we are not including in this discourse? Wealth seeks to preserve itself and what is the best way for it to do so? It transcends itself, from one kin to the other which means that the death of a man does not equal to the death of his wealth. The fact that our genes are predisposed to behave in this way should be included in the discourse of corruption, while it is pertinent to mention that this is not the only factor which contributes to this malice.
Man also seeks to improve his standard of living, however, no political or social scientist has come up with an optimal standard of living upon which excesses can be clearly classified. For man wants and wants, and never tires of wanting, while the scare resources of this planet are depleted and exhausted, without much consideration to the implications. The ruling elite of Pakistan has a standard of living worthy of any royalty in the world. What one can conceive in terms of luxury, our rulers have undoubtedly achieved it. We cannot single out any individual or institution which has preserved integrity in this regard, since every institution has had its hands where they don’t belong, thus it would be extremely unfair if the subject of our fury was limited to a specific spectrum among the beholders of power.
Social class is merely an illusion in my humble opinion, but I can understand how important this construct is to some men. It is almost instinctive for man to wish to climb to social hierarchy given his circumstances, however, if we consider ourselves rational beings, not primarily driven by impulses, we should start to think why this is so important to us? Why do we wish to outdo our fellow man? The answer might lie in how we have evolved, and how historically, might has often proved to be right. Yet, in these troubling times, if we can understand how mankind is a single species, evolved from a single organism, we will be better able to find unity and move away from artificial boundaries such as social classes. Unfortunately, the rulers of Pakistan have strongly held such contrived constructs in order to control the masses. The rulers of Pakistan constitute a single class which bases itself on money, power and influence. How different would the situation be if it was rather based on intellect, selflessness and efficiency?
Perhaps now we are in a better position to analyze corruption in Pakistan, and why it is practiced in such an unseasoned manner. The fact is that corruption exists everywhere in the world, including the richest and most developed countries. Yet, there are systems in store, which hold authority no individual can conceive to behold. This is where our fault lies, since we base our entire politics on the likability and popularity of a few men, while we ignore how important systems are in overall governance.
With a heavy heart, I must accept the fact that corruption is deeply rooted within all segments of Pakistani society. No one is immune from this epidemic. I am not, and if you, critically analyze your actions, you too might share the same opinion. But how can it be avoided? When one has to pay a bribe just to get the telephone line installed, or make a passport within a reasonable time, or register a FIR with the police, or get a decent bed at a government hospital, or stop the harassment of ambitious tax collectors? If any major institution sincerely claims to be absolutely free of corruption, whatever I have written should be completely disregarded, however I am confident that such blatant deception will not be practiced.
Panama is a tiny country between Costa Rica and Columbia. I am sure most Pakistanis did not even know about this nation before the biggest data leak in the history of mankind, notoriously termed as the ‘Panama Leaks’. The data implies that several individuals and families belonging to the global elite which includes but is not limited to several heads of states, ministers, politicians, generals and their offspring have offshore accounts in order to hide their wealth from the relevant authorities in their home countries. It is assumed that this is done in fear of tax collection, while it also serves as legal tender, since the law of the world is predisposed to serve those who have shaped it, and it should be obvious that legally speaking, they are fully covered. However, a moral authority lies on the shoulders of men who are to lead nations, and without this authority, a distance is created between leaders and followers, since no one likes to be fooled. However, in poor countries like Pakistan, many leaders are oblivious to the sentiments of their followers, while their prime interest always lies in preserving their power.
From Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family to Imran Khan and his henchmen to Zardari and his cronies, no one has been immune from ‘offshoring’ wealth. What is one to do when there is just so much money? How many cars or houses can one buy? How many investments can one make? The absurdity of the wealth possessed by the aforementioned gentlemen and their families is testament to the fact that corruption is systemic in Pakistan.
The ultimate question is that of accountability. Who has the right to hold anyone accountable… anyone who can? Knock knock.