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Crisis of conscience and credibility


By Imtiaz Gul

The Express Tribune, May 02 ,2012

In a recent editorial in the The Friday Times (April 20), my dear friend Najam Sethi listed 10 crisis that he says are wrecking Pakistan: crisis of economy, education, urbanisation, demography, foreign policy, terrorism and radicalisation, civil-military relations, political system and governance, law and order and crisis of identity.

The list, nevertheless, missed the mother of all crises i.e., crisis of conscience and credibility. This triple ‘C’ was a glaring omission because if there are aggravating factors behind Pakistan’s woes, it is the propensity (among all those who matter) to bend law and morality according to convenience.

The political upheaval and acute political polarisation that has arisen out of disagreement over the Supreme Court ruling in the contempt of court case only reaffirms the crisis of conscience and credibility that lies at the root of the entire crisis. The former German president Christian Wulff resigned on February 17, following allegations that he accepted financial favours from political backers. In contrast, the backers of the prime minister and the president argue that “only a few persons (judges)” cannot decide the PM’s fate. They are essentially questioning the very existence of the apex court and just consider parliament — packed with people with fake or dubious educational qualifications — as the source of their legitimacy.

Look around and there is no dearth of social and political luminaries who were in different bandwagons at different times. There are no moral scruples whatsoever in a society where the ruling elite — both civilian and military — considers flouting the law as chivalry and justifies shameless expedience in the name of realpolitik, switching parties and loyalties as and when necessary. It is this self-serving, self-preserving interpretation of law and morality that has stymied Pakistan’s social, political and economic growth. What we see around us today, such as the cases at the Supreme Court, the reappointment of controversial persons as ministers, small-time politics by national leaders to outdo one another, the mockery of merit etc, are all a few manifestations of an elite which lacks conscience and moral scruples. In a presentation that former Engro Chemicals chief executive officerAsad Umar gave in Karachi on April 20, he drew some tellingly bitter conclusions when talking about the roots of current political and economic adversity; when you have private security guards, there is no focus on security. If a rich person can get a generator, there is no focus on electricity. When there are separate systems created for the elite and the rest of the country, that system “goes to hell”.

If amplified, the message applies to many other areas; if the cavalcades of the very important speed through unhindered, how can they imagine traffic congestions that people at large usually face daily. If they are served at least half a dozen choices for lunch and dinner, how can they visualise the plight of those who toil a full day to get a few crumbs of bread and some half-cooked vegetable?

Asad Umar also spoke aloud about the ‘apartheid’ that multiple education systems have created in Pakistan. He emphatically called for  “one system of education” in the country because  “you cannot have one nation unless you have one educational system”.

Who will unify the various, conflicting education systems? Does the state possess the requisite wherewithal to do so? It does indeed. But that requires a strong political will and commitment to peoples’ welfare. Gimmicks such as Roshni or Danish schools won’t do the promised wonders.

Also, how can being part of a ruling elite that keeps jumping parties and treating law as their handmaiden distinguish between what is morally right or wrong? In a country that has been politically ruined by the military and misgoverned by the civilian elite that treats parliamentary status as a privilege rather than as the peoples’ trust, it is naive to expect radical changes in areas such as respect for rule of law or education system reform. Sociopolitical and economic development requires committed people of integrity, those who rise to prominence through professional excellence and not through deceit and fake degrees.

Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and is currently a Fellow of International House of Japan/Japan Foundation, Tokyo

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk