The Nation, Lahore

18 Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1418 - Thursday, July 24, 1997, Lahore




Dr Rana Jawad Asghar

Iwas at a meeting of international students at the University of Washington. These were multinational students who were representing their respective countries. Food was plentiful and the famous salmon fish of north west was being barbecued right there. I was waiting for my piece of fish when a girl waiting next to me in the line introduced herself. She was studying business administration and was from Taiwan. She seemed quite intelligent, sharp and well-informed. As she became aware of my origin, she said that she wanted to ask a few questions but was afraid that I might be offended. I said that she could ask anything. She again apologised at length in advance about the 'harsh' questions she was going to ask. Now it was difficult for me to go through all that for long so I told her that we were quite tolerant so she should go ahead with her questions. She then asked me about the highest level of corruption Pakistan has. Well honestly, I was not expecting such a question from her so I took some time to find an answer which also did not deflate my ego as a Pakistani at that international meeting.

Unfortunate but its not just a Zionist or American propaganda against an Islamic country. It is a hard fact. We are number two in this infamous list of the most corrupt countries. We go anywhere and we have to face this problem. Some years back, bribe was some thing to hide and be ashamed for but now it is no more a stigma. No one is shy to admit that he or she is facing corruption charges and on the contrary, many people who try to be honest are considered as stupid and incompetent.

I remember, one of my patients who was an officer in the Customs department, one day came to me and was very angry at the then Commissioner of Customs of Lahore, who was quite honest. The Custom officer (my patient) was complaining about the hard times they were facing and his argument was that if he (the Commissioner) didn't want to earn money, what was he doing in the Customs and that he should have gone to some other department.

With incompetent political governments in the past, our civil services made allies and this was an alliance for which now every Pakistani is paying dearly. Many of the elected representatives wanted quick money and needed government officials who could provide the means for it. There were very few left in our Civil Services who could say NO to an illegal order. Very few who dared to say 'no' were immediately sidelined as there was no shortage of senior civil servants who behaved really like the 'most obedient servants' to these Ministers, MNAs, and MPAs. And the reason behind this spineless behaviour was to earn more and more money and without any check from anyone. National assets were plundered and there was no one to listen to the poor man's plight. The Qabza Group was in full swing and everyone was defenceless. Even the high commands of their respective political parties were under siege by them with their demands and threats. And our so called representatives with the help of their 'most obedient servants' looted and plundered this country as if it was not their homeland but an enemy's occupied country after victory in a war.

The situation is not much better now. Sectarian violence is claiming lives every day. Mosques and Imam Bargahs are now considered the most dangerous places. People really fear to go there for prayers. And this is all happening in the name of Islam. Karachi is again showing signs of trouble. People are fed up with this state of affairs. The immense mandate to Nawaz Sharif was given to change the affairs of state. It looks like a very difficult, if not an impossible job. But the Nawaz government is steadily doing reforms and is taking some steps which are taking away the power of this infamous alliance. Some very infamous and powerful civil servants are being booked for the first time in the history of Pakistan. Though, still this accountability process seems a little biased but even that sends a very important message to our civil services - if you accept an illegal order then you must be prepared to face the consequences. The bottom line message is to say NO to any illegal order, no matter from where it is coming. This can drastically change the behaviour of civil servants for good in the future.

The passing of the 14th Amendment - Floor Crossing Bill, is a very important step in this direction. Once stray and rowdy MPAs and MNAs now are more under discipline of their respective parties. Three members who spent lavishly on marriage ceremonies are being asked to explain their position and the local administration who kept quite, has been transferred and have to answer why they did not enforce the law? No one is above the law, no matter he is with the government or outside government. This is the message people wanted to hear loud and clear and Nawaz Sharif is successful in it but may be, he is doing it very slow.

Old habits go slowly. Last week, it was reported in newspapers that MPAs of Punjab had some objections to the passports they have and instead wanted blue passports with no restriction s. I really don't understand why these representatives of people demand facilities which are not available to their voters. Still, they are oblivious of the feelings of the people. Still they want to grab what little they could. They have to be reminded again and again that most of them are there only because of the personal mandate of Nawaz Sharif and this mandate to Nawaz Sharif was given only on one important condition - Improve the plight of common man. If Nawaz Sharif fails in delivering his promises, there is disaster waiting not only for Nawaz Sharif or his Muslim League but for everyone and remember, the people who "HAVE" are going to be the biggest losers. Benazir Bhutto's last proposal for a broad-based government including agencies, was nothing more than a last effort of this unholy alliance to maintain the status-quo. But the masses can't afford this status-quo anymore and neither can Pakistan.


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