The Nation, Lahore

19 Ziqa'ad, 1418 - Thursday, March 19 , 1998, Lahore 




A face to remember

Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar

Last week when I was working on some class project, I felt quite bored and tired after a few hours. Then I did, what I usually do to freshen me up, I opened the Internet and visited a Pakistani newspaper site. I was using fastest Pentium II computers of my department which are linked to the Internet through Ethernet. (Instead of using slow phone lines through a modem our lines are pretty fast). Everything comes to our screen very fast and delays which a normal user experience in their connection with the Internet are very minimal here. So all the Pakistani newspaper with their newer Urdu versions come quite fast on our monitors.


As the front page of the Pakistani newspaper came to the screen it showed a young girl with a horrified face. Even my other class fellows who were also working there, noticed it and asked me what is this all about. I quickly read the news and told them that this is daughter of an accused, under custody. "But why she has been arrested"? "She looks very young? Isn't she pretty"? "See how horrified her eyes are". Now everyone in theroom wanted to ask questions. I quickly scanned the news and told them that some of the lockers which produced millions of Dollars of corruption money of his father, were under her name. "Jawad you know and I know, that in our cultures if a father tells her daughter or wife to sign a paper they will do so without a question" One of my class fellows who is Indian in origin was not satisfied with my explanations. I agree with her that this is true in our culture that we don't question our elders and even a son will sign a document if his father tells him to do so. This may be bad in legal terms but whole structure of our society is based on this trust. You trust your loved ones. Even friends sign papers without reading them fully if their friends tell them to do so. We have fixed this thing in our psyche that trust is the biggest value in life. As I said earlier this is bad according to law.


Contrary to us, the American society doesn't trust anyone. Kids are told to suspect and report even their parents, if they are behaving in some suspicious way. So even if you see a small kid and you want to give him your "payar" as you normally do in Pakistan, DON'T do it. You could be arrested and put behind the bars for long time because people here are educated in a way that they cant understand that even a stranger may like a kid in a good human manner. This paranoia has went to this extent that in a nearby small town, tens of families were uprooted by overzealous child protection agencies and social workers. Children were separated from their parents and parents send to jail. Now after many years it has been realized that this has damaged many kids emotions for ever and it was not all the truth in the first place either.

You are also told not to trust your doctors. So you sue them whenever you want. To protect themselves from litigation doctors buy malpractice insurance which is quite expensive, which in turn they charge to their patients. They also order all the available investigations,(because of fear malpractice litigation) which has made American health system, the most expensive and not so effective system of health of the developed World. And millions of people are without insurance anyway. You sue your teacher , your pastor, your father, your grocery shop, your coffee shop, your co worker, your boss, think of any relationship and it is in the court. Even now in the USA , people have started talking again about trust. Most of these discussions came when a close friend of Monica ( famous or infamous Intern of President Clinton) taped her private conversation with her. According to reports Monica thought of her as an older sister , but she did not knew that she is taping everything she said on telephone. Most of Americans are disgusted by this betrayal and that is one reason, approval rate of Clinton even with this scandal is on top heights.


But good or bad in legal terms, I still like my culture. I still think we should trust each other even may be not so blindly. There may be very few things about Benazeer which I may appreciate. But I liked her statement when she said that the reason she did not initiate the cases against Sharieff's women, even though they were on the board of directors of the companies under investigation, because she knew very well that women in Pakistani culture and society, sign where ever her husband or her father tell them to do. I know her actions in some cases were not consistent with her own statement but I still remember and like this statement of her. So when I saw that photograph of a young girl, most horrified eyes I may have seen, I was too, shocked by seeing a young girl paying for the crimes of her father. I have no sympathy for the looters of Pakistan, but I also think that our investigation agencies who also live in the same culture, should respect family values. Especially in the reign of a Prime Minister, who is kind hearted and an Interior Minister who himself is aware and a big critic of these agencies.


This was and still is a usual practice by our police and FIA to round the whole family members of accused to pressurize the criminal or just accused. But our courts are now taking steps to stop this inhumane practice. This practice has helped our inept and corrupt investigation agencies so these old habits will die fast. Only the convicted should pay for his crime not his family. I read a statement by a minister in which he told that he also felt bad about it , but he thought it may be necessary to investigate them as some lockers were under her name. It may be true, but investigation could have been done in a more humane way. You don't need to humiliate young girls all over the world .


I have just one question, and you have to answer it in your hearts, so please be honest. Does your wives, daughters or even sons knows exactly, that what is in the lockers and accounts which you manage but are under their names? How many sons and daughters have denied to open an account or a locker if their parents told them to do so? So please be a realistic, None of you were born or raised in the USA , so interpret the law according to the customs and norms of our land. Our law enforcing agencies need very badly a lesson in humanity and if Nawaz Sharieff or Ch. Shawjat can do that, this would be a great service to Pakistan.

Back to Top