Let me begin with an aside. In a ceremony held in Karachi on Wednesday, Sindh’s Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmad delivered eight ventilator-fitted ambulances to public hospitals. Speaking on the occasion, he said that the vehicles must be used only for the intended purpose and not for shopping.
A published report quoted him as saying: “I have reports that ambulances have been used for domestic purposes and even for purchase of groceries and vegetables, which should be stopped now”.
This, incidentally, was not treated as a major news item and was buried in the inside pages of the newspaper. One is not supposed to be shocked by a revelation that someone may have sent an ambulance to buy vegetables. In any case, we have been overwhelmed by stories that we hear about corruption, dishonesty and fraud in the public sector. We just shrug our shoulders and move on.
But there was this trial in a court in London that exploded in flaming headlines across the world. Three of our prominent cricketers have been awarded jail sentences in a spot-fixing scandal. We have been shamed as a nation. Our media has highlighted the outrage felt by ordinary citizens.
Cricket, after all, is a passion in Pakistan and our cricketers are widely idolised. Hence, we feel terribly betrayed. Salman Butt, the former captain, and pacers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir have damaged the integrity of the gentlemen’s game and the image of their country.
Nonetheless, wasn’t something like this waiting to happen? We are constantly assailed by bad news, reflecting our failures in many different sectors of national endeavour. We fall short as a nation in many respects. Our society is afflicted with injustice and deceit. We remain insecure and afraid of what may happen as dark forces of militancy and intolerance continue to spread their tentacles.
Our cricketers, along with their agent Mazhar Majeed, were convicted on the basis of evidence that was presented before the court but Justice Jeffery Cooke, while pronouncing his judgment, made this remark: “it appears that the corruption may have been more widespread than the defendants here before me, and may have permeated the team in earlier days, though I have seen no direct evidence of that”.
Against this backdrop, this is a very good time for us to do some soul-searching and make an objective analysis of the sources of our moral and intellectual degradation. It so happens that we have some more evidence this week that underlines our poor performance as a nation. This is in addition to numerous previous assessments of our low standing in the context of social and cultural indicators.
There was this report about an index that measures prosperity as a function of both income and wellbeing for 110 countries of the world. This index, prepared by London-based research organisation Legatum Institute, was released on Tuesday. And where is Pakistan placed? At 107, fourth from the bottom. The three countries that are ranked lower than Pakistan are Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic.
The 2011 Legatum Prosperity Index has ranked countries in eight areas on the basis of which the overall prosperity rank is given. Pakistan is 86 for entrepreneurship & opportunity; 96 for both economy and health, 98 for governance, 100 for social capital, 104 for personal freedom, 105 for education and 109 – only above Sudan – for safety and security.
Without going into more details about this index, it is possible to differ with specific rankings. We do suspect that there is some bias against Pakistan and some of its strengths and positive attributes are not fairly judged by foreign researchers. Besides, the Legatum Index is not well-known and it has obviously left out so many countries.
However, we have this credible and universally respected Human Development Index (HDI) compiled by the United Nations Development. It is based on national achievement in health, education and income. The 2011 HDI rankings were also announced this week – on Tuesday, in New York.
Out of 187 countries, Pakistan figures at 145, in the category of Low Human Development. Last year, Pakistan was ranked 125 out of 169 countries. What is worrying here is that we have slipped. Indeed, the drift recorded during the past three years is the real measure of our quality of governance and of leadership.
Irrespective of what economists and social scientists can figure out from available statistics, the general impression of what is happening in Pakistan is likely to be much worse. And this is based on incidents that are covered by the media or shared in private conversations. Cases of violent crime, brutality and horrifying perversion abound. One problem is that this veritable decay in society is being recorded during what is seen as a democratic dispensation. Hence, the people are losing faith in the ruling politicians.
This brings me to last Sunday’s successful and politically invigorating ‘jalsa’ in Lahore. Columnists and talk show pundits have already commented on the significance of Imran Khan’s formidable show of strength. It is sad that the glory of our cricket hero was followed so soon by the ignominy of the spot-fixing scandal, deflecting attention from some notable developments on the political scene. Imran Khan’s promise of change has surely motivated a section of urban middle-class and the youth.
“Change, we Khan” was one column’s inspired headline – inspired by the slogan of Obama’s presidential campaign. And yes, I also read this headline this week: “Obama, a prophet of change, now changed himself”. This is how dreams and intentions are mangled by harsh realities. But one hopes that Imran Khan is able to change himself in the midst of his campaign. This may seem rather preposterous since it is his present stance and image that has been vindicated.
Well, there is bound to be some unease about his blend of piety and pop music and his simplistic analysis of our relations with the United States. We know what he wants to change, corruption being the most favoured catchphrase. But what is it that he wants to put together in terms of ideology and strategy?
Another Zulfikar Ali Bhutto he is surely not. Nor does he seem to have sufficient intellectual resources to deal with the complexity of our problems in a treacherous global environment. For some, he is a pretty face of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Or is he the pretty face of India’s social activist Anna Hazare, who has politicised India’s middle-class?
Essentially – and to return to the main theme of this column – the principle task of any political leader or party is to be able to grasp the reality of Pakistan and then define the contours of a modern and progressive society that we need for our survival.
The writer is a staff member. Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail. com