For us, the only sure outcome of the Panama leaks will be more politics – speeches and anti-speeches, press conferences and counter-press conferences, and dharnas etc. We are unlikely to become an honest and transparent nation with a tweet by the Panama leaks – one swallow does not make a summer.
The Panama ‘Leaks’ does not leak anything new about our rulers and their extended empires here and abroad; we already knew it by intuition, even knew more about it. And we deserve all that happens to us. The only thing we did not know, and probably would never know, is our collective gullibility as a nation. We believe slogans and symbols and never try to scratch the surface to get hold of the substance.
The mullah, who was supposed to be spiritual leader with high moral standards, has reduced himself to hair-splitting in insignificant religious matters. His vision, if any, for Muslims is to perform certain rituals as a means of glory in this world and salvation in the hereafter.
The political mullah has another problem. If one dares to ask why and how he fits in so well with every government, one is labelled an anti-Islam crusader. Contrary to popular belief, his real strength lies not in his political acumen but the kind of unquestioning people he leads. He always portrays Islam to be in danger and poses himself as the saviour of the Islamic polity. Unfortunately, when it comes to power politics, his actions seem to betray the ideals of Islam.
The political class and all others who have been ruling us directly and indirectly have learnt that power and property are the key to living a dignified and secure life in Pakistan. This is the group of powerful people that cannot be criticised or held accountable for its horrendous and treacherous activities. Individuals belonging to this class have different but effective cards to play with. They can flout the law, malign institutions, and even challenge the state as and when the circumstances so require. And they would constantly remind and fool the public about their sacrifices for this country.
And frankly, the most culpable are us all – the followers. In the Western world, people have learnt to fight for their rights. They transcend ethnic, religious and political affiliations when it comes to issues of public importance. We have yet to look beyond our petty individual interests and parochial identities. And this is what both the mullah and the politician know well to keep on exploiting persistently.
What we can and should learn from the Panama leaks is to reinvent ourselves. That, inter alia, means the courage to speak up for our collective rights and hold the rulers accountable for their actions. Instead of having the courage to speak the truth, the flaks in the PML-N government keep on fudging over the Panama revelations to prove that it is another conspiracy hatched internally by the establishment to derail democracy.
Is it not hypocrisy to ask the world to invest in Pakistan and establish personal businesses abroad? Is it not ridiculous to evade taxes by investing in offshore companies and ask people to pay taxes honestly for the country’s security and development?
Believing that the future is dark, one starts preparing for the doom. Believing that the future is full of promise by default is nothing more than delusion. The unfortunate outcome of pessimism-optimism is the tendency to externalise the cause of failure by blaming others and/or cursing fate. The alternative, which is certainly emotionally and physically demanding, is to accept responsibility for the choices one makes, learn from the past and chalk out a new path into the future.
Unless we rise against corruption, the Panama leaks will end up just another trivial matter, with no impact on improving governance in this unfortunate country.
The writer teaches at the Sarhad University. Email: zebkhan.basuit.edu.pk