Crime and politics in the current Pakistani context is eerily redolent of the main theme of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous novel ‘Crime and Punishment’. The moral dilemmas of the main protagonist Rodion Raskolnikov are hauntingly similar to the stygian stables of Pakistan’s polity and the crime world.
The novel’s protagonist rationalises his proclivity for crime through his delusions of noble motives. According to his distorted belief, even an act of murder can be justified in pursuit of a higher ideal. Pakistan’s socio-political reality is also bedevilled by a similar reasoning by a feudal-business oligarchy that holds the reins of power both in the name and at the cost of the poor. The result is an insidious cycle of reverse colonisation that has taken hold of the country. Wealth that was once spirited out by the colonists is now being purloined by the rapacious local elite.
The leitmotif of this fabric of structural violence – woven together by the socio-economic inequities and injustices – consists of a strategy to keep the state weak so that it can be preyed upon it.
The formula was simple: keep the state enervated and the law-enforcement apparatus politicised so that it cannot challenge the informal economy thriving on crime and illegality.
In a cesspool of the crime-enabled informal economy lies a system of spoils and patronage that has fuelled social as well as economic polarisation and generated a hopeless feeling of relative deprivation amongst the public. The seething public discontent and deprivation has resulted in lawlessness and governance vacuums that are filled by secular as well as religious terrorists. They use different strategies but draw nourishment from the same reservoir of public antipathy against the state.
Terrorism, therefore, began to be conflated with crime. This, at first, occurred rather hesitatingly but was later carried out vociferously by various think tanks, media analysts and law-enforcement agencies. With a politicised police, the state had no choice but to flex its muscle through federally controlled institutions.
The involvement of these agencies resulted in intelligence-based operations and surveillance that revealed the nexus between crime, corruption, political patronage and terrorism.
The upshot of the harrowing revelation was a national resolve to cleanse the national Aegean stables of the scourge of terrorism, severing the linkage between crime and politics. Corruption – which is one of the main enablers of the cash heist for criminal and terrorist gangs.
With the financial lifeline choked and the law-enforcement’s noose around their necks, the link between crime and politics was finally severed. A renewed spring in the stride of the law-enforcement agencies was palpable as the public heaved a sigh of relief. Business activity subsequently picked up in our coastal metropolis and the rest of the country.
Alas, Camelot did not last long as the political expediencies and legal complications allowed the release of those accused in high-profile cases one after the other. This signalled the return of the same old vicious cycle of crime, politics and corruption.
Whether it is the weakness of the criminal justice system or the deliberate obfuscation of facts which render the prosecution a lame horse, the result remains the same and signals the return of the politics of patronage and crime. At this juncture, the bigger question, with the country on the cusp of an economic takeoff with the Chinese vision of the One Road One Belt project, is: can Pakistan afford a recrudescence of crime and violence that imperiled its existence in the not-too-distant past?
Will we be able to counter the externally-supported terrorist outfits that generate finances through the same vicious cycle of crime, corruption, and lax implementation of laws? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no and begs the biggest question of them all: who will take up the cudgels on behalf of this battered and bludgeoned country to break the unholy nexus between crime and politics?
If this country has to attain its rightful place in the comity of nations as a strong and vibrant nation that is capable of fulfilling its ideological destiny, it has to break the link between crime and politics, jettisoning all corrupt enablers of this structure of violence.
The ploy to keep the state deliberately weak and its institutions politicised to plunder its resources needs to be defeated through a sea-change in the way we conduct our politics. Saying no to politics of expediency, and zero-tolerance for crime is the only recipe of success.
A complete reorientation of our national priorities to combat crime, modification of our criminal justice system, depoliticisation of institutions and shunning politics of patronage is vital for national survival. Let no one like the Dostoyevsky’s hero think that it is kosher to commit crime for personal aggrandisement.
The writer is a PhD scholar at Nust.