When one glances at the past, one finds Pakistan fighting on many fronts simultaneously without a respite. The country has lost most often but it still survives thanks to the resilience of its people.
The common man in Pakistan thinks differently from those who are born with power and property. The social class in which one is born determines one’s thinking, even as some succeed in breaking the structural chains to think beyond artificial limits. The tragedy with structurally imposed thinking is the tendency of perpetual exploitation of one class by another.
Go to a village and ask a man about his short-term and long-term goals in life. He will probably come up with a brief wish-list mainly revolving around satisfying physiological needs. He is least bothered by who rules the country, which political ideology will translate into social justice, and which economic system strikes a harmonious balance between private and public interests.
He simply wants to see his children get enough food to eat and reasonably decent clothes to wear. Healthcare and education occupy third and fourth position in the wish-list. For some, education may even be a luxury.
The typical village dweller earns his livelihood with sweat and blood. He works in the fields from to dawn to dusk, without modern technology at his disposal. He is actively assisted by his family during cultivation and harvest periods with the result that many children either do not attend school at all or they drop out at an early stage.
Even those who have somehow completed their Bachelors or Masters degrees cannot find rewarding job opportunities. This then creates a negative attitude towards education. Many individuals now prefer to send their grown-up children abroad, particularly Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, as unskilled labourers. This way a single individual is able to earn more than his family income from all other sources.
Justice is still an expensive commodity. In police stations and in the courts, it is put on sale with the highest bidder taking the lot. For most poor and oppressed people, systematic injustice is a foregone conclusion. In most cases of murder, rape, and robbery, an FIR is registered against ‘unknown knowns’ when the victim fails to grease the palms of the ‘SHO sahib’.
After investigation, which too is blood-sucking, comes the court – where one can find everything but justice. The lawyer and his munshi (scribe) keep the case alive until they are sure that the client has sold out everything he had in his possession.
This costly legal system denies people their most basic rights. They then have no other option but to take law in their hands in utter desperation; as such crime breeds crime.
And healthcare? Public hospitals are overcrowded in cities and deficient in villages. Private hospitals are unaffordable. Faced with the problem of poor quality and poverty, an individual with a chronic disease ends up with quacks and fake pirs for the rest of his life. These clever imposters assure the hopeless and helpless patient of the efficacy of their treatment.
Some may blame this on superstitious culture but as a matter of fact it is the outcome of an expensive healthcare system.
The prevailing state of affairs – political, social, and economic – in Pakistan is disappointing and disturbing. Our so-called leaders, who come in different shapes and sizes, are busy hoodwinking the public with hollow slogans. They have different cards to play with. They can flout the law, malign institutions, and even challenge the state as and when circumstances so require.
And they will constantly remind – and fool – the public about their sacrifices for this country, including but not limited to self-exiles, assassinations, and long-term incarcerations. Some preach patriotism while their own wealth and properties are outside the country. Others promise gardens in heaven without doing anything good for the needy Exploitation continues – and so will our freefall.
The writer teaches atFAST-NU, Peshawar.