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October 12, 2016

The tailor and the professor


October 12, 2016

Once upon a time there lived a tailor in Islamabad. His education was rudimentary, his feet unfortunately deformed and his earnings only modest. One of his clients, who soon became his friend, was a professor boasting a degree of doctor of philosophy. They often helped each other out.

Living in the same ‘beautiful capital’ was a former bureaucrat, with some official connections as without these life in the ‘Islamic republic’ became rather arduous. This is where the story begins.

The bureaucrat sent a new piece of clothing, bought for about a hundred dollars on an earlier visit abroad, to the tailor for minor adjustments. The tailor first eyed this ‘asset’, quickly assessed the countenance of the simple driver and then boldly conjured up a plan. He told the driver to come two days later to retrieve the item.

On the appointed day the tailor rummaged through different items in his shop, pretending to find the clothing. He obviously could not and set another date for the driver. This continued for a couple of months but the case of the missing item remained unsolved. The bureaucrat remembered that the General Financial Rules stipulated that in dealing with government finances the same level of propriety was to be shown as one would treat one’s own.

The tailor was unaware of this rule, but went a step further and decided to actually treat the missing article as his own. He offered to compensate the bureaucrat a pittance, which was declined.

When the bureaucrat informed friends about this some confirmed experiencing similar cheating episodes by other tailors. This appeared to be a successful scam or maybe a ‘business’. The bureaucrat determined to take a stand on the issue and to give to the charity of Ruth Pfau, his all-time hero, the amount recovered for leprosy control. The bureaucrat also decided that he would pursue the case as an ordinary citizen and would not employ his connections to facilitate the recovery. His driver, as the complainant, visited the local police station five times to report the matter.

There was no progress. It later transpired that a police patrol did call on the tailor to inform him of the complaint. It being dinner time the tailor was asked to get the police some choice food from a nearby restaurant. The food bill and any other that followed were paid by the tailor. A bond having being established between the police and the tailor, the latter thereafter became more confident and aggressive and refused to settle matters.

The law having failed to provide relief in six months the bureaucrat had no option but to seek informal official intercession. Someone called the Station House Officer, who summoned the tailor, who informed the professor, who returned the clothing. The professor lamely admitted he had taken it home by ‘mistake’. 

There are three morals to the story. Thievery and cheating remain rife at all levels in the land of the pure; those with sublime degrees are as complicit as the least educated. Secondly, those responsible for safeguarding the rights of the citizen are not held to account; they have other pressing priorities – gluttony for one, without having to pay for it. Lastly, every law-abiding and tax-paying citizen better cultivate someone in authority because of the absence of rule of law in the land.

Tailpiece: be informed that no police station in the country is provided its required budget by the state. The police are expected to earn for themselves. Would you still have efficiency and accountability?

The writer has served as chief secretary of GB, AJK, KP and Sindh.

Email: [email protected]


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