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Thursday October 28, 2021

Pretensions of invincibility

October 15, 2021

“But when we crave power over life – endless wealth, unassailable safety, immortality – then desire becomes greed. And if knowledge allies itself to that greed, then comes evil. Then the balance of the world is swayed, and ruin weighs heavy in the scale.” – Ursula K Le Guin

Human struggle is an elevating phenomenon which has led to epic achievements changing the course of history. It has inspired innovations, paved the way for civilisations to evolve and helped confront and defeat evil. It remains a quintessential face of humanity and its brave endeavours in countless ways.

The same human struggle can oftentimes degenerate into pervading greed and lust that even leads to pretensions of invincibility. This breeds destruction, causes cataclysmic upheavals and inflicts immense suffering. It becomes a contagion that can trigger reversal of progress and onset of untold miseries. It reflects the turning of human struggle into a dreadful behemoth – a condition one must be wary of.

Throughout human history, one has been witnessing the decline of civilisations once considered invincible and rise of ideas rooted in logic, ingenuity and a commitment to moving onward. This is a faculty that resides and prospers inside the human mind with its motivation coming from a million different sources, all enshrined in the drive to serve the inalienable cause of humanity. The confluence of the times we stand in today is owed to the same spirit exercised by countless people before us as we struggle to preserve and supplement it to inspire our future generations. But let’s also face the reality that, with time, the objective and effort needed to transport it into our tomorrows is becoming ever more onerous and cumbersome.

We are lost somewhere at the crossroads of time. The spirit and drive of yesteryears to work for the collective good of humankind have faded away to be gradually replaced by the onset of deep-set greed which is geared to advance myopic and obsessive objectives. It is the self alone which is evident in these pursuits. The collective effort, if at all, is consigned to the dark dungeons to become the fate of the marginalised and deprived communities of society.

It would be difficult to point out that one moment in the historical evolution of the country when society actually transited from the collective to the self, but much of it may have to do with the malady that led to the gross politicisation of state institutions. Lack of competence, integrity and commitment were the ingredients that the leaders looked for in individuals who were appointed at the helm, thus reducing the institutions they administered to become their masters’ voices alone. That is when they started breeding a culture which was inimical to the spirit of collective good.

Instead of making institutions transparent, accountable and empowered with enhanced and professional capacity to raise the quality of their work, they became the appendages of the corrupt practices of leaders who resided in the annals of power. With time, this culture took deep roots and, today, it pervades the entire operational spectrum of state institutions with hardly an exception.

This process of gradual degradation has been effectively perpetuated by those who wear bureaucratic apparel and reside behind secured walls. They are the disciples of a service that was created by our colonial masters to subdue the serfs and the menials. The tragedy is that society remains divided even now among the masters and the plebeians who serve them. And, worse still, the masters do this with ample aplomb doused in minutely orchestrated holy invocations to escape the wave of criticism. So, their grievous crimes remain protected and their jobs secure. The worst that may happen to some is to be rendered OSDs which, in simple terms, means continuing to receive their salaries for doing nothing, just sitting home and enjoying their spoils. That is not all: after some time, each one of them is given a posting that would be potentially more lucrative than the one from where they were removed.

The governance conundrum is further vitiated by a judiciary which delivers sound bites, but little justice. Stay orders are granted like they are the inherent right of every alleged criminal, and hearings are postponed for weeks and months to cater to the needs and whims of the rich and the powerful. That, in effect, means that criminals are free to indulge their loot as much as they may wish to as the courts stand guard. There is also this penchant to protect their fellow kind irrespective of the nature or gravity of transgressions committed. Obviously, they would not allow a caveat which may leave space for some intrusive kind to point their way.

The icing on the cake is Pakistan’s media which adamantly refuses to distinguish between right and wrong. In fact, it appears to be fully aligned with those who plundered the country through their ruinous stints in power. It stands with them even now that they are trying desperately to pave their way back into the corridors of power so that they can indulge themselves again.

With dysfunctional institutions, a corrupt, inefficient and inept bureaucracy, a judiciary that is reluctant to deliver justice and a media that is gravely complicit, what are the assets that the state is left with to administer its meagre functionality? This is the gravest challenge it is faced with in the current times when its writ and its moral base are being constantly questioned. Much that it may try, there is no way it can reclaim these ingredients – which are absolutely vital for it to function as a credible and trustworthy entity that has the compassion and capacity to look after its people, more so those gravely in need of help and support. They are the ones who suffer the most fighting for two measly meals a day, oftentimes going hungry.

Much that the government has done and much that it may do in the future for the benefit of the poor and the needy people of the country, the principal obstacle for the fruits of these policies transmitting to the deserving remains the delivery system comprising the institutions as also their handlers. That is where the rot is. Unless this decrepit system is put right, even the best intentions and policies of the government will bear few dividends. The only way to do that is to begin at the beginning. The coterie of the corrupt with pretensions of invincibility has to be tackled.

The writer is the special assistant to the PM on information, a political and security strategist, and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute. Twitter: @RaoofHasan