New Internationalist

Kicking the habit

Corruption in Pakistan, a famous phenomenon that the media regularly reports on, is not only evident in the obvious cases, where government officials pinch money. It is also happening in cases where systems are dysfunctional, compelling ordinary people to give bribes and money in order to obtain the amenities that are most essential for human existence.

Unfortunately, corruption of every sort is found at all levels.

At the public level almost every individual is involved: public office is used for private gain at the expense of taxpayers. But even on the private level the average Pakistani is being further oppressed thanks to the business mafia, which is busy increasing the price of goods and exhorting money from already empty pockets.

With the passing of time and through social evolution certain traits and norms are shunned by societies, which adopts improved standards. It shatters me to see our society adopting a backward path as the menace of corruption - which was previously condemned (at least verbally) - is now not only being blatantly exercised by our neo-élite and so-called respectable leaders, but also flaunted not as a vice but a virtue to be appreciated and admired by all. Labels of respectability are awarded only to those who possess the maximum ability and access to plunder.    

The worst kind of corruption, however, is at the administrative level, at which the implementation of policies can be altered. The recent multiplicity of crises that has gained momentum has been a result of severe mismanagement or, should I say, the disinterest and unconcerned attitude of officials. So the nation has been pushed towards bankruptcy, despite its plentiful resources, for personal gain. State apparatus is being neglected, properties and natural resources are left to either be wasted or handed over to other countries without even considering the short- or long-term implications and despite the country's precarious condition. The massive power shortage is an example that could have easily been avoided and rectified, yet still the nation is suffering power failures. Major cities remain shrouded in utter darkness while the administration remains calm and busy doing what it does best: nothing.  

Similarly, political corruption negatively influences laws and policies, as political leaders twist and alter them according to individual requirements. Even if individuals are not directly involved in such activities, they still have to bear the consequences: the amount of money the government has to spend in the development sector is reduced, thus compromising the quality of the average person's life.

The many cases of fraud, nepotism and embezzlement - be they at a petty or much grander level - have damaged and continue to damage the nation. There is now an urgent need to curb this national habit at all levels upon which it is practised. The penetration of this vice into education, health and even religious affairs is highly alarming. Lack of positive vision by our political leaders and dictators has given rise to a whole race of religious extremists who follow a twisted ideology. Poor folks often have no choice but to send their innocent children into the hands of these vicious ministers who, by claiming to be the guardians of a pure and unadulterated Islamic faith, damage perceptions and create a negative image of Islam in the global community.

Take the recent case at the University of the Punjab, where one professor was beaten almost to death and another disgraced when members of a politically backed organization (who cannot be called students) acted out of blatant and unashamed callousness towards these members of a group that is revered and honoured in every society and every religion. This unpardonable act of brutality by those who call themselves 'Islami' disgraces our religion, which was given to us by the last prophet to propagate, not to adulterate. We don't need any foreign power to malign our religion: our people are doing a pretty good job of it themselves. The irony of the situation is that while everyone condemns this horrific episode, like many others that have occurred in the past, no change is seen. These organizations keep on being funded and aided and their crimes protected behind political veils.

A most alarming situation has also arisen within the health system. Medicines - which are often substandard or even fake - fail to give the desired effects and even prolong the patients' agony. Such issues are a stark example of the corruption that has seeped into our genetic makeup and that cannot easily be removed.   

We have to rethink and reconstruct our beliefs, which have been diluted by monetary greed and avarice. Is this what we wanted for a nation acquired through infinite sacrifices by our ancestors - the blood of whom is a primary constituent of our soil? Does the fear of God mean nothing to us? Or have our hearts been sealed - the eternal fate promised by the Lord for who transgress?

But there is still a window of opportunity which we have to grab before it's too late. The true teachings of Islam preach not only simplicity, moderation and perseverance but also tolerance, allowing us to live a full and healthy life.
The difference between corruption in other countries and Pakistan is not just the atrocities and injustice inflicted by the élite, but the simultaneous inclusion of every individual at every rank in this unholy activity. Take the case of Kyrgyzstan, where people recently compelled their leader to flee as they united together against the menace of corruption. But how can anyone fight against something that one is involved in? Many are hinting at a possible revolution, but even that requires an organized and united lower and middle class, something which remains a Utopian dream. Our basic aim these days seems to be to prove ourselves superior to everyone around us. We have to stop this mad race, a race that generates only greed, avarice and a mammoth hunger for money, power, supremacy and belongings, and try to understand our actual needs - both corporal and spiritual. Humans are a mix of both these components, and the neglect of either one may be eternally detrimental for humanity.

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