Corruption… its causes, how can it be curtailed?

Corruption, a vast topic on which volumes can be written while being almost certain that not all of it has been covered.  Ayesha Tammy Haq, a renowned lawyer and a broadcast journalist tried to address the issue on 24seven, Business Plus (October 22, 2012), with distinguished guests.

While many participated in that program giving their valuable input, to my utmost astonishment, not a single person (from what was shared) mentioned that “I” am the source of corruption.  It is felt after watching the program and observing general discussion on the same on social media (specially Twitter), that very few understand the depth of the term “corruption”.  All eyes are focusing on what “corruption” is today in its mammoth state where bribing and shortcuts have become a norm.  As Ms. Haq asked if corruption has become part of our culture, a person aptly mentioned, “corruption is a part of our DNA”.

The statement may be quite strong but may not be too far from reality considering the fact that various corrupt practices are not even considered as evil as they should be.  In order to understand the depth of this claim, one must first understand the term “corruption”.  A simple search on the internet reveals Transparency International defining corruption as: “The abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority”.  It is this myopic view which perhaps de-rails an individual thought process and limits corruption to “those in power”.  This leads us straight to the politicians, bureaucrats, the armed forces, etc.  This definition completely absolves “the people” who are said to be hurt because of corruption by those in power, without identifying “the people” to be at the core.

Wikipedia, however, presents a more understandable definition which may lead us to the crux, and in turn, paves the way to a possible amelioration on the current massive levels.  It says, “corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal”.  It is this definition that brings up a question.  Does one have to be in power to be corrupt?  Certainly not!  The level of power of a person indulging in corruption only dictates how many people are affected by the corruption undertaken by that person.  Yet, there can very well be a person who may perform corruption and may not affect anyone but his/her own self.

Corruption stems from the basic lack of morality at any and every level from a simple housewife, to the president of a nation.  The root cause being the desire of ease in our lives at any and every level. The short-cuts which are, way too often, found most convenient.  The problem is “I” who cannot observe simple rules and regulations.  “I” may be a ‘nobody’ today, may not possess any power at this time, so “I” will just bribe a traffic police with 100 Rupees.  Why would “I” do that? Because that is all “I” can do today.  Tomorrow, I may become a successful business person or a bureaucrat or may be a public servant, a minister, etcetera, and the level of my crookedness will certainly adapt to the level of power “I” may possess.

During the show referred to earlier, many views were being shared on social media where the discussion lingered around politicians, bureaucrats, and the likes.  Media is also often targeted which may or may not be rightly so. However, a simple question may lead to the stance taken herein.  Where does the president, the bureaucrat, the minister, the anchor, the journalist or the general come from? Are they from another planet?  They are no one but “us” and most probably in their early days, paid 100 rupees to the traffic policeman to avoid a challan when they were a ‘nobody’.

How can “corruption” then be controlled or curtailed?  Such a strongly engrained malady is difficult to manage in a short span of time.  It is a mindset which needs to be invested upon.  Unfortunately, education is clearly not the answer.  Many will agree that corruption is not limited to the uneducated.  If anyone has a doubt, a quick visit to the nearest NADRA office can settle this.  Just observe who the pay-masters are bribing unofficial agents outside the passport or CNIC offices.

The answer then, is in implementation of laws and honesty of the members of the Law Enforcement Agencies.  One may argue that this is the window which opens up to corruption-haven.  Indeed a very valid argument.  However, investment in these agencies in terms of training and alignment of remuneration with international markets may assist in starting to address corruption.  The performance of Motorway Police in comparison with other police departments can be studied which will reflect on the former being much “cleaner”.

“I” am the core of corruption and since “I” know that today “I” can get away with anything paying my way through, “I” will go for anything and everything as long as “I” can afford the price-tag attached with it.  However, if “I” know that there will just be no way “I” can get away with something, “I” will think it many times over before even trying.  Having this in mind and having lived through such discipline, “I” just may make a good minister, bureaucrat or president one day.

Much more important than very effective Law Enforcement Agencies is “self check”.  True character is reflected upon when one chooses to do the right thing while no one is watching.  This may be a long-shot!  Why is it said that it may be a long-shot? Well, if we have experts sitting on public media and mentioning “corruption by necessity”, what can be said…

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I am sorry Malala…

October 9, 2012 may well be recorded as a black day in the history of Pakistan. Although many innocent civilians have been targeted in various cowardly acts of terrorism, resulting in numerous injuries and casualties, each priceless in its own way, the incident involving Malala, Shazia and Kainat is etched in the heart.

Malala, not just a 14 year old, but a voice, an institution, an inspiration, epitome of courage and humanity, was cowardly attacked and still continues to battle for a healthy life. Shazia and Kainat, Malala’s friends, were also injured and reflected upon similar courage as Malala. This sad incident set the nation afire with a wave of melancholy which may well take some time to settle.

While various political parties recorded statements observing utter shock and disgust over the incident, some took it on a different level, a more personal level. MQM, for instance, arranged for prayer sessions and a strong statement by Mr. Altaf Hussain was recorded where he requested people not to attend Juma Prayers where the incident is not condemned and Malala is not prayed for. Apart from that, general public resorted to prayers, personally, and in gatherings. People collected at the press club in various cities and many held prayer sessions at their residences. Lahore University of Management Scineces (LUMS) under the leadership of Dr. Adil Najam, announced “Malala For Education Fund”, goal of which is to assist female students preferably from Malala’s area to gain quality education at the University. Varying reaction from all over the world communicating utter sadness, concern and praising the resolve of this young lady was recorded.

By and large, the above sums up the reaction to the incident. However, we did have a few voices creeping up accusing Malala to be an American agent and also a few other trying to justify this heinous and cowardly act of brutality. While one can just feel ashamed over such a reaction, turning this incident into a commercial proposition marked a new all time low.

Bundu Khan Restaurant, a name known across many cities in Pakistan maintains a facebook page. On this page, some insensitive genius put up a contest in which one is required to identify a picture while the winner is to be awarded a voucher valuing PKR 5,000/- for family meal.If you are already feeling ashamed, let us look at some more interesting figures. Uptill now, October 13, 2012 (5:46 pm) 7,830 people have happily identified the picture to be Malala Yousufzai, a few attempting repeatedly, desperate to win that voucher. More than that, what is even more astonishing is that this page is “liked” by more than 148,000 people. No reaction so far apart from Ghalib Khalil from Sialkot (a young man who needs no introduction, someone whose time is often spent arranging for food for the hungry and his services towards the flood victims are remarkable).

It is requested that all readers please visit the page and reflect on your feelings over this display of shameful insensitivity. Write in to them, visit them and register your protest. Make pamphlets and hand them out to all those dining in at Bundu Khan. The author suggested to Bundu Khan to offer a similar contest and offer a voucher of PKR 25,000/- should the owner, or may be one of the relative of the owners of Bundu Khan Restaurant are shot (god forbid). Should they decide to consider this suggestion, it is prayed that there be a much lesser number of people participating is such a shameful campaign.

Malala, I am sorry, indeed we are all not you.

Reviving the age of mutual co-existence…

This piece was written by Talha on April 14, 2012 as 9 people were killed and several injured in firing incidents in Quetta .  The message, however, remains as important as ever and cannot be emphasized more. 

Today, at about 10:15 am, my peon Waheed brought me a cup of tea with the news that more than half a dozen people lost their lives in today’s fresh grisly attacks. We were asked to call off all the government schools in our locale. A guy from the victim community was quickly escorted to his home by one of our colleagues. I walked to a nearby school with the call-off instruction letter and saw kids dressed in their shabby government uniforms running out happily as we celebrated a short day of school in our childhood. There was nothing different between them and me. I also loved such events to enjoy an unusual day off and play like there is no tomorrow.

Two students, hardly of ten years of age were talking to each other as I moved outwards. They were chatting stealthily and undecidedly, I over-heard them.

“Kal teen bandun ko maara (Three people were killed yesterday).”

The other, fair-skinned and shorter says; “Zoy itna khoon tha humne khud dekha aur hamara baap bolta hay ab yeh badla lega (Buddy, it was blood-spattered which I saw myself and my father says that now they will take revenge).”

I recalled that whole of our class during the primary school period was immensely bonded as it was a mutual agreement never to disclose any mischief of any of our class fellows. Many times, out of one’s mistake, the whole class gladly stomached the famous pipe-coated stick of our school. Color of skin or facial cuts were never our priority in the time we learnt to make friends. How true I was during those days!

What revenge, I tried to ascertain. The revenge of being born and raised in a different sect or cultural settings or the revenge in ‘You kill me-I kill you’ passion of us? In one of my secondary school lessons, we were taught the parameters of ‘Imaan’ and the weakest was to perceive an ill deed as ill deed. I think many of us are better visionary that we easily justify any killing out of our chauvinistic poisoned understandings or in a dismissive manner, “Woh tau wesay hain…! (They are like that…!)”

For almost 12 years, we would sing this stanza from Iqbal in loud chorus:

Ho mera kaam ghareebu’n ki himayat karna

Dard mandu’n se zaeefu’n se mohabbat karna

The solemn pledge in which we committed to side with the poor, adore the panic-stricken and folks of dotage almost every morning proved out mere chants without essence as years added to my life.

In the present times, our kids are being nurtured in a surrounding violence that is horrendous to their mental growth. Their proud ethnocentric elders teach them by words or actions, the differences at homes. They tell them about their exaggerated in-born holiness and bravado. This superiority complex has devastated our cultural harmony and religious sanctity alike. I remember once I made fun of one of my Hindu schoolmates in my early teens. A young teacher, May he remain blessed, brought me before my class and made me stand beside my Hindu fellow. He asked the class to point out similarities and differences between us, as I couldn’t tell my teacher the reason I made fun of his peculiar self. In the comparison of having same number of ears, nose and head, I felt badly humiliated. That was it. By this simple simulation, I learnt how to co-exist with respect even if people are not liked by one in guise of race, rage, sage or vice versa. In the time I grew up, I saw many of our elders not learnt the same lesson, or their guardians might have encouraged them when they did so in their juvenile age.

In the age of our technological holler and moral degradation, there is a dire need of a childhood revivalism. At least, we can start loving the common good than hating the odd bad.