Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Media consumption?

The theory of media consumption stands vindicated in Pakistan!

The story goes thus:

On June 29 the Federal Defense Minister, Ahmed Mukhtar, who had been sleeping all through the May 2 Abbottabad-Osama-Bin-Laden and May 23 PNS-Mehran-Karachi happenings, awoke to talk to a group of journalists apprising them that Pakistan had asked Washington to vacate the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan which was used to launch Drone strikes against the militants. The Minister remained awake to tell the Reuters on the following day that Islamabad had been pressing the US to leave the base even before the 'Abbottabad incursion' and did so again after the 'incursion.'

Very next day, the message had already generated its rebuke. The US officials in Washington reacted that there was no plan to vacate the base.

Then it was on July 1 that the Federal Minister for Information, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, had to settle the matter. She while talking to media persons in Lahore declared: "It was just a statement for the media." She clarified that 'she was a member of the defense committee and the matter was not discussed there.'

Is there something such as for the consumption of media? Should there be something such as for the consumption of media? If so, as is the case, what is media for, then? To consume? To consume endlessly? Yeah, it's a voracious consumer, 24 hour consumer. Now, they say it is its freedom what it chooses to consume? But this freedom of it does not work for a 24 hour long day; that means it has to consume sometime or most of the time it has no choice in having it on its table, and it depends on the nature of its appetite and its taste. There the governments find room to bring in the media to consume they want it to consume; though, there are many other ways governments have got to regulate the appetite and taste of the media.

Functionally, media is sort of an information bridge between the rulers and the ruled. But it has come to be a one-way bridge at best, and most of the time. The two-way traffic on this bridge is not allowed and needs media-men like Omar Cheema and Saleem Shahzad, and may cost life. This is this one-way traffic about which the Federal Information Minister alluded when she brushed aside her government's Defense Minister's substantive talk by terming it something which was meant for the media. Why do media need such stuff? Of course, it does not need any such thing (or otherwise), for its own sake, or for its staff, or for its bosses, or for nothing? Obviously, it goes to the citizens of the country with what it picks up from here and there, or is "given" to it by X, Y or Z. After separating wheat from chaff it brings it to its end-users.

However, it is here that it sets itself to consuming chaff, and not wheat. That is what the Information Minister alluded to. The media picked up what the Defense Minister threw or the Information Minister threw and brought it up to its viewers, the citizens, who are ultimate end-users. In other words, what Information Minister dubbed as 'for media consumption' is for the consumption of the viewers, the citizens, finally.

That is what is known as Public Consumption. Also, government has laws and rules such as official secret acts, or classified information; it goes beyond that and conceals its affairs from the citizens, and makes their leaking a crime. In addition to concealing its affairs, government lies as well as misleads the citizens. It contrives incomplete, incorrect and false information which they mean for “public consumption.” In this game, the media serves as a tool of the government. Otherwise, what else the Information Minister's 'for the media consumption' may amount to?

As no one from the media protested over the Information Minister's 'for the media' theory, it meant not only the media is ready to consume such misleading stuff; it is ready to mislead its viewers also. The question is: Is media an accomplice in the Great Crime being committed in Pakistan against its citizens?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Siege from within

When creative spirit of a nation is arrested from within, it is as vulnerable to external insinuations as is to internal machinations, and can never make any progress.

“Pakistan is under siege.”

We had enemies from the very first day. With time, the list of our enemies grew longer. So much so that today we have neighbors not friendly to us and a world all hostile to us. We are alone in a wilderness created of our own. Isn’t it Greek mythology whose gods and monsters we have resurrected in ourselves? Like the one-eyed monster, we have no second eye to look inward. This on the one hand has transformed us completely into subjects perfectly suitable for psychological pursuits. Or, for instance, how can a judge of a higher court find fault with bare feet of a dancer, and ban it? Or how can his ability and capacity to judge be explained? (One of my friends says it’s a foot fetish!) Go through any book of psychology, and see we are afflicted with almost all the disorders identified there.

On the other hand, this lack of inner eye has deprived us of that touch of philosophical contemplation and composition which is so integral to the continuity of peaceful human co-existence. In every nook and cranny of our society, from a hut to GHQ, and from a patient to the President, we have laid Procrustean beds and are on guard no one unfits it. Those who are over-sized are cut down, and those who are under-sized are pulled up to match the bed’s length. In a sense, we watered and environmentaled all the seeds to grow into the same and, lo, we have Bonsais all around us. Rather, we have shrubs unheard of in the botanical history which are eating out one another, and stretching their tentacles to far off lands to gulp others; it is as if we are working on an agenda of self-annihilation.

At the same time, we have started ‘exporting’ our principles of experimentation with human beings to other regions also. We are packaging our Procrustean beds for other people, and use all means fair or unfair to ‘market-impose’ them, and are thus causing other people to revive their own Procrustean beds and bring them again into practice. This may turn the whole world into a big Procrustean bed!

Alas, our ideological adventurers are no better than Procrustes. In a sense, they are worse! Procrustes used to hack off or stretch his victims to fit his bed, we kill all who unfit our beds, and in some cases, we kill all no matter they fit or unfit our beds. We have left Procrustes far behind in sizing human beings.

How’s that that we have turned into such monsters? Are we different from other people genetically? Some people believe that is so; but that is an expression of distrust and anger. All of us belong to the same progenitor. It is mainly our mental, intellectual, psychological and philosophical make-up and thus our behavior that differentiates us from each other. Otherwise we are the same biological entity.

As it is, like others we are a product of two things, first, what we are endowed with by birth, and second, what we learn and acquire on our own. We are all born with almost the same capacity to learn unless it is some disability that retards us; so naturally there is complete freedom available to everyone to learn and acquire what he wants to learn and acquire. In a sense, it’s the ultimate freedom that if realized can enable us to be master of our destiny. That is, we are free to be what we want to be.

However, some of us happen to make a discovery of an immeasurable magnitude. Somehow, they come to believe that they are free to be what they want to be, and in addition to that, they are free to force others to be what those people do or do not want to be. Such people in fact try to be master of others’ destiny, and deprive them of their freedom. Not only do they use every opportunity and manner to further their Procrustean agenda, they manipulate what is available and manufacture what is needed to achieve their Procrustean objectives. They have no regard for what exists outside of them.

It is rather an edgy difference that distinguishes such people who live to control and mould other people’s lives according to their ideas from those who teach and preach other people to live in accordance with their philosophies. It’s no matter of persuasion or submission, i.e. getting someone converted to your ideas on the one hand by using rhetoric or reason or reward, and on the other, by using fear or force or fraud. This difference is informed among other things by the eternal issue of means and ends, i.e. ends do not justify means. Hence, if one wants to persuade or coerce others into submitting to his ideas there is an inherent danger of curtailing or snatching other people’s freedom. That way others lose their freedom. The issue of corporal punishment to learners is a derivative of the same debate.

But to make this debate possible and also to have it to continue, a theory of conduct is desperately needed in Pakistan. This actually is a sine qua non for all existence let alone for the human existence. That, everyone is free to have his ideas, change them, abandon them, and dispose of them in whatever manner he deems fit, and at the same time he is all free to live according to his own ideas. That no one with whatsoever mandate, personal or otherwise, has any authority to impose himself upon others and to take back others’ freedom on any pretext personal or otherwise. All knowledge presupposes this freedom.

It may be objected that it is practically socially impossible to allow so many individuals to live like that save at the expense of social harmony and peace. That may be so! However, first there is morality and then there is law that takes care of the difference, discord, disharmony, and conflict and clash among individuals of a community.

Morality needs no enforcement; it is sort of self-discipline and a pragmatic way of life though for those who know the value of moral principles and their centrality to human co-existence. Law requires to be enforced by an authority. In this it is as lame as morality. Both are intrinsically orphan waiting to be adopted by some foster parents: moral principles are open to be adopted by, rather obligatory for, every individual be he an ordinary or an extraordinary person, whereas law must be enforced by an authority, which is nothing more than a collection of persons, duly vested with its enforcement. It is of the nature of law that its ignorance by anyone is never construed as an excuse to seek alibi, instead it is binding to all and all are equal before law.

This does not mean that both morality and law lie entirely within their own independent realms. How can we elevate a person to a law office who is morally corrupt? The issue of the present chief justice’s daughter’s enhanced marks is a case in point. Also, how can an outlaw be declared morally upright? The case of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is not entirely irrelevant provided he should have been cleared by an independent court of all the accusations and allegations brought against him by anyone. Morality preconditions, contextualizes and encompasses law.

Against this backdrop, present circumstances of the Pakistani state are extremely hopeless. It needs no painstaking to bring out the rampant moral-lessness, value-lessness, and law-lessness at every level of our society. We are all witness to it. Rather, part of it. But isn’t it the same cliché everyone is wont of using? Yeah, apparently it seems so. But the argument this article is going to make is different.

To blame all or to accuse all is jut meaningless. Likewise, to characterize a society by anything is just like crying over spilt milk. To say that Pakistani society has no morals, no values, no norms, and no principles to follow or that it is a lawless society is just empty talk. Also, it does not mean, as is usually implied, that there are good moral principled or law-abiding people in every society, and we have our share of such goody-goodies.

As argued earlier, the nature of morals is different from laws; no prescribed punishment is attached with them and everyone is free to follow or defy them, so no responsibility can be fixed for transgressing morals or values, norms or principles. In that they are a private thing. Some private organizations and institutions use them as laws, i.e. they punish their members or employees in case of violations of their adopted norms. They are private because no one owns and implement them, i.e. no collective authority possesses them and their enforcement. Hence, the meaningless and emptiness of the statement that our society is devoid of all morals, values, norms and principles! Hence, the lack of fixing any responsibility whatsoever for any violation by anyone!

That’s completely different in the realm of laws. All the laws are absolutely meaningful and full of content. We may decry them, analyze them, and expose their content and intent. All the laws are written with clearly defined terms of punishment in case of their violation. We may criticize and declare these as inhuman or savage. This enables the fixing of responsibility beyond any doubt at least within a demarcated domain of adjudication. That is why all the statements made on the bases of law always amount to clearly defined meanings and fixed responsibility.

Thus, when this article talks of Pakistan as a lawless society, and as a society without any morals or values or norms, it definitely means something different from just what the above-mentioned cliché hints at. What this article means is clearly in terms of fixing responsibility, and of course not just the lamentable state of our society. It talks of a definite relationship between morality and law as it manifests in our society. In other words, it purports to formulate a thesis that throughout the six decades of Pakistan the absence of rule of law has negatively impacted on all of our moral and social values, and the efficacy of norms and principles for a virtuous life, and thus the responsibility both for turning Pakistan into a lawless society and utter degradation of the values is but on the shoulders of those who were lawfully and constitutionally vested with establishing rule of law, dispensing justice, and protecting life and property, and rights and freedoms of all the citizens of Pakistan without any discrimination, and also those who were lawfully designated to aid in the fulfillment of these basic duties of the state but instead of following their lawful functions they violated them with pronounced disregard, and it were they who played the major and active role in destroying the value system in Pakistan. No damage is greater than that.

Thus, it is the utter disregard for law and its deliberate trashing verily by those who were trusted with its sanctity and custody that hacked at the root of all morality. As in spite of many a religious teaching and their doctrine of reward and punishment, and as it is evident from people’s outward behavior and practically from their actions also, that they have already learned that that is all what is here in this world. Likewise, centuries’ experience of lawless and immoral governments and rulers made people learn how to live without any value system or in the midst of a value system that is based on the efficacy of force. This experience may be generalized thus: it is the absence of rule of law that nourishes and strengthens not only law-lessness but moral-lessness and value-lessness also. Because, in a sense, in such a society sticking to morals, values and principles does not pay. In our case, it is more than that since instead of paying it makes one lose what he already possesses. Hence, in a perfect vacuum of law majority of people abandon all morality.

In point of fact, if we do not let laws rule, reign of lawlessness will prevail. If we do not establish rule of law, rule of criminals will emerge. If the rule of criminals establishes itself, all the traces of morality will disappear. What else have we got in Pakistan other than that? Actually the absence of rule of law was not accidental in Pakistan. It was not done in ignorance. It is a cold-blooded crime. What greater evidence is required to prove that point but the way the rule of law movement has been thwarted first by the military elite and then by the Pakistan Peoples Party government in unison with their masters. This has pushed the crisis to its peak point where endures no law and no morality in Pakistan.

There are three main culprits lawfully and constitutionally responsible for bringing Pakistan on the brink of the precipice. First, it is the military elite which represent force; second, it is the judicial elite which represent law; and then, it is the political elite which represent democratic mandate. Far from fulfilling their lawful and constitutional duties all these elites constantly acted in violation of those duties. Instead of honoring their constitutional mandates, all these elites stepped out of their constitutional domains and made a travesty of everything from law and constitution of the land to morality. Last but not least, they all in collusion seized the state of Pakistan and set to further their elitist agenda to the best of their interests.

Briefly dwelling on their destructive role, it is sufficient to mention that: how the military elite staged coups, suspended and disfigured the constitution, ruled the country by force, and exercised its influence from behind while it was not present on the scene. How the judicial elite validated these coups starkly against the dictates of the constitution, allowed the transgressors to rule and to amend the constitution. How the political elite perennially betrayed their democratic mandate and the cause of the fundamental rights of the people who put them into power, how it played in the hands of the military elite and how in complicity with it it never let those institutions, such as independent judiciary, rule of law, come into existence and strengthen which could safeguard the rights and freedoms of the people, and how it validated the dictators-forced amendments in the constitution.

The worst form of lawlessness which we are witnessing today in most of the areas of Pakistan such as those on the border of Afghanistan and the biggest city of Karachi is the ultimate result of all these criminalities of these elites. Their grabbing and transforming of Pakistan into an elitist state was the greatest tragedy that could happen to a country. These elites deprived the state of Pakistan from playing its due role, i.e. the role of an arbitrator, mediator, moderator, and a referee, the task of which is to arbitrate, mediate, moderate, and referee between the two or more disputant parties and settle and resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of both or all irrespective of the nature of those conflicts which may belong to the realm of civil, political, economic rights, or relating to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. In other words, they stripped the state of its protective function, i.e. protection of its citizens’ life, property and rights and freedom.

At the worst, these elites made the state of Pakistan itself one of the disputant parties. Not only politically, and economically, did the state stand by one party but spiritually and religiously also it took sides, and emerged as a contestant itself. This divided the society deeply negatively, and turned Pakistan permanently into an arena where countless tugs of wars were and are being fought to gain the control over the state. The resultant internal strife consumed the energies of both the state and the society of Pakistan. It’s the same fire that is burning us today.

It is in this context that the nature and intent of the Objectives Resolution may best be explained though it contained cursory mention to people’s fundamental rights too. Also, this helps understand the acute constitutional crisis that afflicted Pakistan in its formative years till the constitution of 1973 was agreed upon and enforced. In retrospective, it is easier to analyze how this constitution was made possible in 1973.

Actually, the period till 1973 is all fraught with a neck and neck fight between the two major elites, military and political to take control of the state. The making and unmaking of various governments and constitutions during this period is sufficient to prove the point. The judicial elite being too week to take sides on its own, permanently relaxed in the lap of the powerful one; while the political elite when apparently in power always, as it is doing today, tried to subdue it to its dictates but failed repeatedly.

However, it was in the early 1970s that in the wake of the first general elections and the subsequent cut-throat power struggle between two major victor parties, i.e. Awami League and Pakistan Peoples Party, in which military elite put its weight on the side of the political elite of the Western wing of Pakistan, and as a result of which Bangladesh came into being, that the military elite was at its weakest. The war that Pakistan army lost in the Eastern wing found about a hundred thousand of its army men as prisoners of war in India and it had left that elite too frail and unprepared to assert itself and its supremacy. That is how the constitution of 1973 sailed through. As it is, the hands that resuscitated the fainted patient were hacked off just after four years in 1977 and once again the military elite established its rule.

Thus, the state of Pakistan gradually reached a point where today it has lost all moral and constitutional legitimacy. By taking on a role of a party and completely abandoning its protective role and the role of a mediator and referee, it let the Pandora’s political box open. From the very beginning ensued a fierce struggle between the various sections of the society, in addition to the two bigger elites the military and the politicians, to gain the control of the state which with the passage of time intensified. All the power politics, and its offshoots such as the military takeovers, constitutional breakdowns, political, economic, cultural and religious persecutions are the major milestones on this way down.

It was during the last days of the People’s Government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that the Pandora’s religious box’s lid was slid a bit (the Pandora’s economic box had already been smashed into pieces in his government’s earlier years), but it was wide-open during the 3rd military coup when General Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial Law disfigured everything civil, moral, lawful and constitutional in Pakistan. Since then, we have witnessed the creation of a number of (and strengthening of the previously existing) armed and un-armed political and non-political, religious and non-religious mafia like groups vying for the control of the state to enforce their agendas. The armed groups found the Zia-ul-Haqqian environment especially conducive for their growth.

The same phenomenon of the absence of a genuinely neutralized and legitimized state let loose countless autonomous entities, from individual persons to well-knit groups, which monopolized the use of force to promote their interests and ideologies. They started making use of every thing and every means no matter moral or immoral, legal or illegal, constitutional or un-constitutional, peaceful or forceful, to compel the individual citizens to believe and behave but in accordance with their prescribed ideological manuals. This gave rise, in addition to political and economic, to moral and cultural policing in every street and at every road throughout Pakistan. In sum, that was the final touch to the siege from within.

That siege from within arrested the creative and enterprising spirit of the nation and left it in a completely dried, wrung and barren state. No sphere of life, learning, earning and recreation could escape that mischievous moral policing. Woman was particularly the target of that devilry. She was no more an individual; rather debased to the status of a soul-less object. The tentacles of moral policing trespassed every encirclement of human civilization from one’s privacy to the premises of someone’s home. No one remained safe even within one’s house. The lot of the ordinary people was made miserable; they were turned into helpless prisoners in their own homes.

Socially and politically, it begot the worst type of parasites. As the siege retarded the real spontaneous growth, a parasitic economy emerged. From a pariah to a president, no one was happy to earn fairly and honestly. Everyone who got the opportunity whether he was a laborer or an industrialist tried to take advantage of it to amass wealth by grabbing other people’s money i.e. tax money in whatever manner he could do that. All politics became the art of living and living lavishly at the expense of others. Outside government, goons and mafia live like that.

Such are the times and circumstances we are living in. That’s the Pakistan we are having today. This article has only generalized what is happening around. No examples have been given since they abound. No mentions have been made, save a few, since there are innumerable staring us in the face. The first thing we need to know is that we are not under siege from outside, but from within. That’s the hard truth! That is what this article has attempted to show. Also, it has tried to show how that siege was laid to.

However, what this article has avoided to venture at is why we were besieged from within? That such a question pertains to the realm of psychology which may not provide us with a satisfactory answer is what the writer has no quarrel with. In his view, even if we find the answer to that question why an oppressor behaves like an oppressor, it will not help a bit to stop him from behaving like that.

Also, it is the weaker, the oppressed one who is the real culprit; it is he who lets the oppressor oppress him whereas it is characteristic of the human spirit that it is absolutely free, i.e. we have an absolutely free soul. When one makes him believe that he has been besieged, he is not free. He is free only when he fights to break the siege. It is admitted that harder is to fight against the siege from within than from without because our enemy is inside us. But fight we have to go for.

Thus the second thing we need to know is that we are free and we can make that siege disappear. What is possible and is practicable is that we the ordinary people, we the oppressed ones, we the besieged ones, do not let the oppressor oppress us, the besieger besiege us. We need to be self-assured that we are not victims, that we are free people. It is as simple as that. It is our natural and inalienable right not to be besieged by anyone, not to be oppressed by anyone. But by just law alone! In case, we have been oppressed, laid siege to, be it from within or without, it is morally incumbent on us to assert and stand for our rights and freedoms, and struggle for that siege to be lifted. That’s the simple way ahead to the resolution of our complex problems! That’s what we are required to follow in Pakistan for the siege from within to be lifted once and for all to regain the lost paradise of our rights and freedoms!

Note: This article was completed in December 2008.

Siege from within

When creative spirit of a nation is arrested from within, it is as vulnerable to external insinuations as is to internal machinations, and can never make any progress.

“Pakistan is under siege.”

We had enemies from the very first day. With time, the list of our enemies grew longer. So much so that today we have neighbors not friendly to us and a world all hostile to us. We are alone in a wilderness created of our own. Isn’t it Greek mythology whose gods and monsters we have resurrected in ourselves? Like the one-eyed monster, we have no second eye to look inward. This on the one hand has transformed us completely into subjects perfectly suitable for psychological pursuits. Or, for instance, how can a judge of a higher court find fault with bare feet of a dancer, and ban it? Or how can his ability and capacity to judge be explained? (One of my friends says it’s a foot fetish!) Go through any book of psychology, and see we are afflicted with almost all the disorders identified there.

On the other hand, this lack of inner eye has deprived us of that touch of philosophical contemplation and composition which is so integral to the continuity of peaceful human co-existence. In every nook and cranny of our society, from a hut to GHQ, and from a patient to the President, we have laid Procrustean beds and are on guard no one unfits it. Those who are over-sized are cut down, and those who are under-sized are pulled up to match the bed’s length. In a sense, we watered and environmentaled all the seeds to grow into the same and, lo, we have Bonsais all around us. Rather, we have shrubs unheard of in the botanical history which are eating out one another, and stretching their tentacles to far off lands to gulp others; it is as if we are working on an agenda of self-annihilation.

At the same time, we have started ‘exporting’ our principles of experimentation with human beings to other regions also. We are packaging our Procrustean beds for other people, and use all means fair or unfair to ‘market-impose’ them, and are thus causing other people to revive their own Procrustean beds and bring them again into practice. This may turn the whole world into a big Procrustean bed!

Alas, our ideological adventurers are no better than Procrustes. In a sense, they are worse! Procrustes used to hack off or stretch his victims to fit his bed, we kill all who unfit our beds, and in some cases, we kill all no matter they fit or unfit our beds. We have left Procrustes far behind in sizing human beings.

How’s that that we have turned into such monsters? Are we different from other people genetically? Some people believe that is so; but that is an expression of distrust and anger. All of us belong to the same progenitor. It is mainly our mental, intellectual, psychological and philosophical make-up and thus our behavior that differentiates us from each other. Otherwise we are the same biological entity.

As it is, like others we are a product of two things, first, what we are endowed with by birth, and second, what we learn and acquire on our own. We are all born with almost the same capacity to learn unless it is some disability that retards us; so naturally there is complete freedom available to everyone to learn and acquire what he wants to learn and acquire. In a sense, it’s the ultimate freedom that if realized can enable us to be master of our destiny. That is, we are free to be what we want to be.

However, some of us happen to make a discovery of an immeasurable magnitude. Somehow, they come to believe that they are free to be what they want to be, and in addition to that, they are free to force others to be what those people do or do not want to be. Such people in fact try to be master of others’ destiny, and deprive them of their freedom. Not only do they use every opportunity and manner to further their Procrustean agenda, they manipulate what is available and manufacture what is needed to achieve their Procrustean objectives. They have no regard for what exists outside of them.

It is rather an edgy difference that distinguishes such people who live to control and mould other people’s lives according to their ideas from those who teach and preach other people to live in accordance with their philosophies. It’s no matter of persuasion or submission, i.e. getting someone converted to your ideas on the one hand by using rhetoric or reason or reward, and on the other, by using fear or force or fraud. This difference is informed among other things by the eternal issue of means and ends, i.e. ends do not justify means. Hence, if one wants to persuade or coerce others into submitting to his ideas there is an inherent danger of curtailing or snatching other people’s freedom. That way others lose their freedom. The issue of corporal punishment to learners is a derivative of the same debate.

But to make this debate possible and also to have it to continue, a theory of conduct is desperately needed in Pakistan. This actually is a sine qua non for all existence let alone for the human existence. That, everyone is free to have his ideas, change them, abandon them, and dispose of them in whatever manner he deems fit, and at the same time he is all free to live according to his own ideas. That no one with whatsoever mandate, personal or otherwise, has any authority to impose himself upon others and to take back others’ freedom on any pretext personal or otherwise. All knowledge presupposes this freedom.

It may be objected that it is practically socially impossible to allow so many individuals to live like that save at the expense of social harmony and peace. That may be so! However, first there is morality and then there is law that takes care of the difference, discord, disharmony, and conflict and clash among individuals of a community.

Morality needs no enforcement; it is sort of self-discipline and a pragmatic way of life though for those who know the value of moral principles and their centrality to human co-existence. Law requires to be enforced by an authority. In this it is as lame as morality. Both are intrinsically orphan waiting to be adopted by some foster parents: moral principles are open to be adopted by, rather obligatory for, every individual be he an ordinary or an extraordinary person, whereas law must be enforced by an authority, which is nothing more than a collection of persons, duly vested with its enforcement. It is of the nature of law that its ignorance by anyone is never construed as an excuse to seek alibi, instead it is binding to all and all are equal before law.

This does not mean that both morality and law lie entirely within their own independent realms. How can we elevate a person to a law office who is morally corrupt? The issue of the present chief justice’s daughter’s enhanced marks is a case in point. Also, how can an outlaw be declared morally upright? The case of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is not entirely irrelevant provided he should have been cleared by an independent court of all the accusations and allegations brought against him by anyone. Morality preconditions, contextualizes and encompasses law.

Against this backdrop, present circumstances of the Pakistani state are extremely hopeless. It needs no painstaking to bring out the rampant moral-lessness, value-lessness, and law-lessness at every level of our society. We are all witness to it. Rather, part of it. But isn’t it the same cliché everyone is wont of using? Yeah, apparently it seems so. But the argument this article is going to make is different.

To blame all or to accuse all is jut meaningless. Likewise, to characterize a society by anything is just like crying over spilt milk. To say that Pakistani society has no morals, no values, no norms, and no principles to follow or that it is a lawless society is just empty talk. Also, it does not mean, as is usually implied, that there are good moral principled or law-abiding people in every society, and we have our share of such goody-goodies.

As argued earlier, the nature of morals is different from laws; no prescribed punishment is attached with them and everyone is free to follow or defy them, so no responsibility can be fixed for transgressing morals or values, norms or principles. In that they are a private thing. Some private organizations and institutions use them as laws, i.e. they punish their members or employees in case of violations of their adopted norms. They are private because no one owns and implement them, i.e. no collective authority possesses them and their enforcement. Hence, the meaningless and emptiness of the statement that our society is devoid of all morals, values, norms and principles! Hence, the lack of fixing any responsibility whatsoever for any violation by anyone!

That’s completely different in the realm of laws. All the laws are absolutely meaningful and full of content. We may decry them, analyze them, and expose their content and intent. All the laws are written with clearly defined terms of punishment in case of their violation. We may criticize and declare these as inhuman or savage. This enables the fixing of responsibility beyond any doubt at least within a demarcated domain of adjudication. That is why all the statements made on the bases of law always amount to clearly defined meanings and fixed responsibility.

Thus, when this article talks of Pakistan as a lawless society, and as a society without any morals or values or norms, it definitely means something different from just what the above-mentioned cliché hints at. What this article means is clearly in terms of fixing responsibility, and of course not just the lamentable state of our society. It talks of a definite relationship between morality and law as it manifests in our society. In other words, it purports to formulate a thesis that throughout the six decades of Pakistan the absence of rule of law has negatively impacted on all of our moral and social values, and the efficacy of norms and principles for a virtuous life, and thus the responsibility both for turning Pakistan into a lawless society and utter degradation of the values is but on the shoulders of those who were lawfully and constitutionally vested with establishing rule of law, dispensing justice, and protecting life and property, and rights and freedoms of all the citizens of Pakistan without any discrimination, and also those who were lawfully designated to aid in the fulfillment of these basic duties of the state but instead of following their lawful functions they violated them with pronounced disregard, and it were they who played the major and active role in destroying the value system in Pakistan. No damage is greater than that.

Thus, it is the utter disregard for law and its deliberate trashing verily by those who were trusted with its sanctity and custody that hacked at the root of all morality. As in spite of many a religious teaching and their doctrine of reward and punishment, and as it is evident from people’s outward behavior and practically from their actions also, that they have already learned that that is all what is here in this world. Likewise, centuries’ experience of lawless and immoral governments and rulers made people learn how to live without any value system or in the midst of a value system that is based on the efficacy of force. This experience may be generalized thus: it is the absence of rule of law that nourishes and strengthens not only law-lessness but moral-lessness and value-lessness also. Because, in a sense, in such a society sticking to morals, values and principles does not pay. In our case, it is more than that since instead of paying it makes one lose what he already possesses. Hence, in a perfect vacuum of law majority of people abandon all morality.

In point of fact, if we do not let laws rule, reign of lawlessness will prevail. If we do not establish rule of law, rule of criminals will emerge. If the rule of criminals establishes itself, all the traces of morality will disappear. What else have we got in Pakistan other than that? Actually the absence of rule of law was not accidental in Pakistan. It was not done in ignorance. It is a cold-blooded crime. What greater evidence is required to prove that point but the way the rule of law movement has been thwarted first by the military elite and then by the Pakistan Peoples Party government in unison with their masters. This has pushed the crisis to its peak point where endures no law and no morality in Pakistan.

There are three main culprits lawfully and constitutionally responsible for bringing Pakistan on the brink of the precipice. First, it is the military elite which represent force; second, it is the judicial elite which represent law; and then, it is the political elite which represent democratic mandate. Far from fulfilling their lawful and constitutional duties all these elites constantly acted in violation of those duties. Instead of honoring their constitutional mandates, all these elites stepped out of their constitutional domains and made a travesty of everything from law and constitution of the land to morality. Last but not least, they all in collusion seized the state of Pakistan and set to further their elitist agenda to the best of their interests.

Briefly dwelling on their destructive role, it is sufficient to mention that: how the military elite staged coups, suspended and disfigured the constitution, ruled the country by force, and exercised its influence from behind while it was not present on the scene. How the judicial elite validated these coups starkly against the dictates of the constitution, allowed the transgressors to rule and to amend the constitution. How the political elite perennially betrayed their democratic mandate and the cause of the fundamental rights of the people who put them into power, how it played in the hands of the military elite and how in complicity with it it never let those institutions, such as independent judiciary, rule of law, come into existence and strengthen which could safeguard the rights and freedoms of the people, and how it validated the dictators-forced amendments in the constitution.

The worst form of lawlessness which we are witnessing today in most of the areas of Pakistan such as those on the border of Afghanistan and the biggest city of Karachi is the ultimate result of all these criminalities of these elites. Their grabbing and transforming of Pakistan into an elitist state was the greatest tragedy that could happen to a country. These elites deprived the state of Pakistan from playing its due role, i.e. the role of an arbitrator, mediator, moderator, and a referee, the task of which is to arbitrate, mediate, moderate, and referee between the two or more disputant parties and settle and resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of both or all irrespective of the nature of those conflicts which may belong to the realm of civil, political, economic rights, or relating to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. In other words, they stripped the state of its protective function, i.e. protection of its citizens’ life, property and rights and freedom.

At the worst, these elites made the state of Pakistan itself one of the disputant parties. Not only politically, and economically, did the state stand by one party but spiritually and religiously also it took sides, and emerged as a contestant itself. This divided the society deeply negatively, and turned Pakistan permanently into an arena where countless tugs of wars were and are being fought to gain the control over the state. The resultant internal strife consumed the energies of both the state and the society of Pakistan. It’s the same fire that is burning us today.

It is in this context that the nature and intent of the Objectives Resolution may best be explained though it contained cursory mention to people’s fundamental rights too. Also, this helps understand the acute constitutional crisis that afflicted Pakistan in its formative years till the constitution of 1973 was agreed upon and enforced. In retrospective, it is easier to analyze how this constitution was made possible in 1973.

Actually, the period till 1973 is all fraught with a neck and neck fight between the two major elites, military and political to take control of the state. The making and unmaking of various governments and constitutions during this period is sufficient to prove the point. The judicial elite being too week to take sides on its own, permanently relaxed in the lap of the powerful one; while the political elite when apparently in power always, as it is doing today, tried to subdue it to its dictates but failed repeatedly.

However, it was in the early 1970s that in the wake of the first general elections and the subsequent cut-throat power struggle between two major victor parties, i.e. Awami League and Pakistan Peoples Party, in which military elite put its weight on the side of the political elite of the Western wing of Pakistan, and as a result of which Bangladesh came into being, that the military elite was at its weakest. The war that Pakistan army lost in the Eastern wing found about a hundred thousand of its army men as prisoners of war in India and it had left that elite too frail and unprepared to assert itself and its supremacy. That is how the constitution of 1973 sailed through. As it is, the hands that resuscitated the fainted patient were hacked off just after four years in 1977 and once again the military elite established its rule.

Thus, the state of Pakistan gradually reached a point where today it has lost all moral and constitutional legitimacy. By taking on a role of a party and completely abandoning its protective role and the role of a mediator and referee, it let the Pandora’s political box open. From the very beginning ensued a fierce struggle between the various sections of the society, in addition to the two bigger elites the military and the politicians, to gain the control of the state which with the passage of time intensified. All the power politics, and its offshoots such as the military takeovers, constitutional breakdowns, political, economic, cultural and religious persecutions are the major milestones on this way down.

It was during the last days of the People’s Government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that the Pandora’s religious box’s lid was slid a bit (the Pandora’s economic box had already been smashed into pieces in his government’s earlier years), but it was wide-open during the 3rd military coup when General Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial Law disfigured everything civil, moral, lawful and constitutional in Pakistan. Since then, we have witnessed the creation of a number of (and strengthening of the previously existing) armed and un-armed political and non-political, religious and non-religious mafia like groups vying for the control of the state to enforce their agendas. The armed groups found the Zia-ul-Haqqian environment especially conducive for their growth.

The same phenomenon of the absence of a genuinely neutralized and legitimized state let loose countless autonomous entities, from individual persons to well-knit groups, which monopolized the use of force to promote their interests and ideologies. They started making use of every thing and every means no matter moral or immoral, legal or illegal, constitutional or un-constitutional, peaceful or forceful, to compel the individual citizens to believe and behave but in accordance with their prescribed ideological manuals. This gave rise, in addition to political and economic, to moral and cultural policing in every street and at every road throughout Pakistan. In sum, that was the final touch to the siege from within.

That siege from within arrested the creative and enterprising spirit of the nation and left it in a completely dried, wrung and barren state. No sphere of life, learning, earning and recreation could escape that mischievous moral policing. Woman was particularly the target of that devilry. She was no more an individual; rather debased to the status of a soul-less object. The tentacles of moral policing trespassed every encirclement of human civilization from one’s privacy to the premises of someone’s home. No one remained safe even within one’s house. The lot of the ordinary people was made miserable; they were turned into helpless prisoners in their own homes.

Socially and politically, it begot the worst type of parasites. As the siege retarded the real spontaneous growth, a parasitic economy emerged. From a pariah to a president, no one was happy to earn fairly and honestly. Everyone who got the opportunity whether he was a laborer or an industrialist tried to take advantage of it to amass wealth by grabbing other people’s money i.e. tax money in whatever manner he could do that. All politics became the art of living and living lavishly at the expense of others. Outside government, goons and mafia live like that.

Such are the times and circumstances we are living in. That’s the Pakistan we are having today. This article has only generalized what is happening around. No examples have been given since they abound. No mentions have been made, save a few, since there are innumerable staring us in the face. The first thing we need to know is that we are not under siege from outside, but from within. That’s the hard truth! That is what this article has attempted to show. Also, it has tried to show how that siege was laid to.

However, what this article has avoided to venture at is why we were besieged from within? That such a question pertains to the realm of psychology which may not provide us with a satisfactory answer is what the writer has no quarrel with. In his view, even if we find the answer to that question why an oppressor behaves like an oppressor, it will not help a bit to stop him from behaving like that.

Also, it is the weaker, the oppressed one who is the real culprit; it is he who lets the oppressor oppress him whereas it is characteristic of the human spirit that it is absolutely free, i.e. we have an absolutely free soul. When one makes him believe that he has been besieged, he is not free. He is free only when he fights to break the siege. It is admitted that harder is to fight against the siege from within than from without because our enemy is inside us. But fight we have to go for.

Thus the second thing we need to know is that we are free and we can make that siege disappear. What is possible and is practicable is that we the ordinary people, we the oppressed ones, we the besieged ones, do not let the oppressor oppress us, the besieger besiege us. We need to be self-assured that we are not victims, that we are free people. It is as simple as that. It is our natural and inalienable right not to be besieged by anyone, not to be oppressed by anyone. But by just law alone! In case, we have been oppressed, laid siege to, be it from within or without, it is morally incumbent on us to assert and stand for our rights and freedoms, and struggle for that siege to be lifted. That’s the simple way ahead to the resolution of our complex problems! That’s what we are required to follow in Pakistan for the siege from within to be lifted once and for all to regain the lost paradise of our rights and freedoms!

Note: This article was completed in December 2008.

Siege from within


When creative spirit of a nation is arrested from within, it is as vulnerable to external insinuations as is to internal machinations, and can never make any progress.

“Pakistan is under siege.”

We had enemies from the very first day. With time, the list of our enemies grew longer. So much so that today we have neighbors not friendly to us and a world all hostile to us. We are alone in a wilderness created of our own. Isn’t it Greek mythology whose gods and monsters we have resurrected in ourselves? Like the one-eyed monster, we have no second eye to look inward. This on the one hand has transformed us completely into subjects perfectly suitable for psychological pursuits. Or, for instance, how can a judge of a higher court find fault with bare feet of a dancer, and ban it? Or how can his ability and capacity to judge be explained? (One of my friends says it’s a foot fetish!) Go through any book of psychology, and see we are afflicted with almost all the disorders identified there.

On the other hand, this lack of inner eye has deprived us of that touch of philosophical contemplation and composition which is so integral to the continuity of peaceful human co-existence. In every nook and cranny of our society, from a hut to GHQ, and from a patient to the President, we have laid Procrustean beds and are on guard no one unfits it. Those who are over-sized are cut down, and those who are under-sized are pulled up to match the bed’s length. In a sense, we watered and environmentaled all the seeds to grow into the same and, lo, we have Bonsais all around us. Rather, we have shrubs unheard of in the botanical history which are eating out one another, and stretching their tentacles to far off lands to gulp others; it is as if we are working on an agenda of self-annihilation.

At the same time, we have started ‘exporting’ our principles of experimentation with human beings to other regions also. We are packaging our Procrustean beds for other people, and use all means fair or unfair to ‘market-impose’ them, and are thus causing other people to revive their own Procrustean beds and bring them again into practice. This may turn the whole world into a big Procrustean bed!

Alas, our ideological adventurers are no better than Procrustes. In a sense, they are worse! Procrustes used to hack off or stretch his victims to fit his bed, we kill all who unfit our beds, and in some cases, we kill all no matter they fit or unfit our beds. We have left Procrustes far behind in sizing human beings.

How’s that that we have turned into such monsters? Are we different from other people genetically? Some people believe that is so; but that is an expression of distrust and anger. All of us belong to the same progenitor. It is mainly our mental, intellectual, psychological and philosophical make-up and thus our behavior that differentiates us from each other. Otherwise we are the same biological entity.

As it is, like others we are a product of two things, first, what we are endowed with by birth, and second, what we learn and acquire on our own. We are all born with almost the same capacity to learn unless it is some disability that retards us; so naturally there is complete freedom available to everyone to learn and acquire what he wants to learn and acquire. In a sense, it’s the ultimate freedom that if realized can enable us to be master of our destiny. That is, we are free to be what we want to be.

However, some of us happen to make a discovery of an immeasurable magnitude. Somehow, they come to believe that they are free to be what they want to be, and in addition to that, they are free to force others to be what those people do or do not want to be. Such people in fact try to be master of others’ destiny, and deprive them of their freedom. Not only do they use every opportunity and manner to further their Procrustean agenda, they manipulate what is available and manufacture what is needed to achieve their Procrustean objectives. They have no regard for what exists outside of them.

It is rather an edgy difference that distinguishes such people who live to control and mould other people’s lives according to their ideas from those who teach and preach other people to live in accordance with their philosophies. It’s no matter of persuasion or submission, i.e. getting someone converted to your ideas on the one hand by using rhetoric or reason or reward, and on the other, by using fear or force or fraud. This difference is informed among other things by the eternal issue of means and ends, i.e. ends do not justify means. Hence, if one wants to persuade or coerce others into submitting to his ideas there is an inherent danger of curtailing or snatching other people’s freedom. That way others lose their freedom. The issue of corporal punishment to learners is a derivative of the same debate.

But to make this debate possible and also to have it to continue, a theory of conduct is desperately needed in Pakistan. This actually is a sine qua non for all existence let alone for the human existence. That, everyone is free to have his ideas, change them, abandon them, and dispose of them in whatever manner he deems fit, and at the same time he is all free to live according to his own ideas. That no one with whatsoever mandate, personal or otherwise, has any authority to impose himself upon others and to take back others’ freedom on any pretext personal or otherwise. All knowledge presupposes this freedom.

It may be objected that it is practically socially impossible to allow so many individuals to live like that save at the expense of social harmony and peace. That may be so! However, first there is morality and then there is law that takes care of the difference, discord, disharmony, and conflict and clash among individuals of a community.

Morality needs no enforcement; it is sort of self-discipline and a pragmatic way of life though for those who know the value of moral principles and their centrality to human co-existence. Law requires to be enforced by an authority. In this it is as lame as morality. Both are intrinsically orphan waiting to be adopted by some foster parents: moral principles are open to be adopted by, rather obligatory for, every individual be he an ordinary or an extraordinary person, whereas law must be enforced by an authority, which is nothing more than a collection of persons, duly vested with its enforcement. It is of the nature of law that its ignorance by anyone is never construed as an excuse to seek alibi, instead it is binding to all and all are equal before law.

This does not mean that both morality and law lie entirely within their own independent realms. How can we elevate a person to a law office who is morally corrupt? The issue of the present chief justice’s daughter’s enhanced marks is a case in point. Also, how can an outlaw be declared morally upright? The case of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is not entirely irrelevant provided he should have been cleared by an independent court of all the accusations and allegations brought against him by anyone. Morality preconditions, contextualizes and encompasses law.

Against this backdrop, present circumstances of the Pakistani state are extremely hopeless. It needs no painstaking to bring out the rampant moral-lessness, value-lessness, and law-lessness at every level of our society. We are all witness to it. Rather, part of it. But isn’t it the same cliché everyone is wont of using? Yeah, apparently it seems so. But the argument this article is going to make is different.

To blame all or to accuse all is jut meaningless. Likewise, to characterize a society by anything is just like crying over spilt milk. To say that Pakistani society has no morals, no values, no norms, and no principles to follow or that it is a lawless society is just empty talk. Also, it does not mean, as is usually implied, that there are good moral principled or law-abiding people in every society, and we have our share of such goody-goodies.

As argued earlier, the nature of morals is different from laws; no prescribed punishment is attached with them and everyone is free to follow or defy them, so no responsibility can be fixed for transgressing morals or values, norms or principles. In that they are a private thing. Some private organizations and institutions use them as laws, i.e. they punish their members or employees in case of violations of their adopted norms. They are private because no one owns and implement them, i.e. no collective authority possesses them and their enforcement. Hence, the meaningless and emptiness of the statement that our society is devoid of all morals, values, norms and principles! Hence, the lack of fixing any responsibility whatsoever for any violation by anyone!

That’s completely different in the realm of laws. All the laws are absolutely meaningful and full of content. We may decry them, analyze them, and expose their content and intent. All the laws are written with clearly defined terms of punishment in case of their violation. We may criticize and declare these as inhuman or savage. This enables the fixing of responsibility beyond any doubt at least within a demarcated domain of adjudication. That is why all the statements made on the bases of law always amount to clearly defined meanings and fixed responsibility.

Thus, when this article talks of Pakistan as a lawless society, and as a society without any morals or values or norms, it definitely means something different from just what the above-mentioned cliché hints at. What this article means is clearly in terms of fixing responsibility, and of course not just the lamentable state of our society. It talks of a definite relationship between morality and law as it manifests in our society. In other words, it purports to formulate a thesis that throughout the six decades of Pakistan the absence of rule of law has negatively impacted on all of our moral and social values, and the efficacy of norms and principles for a virtuous life, and thus the responsibility both for turning Pakistan into a lawless society and utter degradation of the values is but on the shoulders of those who were lawfully and constitutionally vested with establishing rule of law, dispensing justice, and protecting life and property, and rights and freedoms of all the citizens of Pakistan without any discrimination, and also those who were lawfully designated to aid in the fulfillment of these basic duties of the state but instead of following their lawful functions they violated them with pronounced disregard, and it were they who played the major and active role in destroying the value system in Pakistan. No damage is greater than that.

Thus, it is the utter disregard for law and its deliberate trashing verily by those who were trusted with its sanctity and custody that hacked at the root of all morality. As in spite of many a religious teaching and their doctrine of reward and punishment, and as it is evident from people’s outward behavior and practically from their actions also, that they have already learned that that is all what is here in this world. Likewise, centuries’ experience of lawless and immoral governments and rulers made people learn how to live without any value system or in the midst of a value system that is based on the efficacy of force. This experience may be generalized thus: it is the absence of rule of law that nourishes and strengthens not only law-lessness but moral-lessness and value-lessness also. Because, in a sense, in such a society sticking to morals, values and principles does not pay. In our case, it is more than that since instead of paying it makes one lose what he already possesses. Hence, in a perfect vacuum of law majority of people abandon all morality.

In point of fact, if we do not let laws rule, reign of lawlessness will prevail. If we do not establish rule of law, rule of criminals will emerge. If the rule of criminals establishes itself, all the traces of morality will disappear. What else have we got in Pakistan other than that? Actually the absence of rule of law was not accidental in Pakistan. It was not done in ignorance. It is a cold-blooded crime. What greater evidence is required to prove that point but the way the rule of law movement has been thwarted first by the military elite and then by the Pakistan Peoples Party government in unison with their masters. This has pushed the crisis to its peak point where endures no law and no morality in Pakistan.

There are three main culprits lawfully and constitutionally responsible for bringing Pakistan on the brink of the precipice. First, it is the military elite which represent force; second, it is the judicial elite which represent law; and then, it is the political elite which represent democratic mandate. Far from fulfilling their lawful and constitutional duties all these elites constantly acted in violation of those duties. Instead of honoring their constitutional mandates, all these elites stepped out of their constitutional domains and made a travesty of everything from law and constitution of the land to morality. Last but not least, they all in collusion seized the state of Pakistan and set to further their elitist agenda to the best of their interests.

Briefly dwelling on their destructive role, it is sufficient to mention that: how the military elite staged coups, suspended and disfigured the constitution, ruled the country by force, and exercised its influence from behind while it was not present on the scene. How the judicial elite validated these coups starkly against the dictates of the constitution, allowed the transgressors to rule and to amend the constitution. How the political elite perennially betrayed their democratic mandate and the cause of the fundamental rights of the people who put them into power, how it played in the hands of the military elite and how in complicity with it it never let those institutions, such as independent judiciary, rule of law, come into existence and strengthen which could safeguard the rights and freedoms of the people, and how it validated the dictators-forced amendments in the constitution.

The worst form of lawlessness which we are witnessing today in most of the areas of Pakistan such as those on the border of Afghanistan and the biggest city of Karachi is the ultimate result of all these criminalities of these elites. Their grabbing and transforming of Pakistan into an elitist state was the greatest tragedy that could happen to a country. These elites deprived the state of Pakistan from playing its due role, i.e. the role of an arbitrator, mediator, moderator, and a referee, the task of which is to arbitrate, mediate, moderate, and referee between the two or more disputant parties and settle and resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of both or all irrespective of the nature of those conflicts which may belong to the realm of civil, political, economic rights, or relating to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. In other words, they stripped the state of its protective function, i.e. protection of its citizens’ life, property and rights and freedom.

At the worst, these elites made the state of Pakistan itself one of the disputant parties. Not only politically, and economically, did the state stand by one party but spiritually and religiously also it took sides, and emerged as a contestant itself. This divided the society deeply negatively, and turned Pakistan permanently into an arena where countless tugs of wars were and are being fought to gain the control over the state. The resultant internal strife consumed the energies of both the state and the society of Pakistan. It’s the same fire that is burning us today.

It is in this context that the nature and intent of the Objectives Resolution may best be explained though it contained cursory mention to people’s fundamental rights too. Also, this helps understand the acute constitutional crisis that afflicted Pakistan in its formative years till the constitution of 1973 was agreed upon and enforced. In retrospective, it is easier to analyze how this constitution was made possible in 1973.

Actually, the period till 1973 is all fraught with a neck and neck fight between the two major elites, military and political to take control of the state. The making and unmaking of various governments and constitutions during this period is sufficient to prove the point. The judicial elite being too week to take sides on its own, permanently relaxed in the lap of the powerful one; while the political elite when apparently in power always, as it is doing today, tried to subdue it to its dictates but failed repeatedly.

However, it was in the early 1970s that in the wake of the first general elections and the subsequent cut-throat power struggle between two major victor parties, i.e. Awami League and Pakistan Peoples Party, in which military elite put its weight on the side of the political elite of the Western wing of Pakistan, and as a result of which Bangladesh came into being, that the military elite was at its weakest. The war that Pakistan army lost in the Eastern wing found about a hundred thousand of its army men as prisoners of war in India and it had left that elite too frail and unprepared to assert itself and its supremacy. That is how the constitution of 1973 sailed through. As it is, the hands that resuscitated the fainted patient were hacked off just after four years in 1977 and once again the military elite established its rule.

Thus, the state of Pakistan gradually reached a point where today it has lost all moral and constitutional legitimacy. By taking on a role of a party and completely abandoning its protective role and the role of a mediator and referee, it let the Pandora’s political box open. From the very beginning ensued a fierce struggle between the various sections of the society, in addition to the two bigger elites the military and the politicians, to gain the control of the state which with the passage of time intensified. All the power politics, and its offshoots such as the military takeovers, constitutional breakdowns, political, economic, cultural and religious persecutions are the major milestones on this way down.

It was during the last days of the People’s Government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that the Pandora’s religious box’s lid was slid a bit (the Pandora’s economic box had already been smashed into pieces in his government’s earlier years), but it was wide-open during the 3rd military coup when General Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial Law disfigured everything civil, moral, lawful and constitutional in Pakistan. Since then, we have witnessed the creation of a number of (and strengthening of the previously existing) armed and un-armed political and non-political, religious and non-religious mafia like groups vying for the control of the state to enforce their agendas. The armed groups found the Zia-ul-Haqqian environment especially conducive for their growth.

The same phenomenon of the absence of a genuinely neutralized and legitimized state let loose countless autonomous entities, from individual persons to well-knit groups, which monopolized the use of force to promote their interests and ideologies. They started making use of every thing and every means no matter moral or immoral, legal or illegal, constitutional or un-constitutional, peaceful or forceful, to compel the individual citizens to believe and behave but in accordance with their prescribed ideological manuals. This gave rise, in addition to political and economic, to moral and cultural policing in every street and at every road throughout Pakistan. In sum, that was the final touch to the siege from within.

That siege from within arrested the creative and enterprising spirit of the nation and left it in a completely dried, wrung and barren state. No sphere of life, learning, earning and recreation could escape that mischievous moral policing. Woman was particularly the target of that devilry. She was no more an individual; rather debased to the status of a soul-less object. The tentacles of moral policing trespassed every encirclement of human civilization from one’s privacy to the premises of someone’s home. No one remained safe even within one’s house. The lot of the ordinary people was made miserable; they were turned into helpless prisoners in their own homes.

Socially and politically, it begot the worst type of parasites. As the siege retarded the real spontaneous growth, a parasitic economy emerged. From a pariah to a president, no one was happy to earn fairly and honestly. Everyone who got the opportunity whether he was a laborer or an industrialist tried to take advantage of it to amass wealth by grabbing other people’s money i.e. tax money in whatever manner he could do that. All politics became the art of living and living lavishly at the expense of others. Outside government, goons and mafia live like that.

Such are the times and circumstances we are living in. That’s the Pakistan we are having today. This article has only generalized what is happening around. No examples have been given since they abound. No mentions have been made, save a few, since there are innumerable staring us in the face. The first thing we need to know is that we are not under siege from outside, but from within. That’s the hard truth! That is what this article has attempted to show. Also, it has tried to show how that siege was laid to.

However, what this article has avoided to venture at is why we were besieged from within? That such a question pertains to the realm of psychology which may not provide us with a satisfactory answer is what the writer has no quarrel with. In his view, even if we find the answer to that question why an oppressor behaves like an oppressor, it will not help a bit to stop him from behaving like that.

Also, it is the weaker, the oppressed one who is the real culprit; it is he who lets the oppressor oppress him whereas it is characteristic of the human spirit that it is absolutely free, i.e. we have an absolutely free soul. When one makes him believe that he has been besieged, he is not free. He is free only when he fights to break the siege. It is admitted that harder is to fight against the siege from within than from without because our enemy is inside us. But fight we have to go for.

Thus the second thing we need to know is that we are free and we can make that siege disappear. What is possible and is practicable is that we the ordinary people, we the oppressed ones, we the besieged ones, do not let the oppressor oppress us, the besieger besiege us. We need to be self-assured that we are not victims, that we are free people. It is as simple as that. It is our natural and inalienable right not to be besieged by anyone, not to be oppressed by anyone. But by just law alone! In case, we have been oppressed, laid siege to, be it from within or without, it is morally incumbent on us to assert and stand for our rights and freedoms, and struggle for that siege to be lifted. That’s the simple way ahead to the resolution of our complex problems! That’s what we are required to follow in Pakistan for the siege from within to be lifted once and for all to regain the lost paradise of our rights and freedoms!

Note: This article was completed in December 2008.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Legislating middleman’s ouster

The middleman tends to be eliminated . . . He can only be safely eliminated by natural processes. Sometimes he is of real use and helps production; sometimes he is not; but this cannot be decided by a blind strike, but only by allowing the forces of competition to act upon him.
[Hon. Auberon Herbert]

Every time Pakistan Muslim League (N) comes to govern in Punjab, it tries its hands at innovative approaches to solve some of the crucial problems facing ordinary citizens. But unfortunately all of them prove unproductive, consume resources wastefully, and leave the ‘attempted problem’ in a greater mess. An important case in point is the problem of public transport - requiring resolution since long. In this regard, every new innovation can be cited as evidence for its previous failure. It seems the Party is fond of focusing on public transport, and whenever it is in power, unsparingly goes for a newer innovation to solve it, and in the end when fails miserably, comes with another innovation. Ironically, the problem remains intact, rather gets complicated.

Other examples include Sasti Roti (cheaper loaf) Scheme, Danish Schools, and the latest innovation, the removal of the middleman from markets. Last month, it was reported in the newspapers that ‘the government is preparing a Punjab Agricultural Produce Marketing Act to ban middleman from fruit and vegetable markets and allow the purchasers and sellers to interact directly with one another.’ The official further disclosed government’s ‘comprehensive plan to establish modern markets in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).’

The details of the plan envisage: that ‘sellers and purchasers would be registered in their respective markets. Market committees would be authorized to charge a registration fee from them. Special Agricultural Marketing Boards would be formulated to control and regulate the affairs of the market. Market Committee’s fee ratio, which currently stands at 0.1 per cent, would be doubled, and the administrators of these committees would be elected by the stakeholders.’

This new innovation derives its inspiration from the age-old prejudice against the middleman. The prejudice declares middleman as an un-necessary link in the production-consumption chain. The product should come from the producer directly to the consumer, it fancies. Anyone putting himself anywhere between the producer and the consumer factually increases the cost and thence price of the product also. The innovative legislation meant to oust the middleman from the fruit and vegetable markets tries to do the same: bringing down the price of fruits and vegetables.

Let’s raise some pertinent questions to analyze the ‘scheme’ aiming at reducing the prices of fruits and vegetables. Does this venture (rather adventure! Wasn’t Sasti Roti an adventure?) require USAID to jump in with its Dollars? Yeah, but really it might have provided the cue to this project! Here is a pack of dollars, do you have a project to claim it, seems to be the motivation behind this venture. Assume it’s not the case. Assume the proposed legislation sincerely aims at price reduction. But has this legislation given thought to other ways of reducing prices? Has it done a cost-benefit analysis of the whole scheme?

Usually minds in any government are not mindful of such things. They never take into account unintended consequences of their actions. They think like gods: the day we enforce it, this is going to take place as we planned. Before this legislation comes into force, representatives of the Kissan Board have registered their objection. They have ‘pressed upon the government to continue with the current system since the new policy would affect thousands who were earning their livelihood by working as middlemen.’

Again, by this proposal, government’s own agenda stands defeated. Most of the governments, and almost all the political parties, which declare themselves as the self-proclaimed defenders of the poor use this argument, this time Kissan Board is making against this PML (N)’s provincial government. Why by this ouster leave thousands of families without their livelihood? Instead, the PML (N) government should promote the cause of the middleman and facilitate them. Aren’t they poor? But the ways of those who come to be in government are strange, devoid of logic and common sense as well. Aim at reducing the prices of fruits and vegetables and snatch livelihood from thousands of poor citizens!

However, the argument this writer wants to put forward is different. He considers middlemen a necessary link in the production-consumption chain. They are by default an indispensable part of the process of economic growth.

Any producer or grower would aim at earning more and more profit. If he is not a cheat, he would try to bring forth quality products at competitive prices to his respective market. To achieve this, he would try to keep the cost of his products lower, and most of the times producers and growers do not invest in making their products reach end-point consumers. They appoint agents or sole agents or distributors, or whatever arrangement is feasible. However, sometimes they do distribute their products but still not to the end-point consumers. That increases cost and requires specialization, at the least. It is only for the small producers, such as bakeries, who have their distribution in their hands, but again they just deliver their products to another link in the chain, the shopkeepers doing business in the vicinity of end-point consumers. When these businesses grow, they do have services of specialized distributors.

Not only comes the middleman in between the two points of production and consumption, but he is an essential part of various stages of both production and consumption also. Vendor industries, specialized importers, general order suppliers, etc, are necessary to facilitate the process of production. Who can ignore all important sectors providing various specialized research, consultancy and technical services to producers, traders, and distributors!

In view of this, the proposed legislation is but an attempt ‘to bomb the fruit and vegetable market to stone age.’ There is a producer and there is a consumer – bring them not closer, but face to face, and that will minimize or at best wipe out the cost of inputs by the middleman and margin of his profit also. That’s the fancy economics! But what about the cost of regulating this or that market? In this case, fruit and vegetable market, for which sellers and purchasers will be registered; they will be charged a registration fee; Special Agricultural Marketing Boards will be formed to control and regulate the affairs of the markets; market committee’s fee ratio will be doubled from 0.1 % to 2 %; and the administrators of these market committees will be elected by the stakeholders.

May one ask who will bear the cost of all this regulatory arrangement? No doubt, the end-point consumers in the name of whom and for the benefit of whom this very arrangement is going to be erected. Whether the middleman who is the target of this proposed legislation will be ousted or not is yet to be seen till this arrangement comes into force!

Before concluding, it is important to take up the issue from another angle. Let’s try to understand how fruit and vegetable markets work. These are specific, known places where sellers and buyers come to trade. Otherwise, they would be trying their luck here and there – sellers looking for buyers, and buyers for sellers. Those who own Addas (shops) in these markets, and are known as Thariyas (sort of platform for sellers and buyers to negotiate the deal), provide various services both to the sellers and buyers, but basically to sellers, and for this they charge in kind or a percentage of the proceeds from the sellers. These Thariyas fulfill a necessary function. Should sellers have no place to do their trade in a specific market, they will not be able to sell their products on competitive prices. Thariyas help them sell their produce. Sure, not every grower or one who brings fruits and vegetables to market can own an Adda in the market, or won’t find it beneficial to his business.

The second entity working in the market is Arhti – one who purchases quantities of fruits and vegetables in bulk either directly from the farmers or from other agents or traders who bring them to the market from far off places. Then, in turn, he using the services of the Thariya for keeping, storing and putting his items to sale, sells his purchases in smaller quantities to small vendors and shopkeepers. Why this link in this chain? What purpose does he serve? Thariya may or may not be an Arhti, but usually he is not, since this may increase his cost of doing business. The Arhti performs certain functions which Thariya would not like to. He sells smaller quantities to small vendors usually not on cash payment but through deferred payment which needs to be made on the next purchase or as agreed upon. The Arhti takes risk on two counts: first, he purchases perishable items in bulk; and second, he deals in deferred payments which may not be made at all or in due time. But he has to fulfill his responsibilities in the market regarding promises and payments.

In principle, these markets are open, there is no ban (but which the PML (N)) government proposes to put) on anyone not to purchase or sell this much or that much quantity of fruits and vegetables, and it is a genuine trade and rightful trading. It seems it is this link in this chain, the Arhti, (the explicit target of the government) which the proposed legislation aims at removing. Is government justified in this middleman’s ouster?

In point of fact, no link in any production-consumption chain is purposeless, unless it is created or imposed from without. Argument has this that it does serve certain function, otherwise other chain links would not allow it to remain there. The Arhti, the middleman, in the fruit and vegetable market connects the chain since he performs certain functions by investing and taking risks, and thus in his own position of middleman facilitates the efficient movement of fruits and vegetables to the end-point consumers.

Thus, the conclusion may not be far from truth that the intention of the PML (N)’s provincial government is mala fide and solely based on a prejudice. Also, it is no different from, and part of governmental traditions to plan and impose things on the market from without. May it be submitted to the PML (N) and its government that leave the fruit and vegetable market to work it on its own, and it will exclude any link which proves to be un-necessary to its working. Better the PML (N) and its government in Punjab focus on its duty of maintaining law and order, protecting person and property of its citizens, curbing the terrorists influence. And, finally if it is too fond of benefiting the ordinary citizens, it should put its energies to ensure competition in the market. In short, it should mind its own business, and let the fruit and vegetable market mind its own.

Note: This article was completed in February, 2011.