Social Inequality is The Mother of All Our Problems
by Asif Haroon Raja
The social stratification and social mobility both are considered to be pre-requisite for a developing nation to enter the developed world. However, the ‘class system’ cuts at the root of equality without which any country is fragile. A heterogeneous society like Pakistan is divided and gaps between different classes are widening with every passing day. Almost 36 million people live below poverty line. Half of adult population is still unable to read or write. The society is not only divided on the basis of social status and conflicting viewpoints, but also on account of the belief that the less privileged members of society cannot cross the insurmountable barriers between them and those blessed with comforts of life.
The working class is expected to work only while the ruling or elite class is enjoying perks and privileges of life without working. This class based schedule has become a permanent feature and resulted in stagnation of social statures. While the working class toiling under the ever increasing hardships of life looks at the opulent class arrogantly displaying wealth with awe, envy, frustration and resentment, the affluent class remain ever hungry and greedy to multiply their wealth through corrupt practices and unprepared to share with the poor. They want laws to be applied on the poor only and themselves to remain above law and to be treated as holy cows.
The privileged class fervently protects its wealth, power and status. Elections are gerrymandered to keep genuine leaders out of the mainstream and to keep the reins of power in the hands of their families. Defective political and electoral systems fail to throw up leaders of quality. Politicians cheat the nation by entering the electoral contest without genuine degrees and without meeting the criteria laid down by Election Commission, or the constitution which mandate that good and competent people are elected. Even the Army Generals when in power have also failed to ensure that clean people are allowed to contest elections.
During election campaign they raise false slogans of democracy and welfare of the poor but after getting elected they neither abide by democratic norms nor take any purposeful steps to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Rather, they aggravate their miseries. Being status quo lovers, any voice raised to change the rotten system is muffled. Merit is flouted and nepotism and cronyism under the plea of reconciliation is practiced. Their wards keep climbing up the social ladder without hard work and manage to get lucrative posts in government departments or get elected as legislators and senators.
Most of political elites have huge banks accounts in foreign banks and posh residences in Dubai, UK and USA and their children study in prestigious universities abroad. Their lifestyle, attitude and mindset are different to ordinary people of the country to which they belong. The only link they have with people of Pakistan is the vote which helps them in acquiring power and in filling up their coffers with ill-gotten wealth. To become a lawmaker and to snuggle into the coveted legislature, they wear a deceptive mask to fool the gullible masses that they are poor-friendly, pro-democracy and are against feudal lords, big industrialists and generals. They fire salvos against all such elements that are despised by the public so as to gain their confidence.
They make tall promises and lead them up the garden path promising them moon if voted to power. They spend lavishly on all public gatherings because they are sure to earn many times more what they spent once they attained ministerial slot. No sooner they get elected, they get detached from those who had elected them and get engrossed in money making pursuits or settling scores with their opponents and extending benefits to their near ones, cronies and those who can give something in return. Corruption, taking commission in all projects and kickbacks in all agreements with foreign countries; land grabbing, hoarding, manipulating stock exchange, milking public corporations and taking non-returnable loans are some of the favorite means adopted to multiply their wealth. While disregarding sentiments and aspirations of the people and making no effort to develop a social contract between them and people, they make sure that America is kept happy.
War on terror at the behest of USA is being relentlessly fought since the elites feel threatened that status quo might be overturned by religious forces. They consider their own people opposing their ideas, way of living and US centric policies a greater threat than India and USA. They have joined up with non-Muslims to kill own countrymen. They are not prepared to stop the self-destructive war which is causing immeasurable socio-politico-economic ruination to the country. They are wedded to the idea planted into their minds by their foreign patrons that extremists are posing an existential threat to Pakistan and must be fought with full force.
They look the other way when women, children and old people get killed by CIA operated drones. They do not feel alarmed and concerned after collecting fool proof evidence of spies and trained operatives of foreign agencies operating in Pakistan disguised as diplomats, security contractors and businessmen. They are not bothered that India is building dozens of dams over rivers flowing into Pakistan to make our fertile lands arid and barren. They don’t feel humiliated when US officials push around Pakistan as if it is their colony.
When the rulers are pressed to get Pakistan out of stranglehold of USA by refusing US aid and dictates, their eyes well up with tears. With choked voice they start narrating the plight of the poor saying as to what will happen to them who could not afford two square meals a day. Behind the cover of the dispossessed whom they treat with rancor and insensitivity, they justify Pakistan’s dependence on US and aid flow. The hypocrites do not divulge that the real purpose of foreign aid is to upkeep the regal lifestyle of the elite which is not more than 10% and not for rest which are destined to live and die in hunger. It is pathetic that our rulers devoid of morality and self-respect have put honour and dignity of the nation on sale.
They are solely concerned about their selfish interests and are least bothered about the welfare of the people and sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan. When the media, Imran Khan and Jamaat-i-Islami leaders show them the mirror about their black deeds they complain that they are biased and unfair. When the law courts try to indict them on mega corruption charges and other wrongdoings they adopt a posture of defiance and wail that they are being wrongly persecuted. They go to the extent of playing ethnic card as was recently seen when controversial NAB chief was shown the door by Supreme Court.
The MQM which is continuing with its usual blackmailing tactics continue to remain a coalition partner with PPP but behaves like an opposition party. Its supremo has given a call to the patriotic generals to jump in and cleanse the Aegean stables and has also desired a bloody revolution to end feudal system which is the bane of the society. The party is desperate to gain a foothold in Punjab to become a national party particularly when it has succeeded in making political ingress in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan. It is on warpath with its coalition partner ANP in Sindh and is estranged with PML-N but has got married up with PML-Q.
While Gen retired Musharraf in exile has launched a new party ‘All Pakistan Muslim League’ on 01 October and is busy mustering support in all the four federating provinces with the help of his loyalists within Q League, MQM and other parties, Choudhry led PML-Q which was getting isolated and weakened due to revolt within the party, it decided to get merged with PML-F and accept Pir Pagara as the leader. Choudhrys kept throwing feelers to PML-N to join in before Musharraf hijacked members from both the parties. Latter refused to excuse the turncoats that had ditched Nawaz in 1999 and formed a King’s Party at the behest of Musharraf in 2001. It has however welcomed unification group of PML-Q headed by Dr Javed and Maneka which claims 47 members of the party in Punjab. Beleaguered Choudhry brothers are sometime clutching the hand of MQM and sometime of the PPP. They have given a commitment to Zardari that they are prepared to become coalition partners with the PPP in the centre and in Punjab.
All those desiring change and in a position to do so are not willing to bell the cat. They want the judiciary or the military to perform the feat so that they could reap the harvest. None has any viable strategy how to bring a change that could prove beneficial for the country. Till very recent, the PML-N harboring serious reservations over bad governance and corruption was not keen to bring down the government and wanted the present regime to complete its full five-year tenure. Since the talk of change has gained high pitch and the ruling regime has refused to bring any change in its conduct and has also decided to confront the higher judiciary, the PML-N has now given a strong hint that it will side with the supreme court and not the ruling regime in case of a clash. Nawaz said that he would welcome a change within the parameters of constitution. Its parting of ways with PPP in Punjab has led to daily rowdy scenes in Punjab Assembly.
Karachi and Balochistan remains turbulent because of unabated target killings and kidnapping for ransom. The two provincial governments led by weak chief ministers are helplessly watching the deteriorating law and order situation. The ISI, MI, IB and FIA have been repeatedly pointing out huge involvement of foreign agencies in Balochistan, FATA, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lahore and Karachi. These agencies have collected clinching evidence of RAW’s involvement in all our restive areas using Afghan soil. Since so many anti-Pakistan agencies are jointly operating in Pakistan for the last so many years, no place is now out of their reach.
Arrest of Raymond Davis and his trial by law court had given a ray of hope to the people that it would unearth the CIA network and its real designs against Pakistan. The big fish was allowed to fly out quietly to Afghanistan at 4.53 pm on 16 March under a secret deal about which the public was not taken into confidence. There is huge resentment among the people since they feel that their rulers have once again sold their souls and bartered away the dignity and honor of the nation to facilitate release of a spy and a double murderer. They got another jolt when next morning North Waziristan experienced one of the bloodiest drone attacks. 44 innocent people holding peace Jirga got killed. There is every reason to believe that Davis gave vent to his pent up anger of seven-week internment. It was a despicable act which has been condemned by all and sundry in Pakistan but hailed by CIA and hawks in Obama Administration and Pentagon. These two events are likely to trigger extremism in Pakistan.
It is unfortunate that our leaders are not taking stock of this grave situation and are keeping their eyes closed to ever increasing American intrusiveness and intervention. Hundreds of Raymond Davis-like commandoes and intelligence goons are wantonly shredding the sovereignty of our country and trying to destabilize Pakistan. Most terrorist acts in urban centres including attacks on religious places are the handiwork of foreign agents. It is like East India Company’s silent invasion under the garb of business. There is no plan in the offing to get rid of them.
We advocate purging of sensitive and elite institutions and weeding out Islamic extremists having links with militant outfits. None feel the need for a purge of pro-American elements in military-police-bureaucracy-parliament-nuclear installations pursuing US agenda. These in my views are more poisonous since they secretly take dictations from a foreign power to harm vital national interests.
Absence of social equality and tranquility and gross difference between way of life of haves and have-nots, lack of justice and ever growing liberalism giving rise to obscenity and permissiveness among the opulent are some of the reasons which bred radicalism and religiosity. Accumulation of grievances among the poor against the rich gave rise to despondency and then to revulsion and anger and ultimately fueled religious extremism and terrorism. Today the unprivileged classes together with the youth are fully charged up. They are restless to throw away the pro-rich decayed system and are yearning to bring a healthy change.
There is neither any mechanism to control social dichotomies nor there is will of the government in power to correct the anomalies since all members of the ruling regime are themselves the product of rich class. With no course correction, the ills keep accumulating. Rulers’ apparent concern for the poor is lip service since they do not believe in social equality. They have deliberately kept the great majority uneducated so as to not only keep the people ignorant of their basic rights but also to maintain a large labor force for their lands. Otherwise there was no earthly reason to have allocated only 2% of the budget for education since 1947. When a social gap widens between the leaders and the led and the former get disconnected with the masses, extremist organizations get an opportunity to slip into the gap. More the gulf, greater will be the space for the third force to gain strength.
It is unfortunate that after the untimely death of Quaid-e-Azam, mini-minds have ruled Pakistan. Visionless pygmy rulers have had neither the will nor the skill or charisma to rectify multiple ills of the society. Leadership crisis is among the major bane of Pakistan. Religious leaders and ulema, instead of preaching tolerance, moderation, high morals and imparting knowledge of Islam, they fan sectarianism and violence. Parents and teachers play little role in building character of the youth.
There is a dire need to make the social fabric cohesive to prevent 1971 like tragedy. Until and unless upward social mobility based on equality is promoted and evenhanded social justice for all is practiced, religious extremism and desire for Sharia will keep growing. Nationalism, patriotism, national integration and economic prosperity which we aspire will remain an illusive dream.
About the Writer: Asif Haroon Raja is a defence analyst and a freelance columnist. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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