By Ahsan Qazi
In a recent video of MPA, Majeed Achakzai that I came across on Facebook, I sat remorseful, disturbed, and frustrated. Majeed Achakzai ran over a traffic police officer without any mercy and any regard for the traffic laws. Such a tragedy was the news of the day on many Pakistani news channels. Achakzai is one of the many examples of Pakistani government officials, including Pakistani military officials who continue to take an advantage of the culture of Nepotism and Elitism. This concept is better known in Pakistan as the VIP culture that speaks of the unprecedented privileges that not only the wealthy capitalist in Pakistan enjoy, but Pakistani government officials and military generals and their children enjoy also. What adds to the frustration and anger is that the police officers who went to arrest Majeed Achakzai did not handcuff the MPA upon his self-surrender. This is a common inclination in Pakistan, not to make a proper arrest when it happens to be a VIP. It speaks of a treatment of the VIPs, a term used from here forth to describe the privileged receive with the sense of entitlement. All acts of lawlessness, savagery, and corruptions pass by unchecked and unpunished, and it happens so because the masses have been conditioned to bend more than standing straight and raising their voices. Those who do raises voices are replaced precisely by the power that comes with being a VIP. Similarly, a significant portion of crowd exists that pleasingly provides a protocol to the VIPs whether it is to serve as a human shield for a VIP, to show a level of support for the VIP in a crowd or escort them with a fleet of unnecessary use of government and personal vehicles. Should the government officials, including military generals and their children be entitled to the privileges that they have been getting on the government’s account? The answer is absolutely not. The tragedy of the traffic police officer’s death not only speaks of my anger over a flawed system that thrives to the present date, it speaks of the over-tipping patience of the Pakistani citizens who continue to tolerate such inequality and misuse of government funds. This toleration can no longer persist. The time is of accountability now, and it is the public who must hold such men accountable.
First, no Pakistani government official and their children should be granted any privileges or perks except what the job post entitles to the Pakistani government employee only. It is a single individual who serves the government and in turn, serves Pakistani people. His family and children are not on government’s payroll; thus, they are not entitled to the privileges that come with a responsibility. Secondly, the government employee is hired to only serve the public. No government officials’ children should be given free airplane, C-130 trips, government vehicles for a joy ride in Pakistan or anywhere else on the government tab. Those who continue to abuse the system, take advantage of the system deprive the masses of equal economic and social opportunities. Above all, it is an unfair practice. While the word “equal” has become a sort of an ideal, a check-and-balance system that is supposed to be present in all levels of the government would certainly set parameters to disallow abuse, if not close the inequality gap. The very funds used to entertain the government officials, provincial employees, and the city employees including their children could be utilized to improve the educational system, the government hospitals, the wages of government employees among amongst other public-serving bodies. To the present day, the Pakistani citizens have been witnessing such a charade; however, the mental strain of abuse and misuse can no longer be suppressed. It ought not to be suppressed, but publicly humiliated. Zia Sarhadi writes in the Crescent Magazine in his “VIP Culture Leading Pakistan to Disaster,” The rich and powerful consider themselves above the law and demand privileges such as an elaborate protocol as a right.” A protocol for a high profile Pakistani government official is a service of government, not an entitlement that comes with just being an employee of the Pakistan’s government, and such a protocol ought to be granted on national or state-level emergency situations only.
Another example that demonstrates a grand level of unjust use of power by government and military officials is to stop all traffic activity even when there are no state-level emergencies. The savagery embedded within the VIP culture as shown in the initial example of Majeed Achakzai’s road rage is similar to that of Abdul Qadir Gilani, the son of the ex-prime minister, Syed Yousef Raza Gilani whose security guard shot and murdered a civilian on a motorbike for not clearing the roadway for his personal ease. This level of viciousness that VIP ideals entitle to the government or the military officials in Pakistan needs to end now. No reason justifies for the VIPs to block the road or demand the masses to make way for them. They are government servants, hired to serve the public. The masses should not make a way for them as their day-to-day routine is equally important. The exceptional cases that would allow for such a treatment are only in the case when Pakistan is at a war against a nation or the government or a provincial state is at a collapsing point. Even in such a case, the Pakistani citizens should remain the priority of the government officials whether they sit in Pakistan’s parliament or wear a military uniform. The examples of the maltreatment executed under the VIP entitlement ideals does not just end there. The case of 10 months old Bisma that cost the infant’s life should not be forgotten. While the little infant struggled to catch a breath to survive as her distressed parents carried her outside the Civic Hospital Karachi because Zardari’s son, Bilawal Bhutto was visiting the hospital, the little child passed away. Why were the parents not granted the access to the medical emergency department? Did the little child really have to die because Bilwal Bhutto was sitting comfortably, surrounded by his sheep in a comfortable chair somewhere in the hospital? We all know the answer to this question, but fail to make a stand. Do the Pakistanis really deserve to be treated in such a manner? The very government officials or so called the future leaders-to-be who promise to work for the citizens cost the citizens peace of mind because they are bred in the VIP culture.
Numerous examples exist where Pakistani masses continue to suffer at the hands of such men who have no respect for the law yet are in charge of running Pakistan’s affairs at a provincial or a federal level. I am reminded of Peter Kropotkin’s words that “In existing States, a fresh law is looked upon a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to it.” It is not the law that is actually needed as a starting point, but a change in the attitude. The Pakistani citizens must change where they see such wrong. The perception should be to see the Pakistani government officials as public servants despite their rank. The public servants are in a position of power, in a position of governance, or in a position of management to meet the demands of public they serve. A law would follow after a change has been made in the attitude of how the Pakistanis perceive individuals with authority, especially the government officials. Kropotkin goes on to note, “The millions of laws, which exist for the regulation of humanity, appear upon investigation to be divided into three principle categories—protection of property, protection of persons, protection of the government. And by analyzing each of these three categories, we arrive at the same logical and necessary conclusion; the uselessness and hurtfulness of law.” Kropotkin’s argues for no law at all; however, his point that laws that are conceived to protect human life, his property, and finally the system in which a man functions, all seem to fail to serve their true purpose. Is this not the case in Pakistan? The government officials that are in a position of power, the MPAs like Majeed Achakzai chose to serve the public end up murdering individuals because they have lived too long in the privilege entitlement bubble.
Pakistanis are amidst cultural, social, and intellectual awakening. This awakening’s foundation is to speak against the prejudices that younger generation no longer tolerates, and it should not rightly so. The overheated pot of patience with the VIPs who continue to abuse the system and treat ordinary citizens as garbage that needs to be swept away as they step on the road needs to end. The next step is not tolerating the VIP and allowing them to benefit from the privileges. The step is to employ any necessary means to put an end to the VIP culture. Today, it cost the life of a traffic police officer who was a road kill, a term generally used for an animal who gets run over and in this case, by a drunk MPA who lied first and then surrendered willingly. Those who want to enforce laws in Pakistan are up against those in the government who use government funds for family retreats, VIP-level privileges for their entire families and have police and supporters at their disposal for a protocol. Pakistani public also needs to break away from the mentality of following a “VIP,” or surrounding him like good sheep. This is a serious matter that should make each and every one of us think. Is this what Pakistan deserves? Pakistanis deserve better. They deserve to see the same respect for law out of all government officials that Pakistanis show or wish to show. The police officer did not need to die in such a brutal manner. Bisma did not need to die at the expense of Bilwal Bhutto’s joy. Hence, Pakistanis are within their right to not clear the roads unless it is a medical emergency vehicle or a police vehicle responding to a distressed call. Any police or security officer who shoots a citizen because they did not accommodate a government official because he or she feels privileged, Pakistanis are within their right to exercise their own law and remove the security officer and the political figure who disrespect a law made for all. If the government officials from a clerk to a high government official, from a casually dressed to a military man, continue to abuse the system, they are messing with a boiling pot of patience that is tipping over to the brink of social and political revolution that will come from people, and the life of such government official may end like that of Ghaddafi or Saddam Hussien. Lastly, Pakistan’s police officers need to protect public before the VIP; that is what the police officers are hired for. The Pakistani police officers need to make proper arrests of MPAs like Majeed Achakzai by handcuffing the guilty rather than arresting in a protocol style.
The Tipping Point of Patience- Nepotism and the VIP Culture in Pakistan
By Ahsan Qazi