Who Betrayed Pakistan: The Rulers or the Voters?
By Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry
“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
- Joseph de Maistre, a French political philosopher
Abu Dhar reported: I said to Messenger of Allah (s); “Why do you not appoint me to an (official) position?” The Noble Prophet (s) patted me on the shoulder with his hand and said, “O Abu Dharr, you are a weak man and it is a trust and it will be a cause of disgrace and remorse on the Day of Resurrection, except for the one who takes it up with a full sense of responsibility and fulfills what is entrusted to him (discharge of obligations efficiently)”. Muslim.
Simple piety or having a burning desire to be in the seat of power without the fullest sense of responsibility, and sincerity is not enough, neither in Islam nor in the art of good governance. Why? Because it is shallow, hollow and is bereft of integrity and character.
A ruler who is weak by nature; is shy of making timely and bold decisions; is devoid of the primary ability to maintain law and order in the country, and establish justice; and most importantly, a leader who is not endowed with sufficient dynamism, vision and foresight to confront and cope with new challenges, demands and situations in a fluid world, and who is not perceptive enough to read the hidden presence of innumerable opportunities even in adversities, and who is deficit in honesty and fairplay, such a leader stands absolutely disqualified on any grounds. People who in violation of the above requisites and warnings, still cast their votes in favor of such self-proclaiming leaders whose character and performance both are tilted and soiled, and who yet keep presenting their credentials like Prophet Yusuf (a) once did - the only exception in Islam who asked for power on the basis of his God-given intelligence and vision to solve the problems. And he saved, not just a county, but regions - then in it is the voters who should be held as the main culprits and not the leaders. “People get what they deserve”.
Leaders elected with such poor choices, and with such mindless and soulless mindset by the voters obviously create havoc. One manta of such leaders when failing and falling is, “These are the problems that we inherited… it is a legacy of the past…”. If this fails not to be taking-off; they resort to the highly suggestive and sly, but the sure way, which being, invent scapegoats and cat’s paws. This is a centuries’ old formula. It keeps one’s hands clear. The failing leader always appears as a paragon of civility and efficiency. His hands never get soiled by the silliest blunders he had made, and the nastiest things he had done; scapegoats help him maintain a spotless and angelic appearance, because it is someone else who becomes the cat’s paw, and not the leader. His crimes and follies always stay hidden and buried. Our leaders in Pakistan without exception have always bred and kept handy a rich supply of scapegoats around them.
Robert Greene in his wonderful book, “Power”, tells us 48 perennial laws that can keep one in power. Our leaders, especially the present lot of the two (the third one who is in the emerging phase, is learning it fast), have mastered themselves in the real art of how to use scapegoats and cat paws effective and timely. The genesis of these two terms is not without interest.
Monkeys and cats are notorious in the art of roguery and fun. Once a master owned both of them. One winter night, the master’s cook placed in the red-hot kitchen fire some nice and plump chestnuts for roasting. Nice and enticing smoke that arose from the chestnuts in the fire reached the monkey’s nostrils. He enticed his bosom friend, the cat, suggesting, “Could you and I not share this dessert the cook is preparing for the master?” “Alas, had I such padded and fluffy claws like you (the cat) have, I’d quickly had tried by now. Lend me a hand, and it will be a coup-de-montre”. Having said that, he grabbed his colleague’s paw, and pulled out the roasted fruit out of the red fire, and crammed it in his jaw. At that moment the master appeared. And off in haste the two marauders scampered. The cat for her share of the plunder got pain, while the monkey’s palate got the daintiest fruit. This 17th century fable is still in vogue though in a different world. It is not hard to figure out as to whom the money represents in our context.
The centuries old Scapegoat theory is equally popular, on a small scale in daily life, and on a grand level in the world of politics. The innocent goat takes upon itself the burden of all the sins and blemishes that men commit in life. After having made a mess with their lives, men often go to a Priest or Pir for atonement. The high Pir or Priest demands that a goat, preferably a black one, be brought. On compliance, he then places his hands on its head, and confesses the people’s sins, and thus transforms the sins, even crimes, and all the guilt to the guiltless goat who is then led to the wilderness and is abandoned (it was done in the past, believing that as the goat would disappear, so shall vanish the people’s sins and blame). These days, instead of exiling the innocent beast in the wilderness, it gets consumed along with the sins and blames that it had supposedly absorbed and ends up in the bellies of the sinners and the saints. Hence the sins keep multiplying instead of getting transferred.
The term, Scapegoat, now is being renamed as, “The Fall of the Favorite”. The Kings of the past applied it on their closest friends; modern day politicians apply it on whatever works. It could be a cult, religion, a sect, a close friend or relative, a foreign power, or a rival. Basically, choosing a very close associate is as effective and it has the same value as the “fall of the favorite”. Men, objects and animals, all are good enough for the practice. At local level, mothers-in-law proverbially use their daughters-in-law as a scapegoat or a cat’s paw. The beauty of this art is that self-correction and confession always remain evasive. Such cures at all levels are just palliative and not clinical.
For Athenians and Aztecs, the scapegoat was human, often a person who would be fed and raised for the purpose. The British Colonial Lords banished this kind of tradition of human sacrifice in India. In this inhuman game of shifting the sins of a whole village to the innocent, they would pick up a poor, rootless and fatherless child, and declare him as a village property, a village darling. The whole village would take care of him, feed him well, and even feel the transference of their sins in serving him. Eventually, on an appointed day, they would tie him to a tree, and intoxicate him with liquor, and then dance around him, and finally kill him jointly by poking spears into his body. The blood that would gush out of his wounds would get collected in pots, and rubbed on bodies on for atonement.
The most tragic part in this game of scapegoating was that the victim himself would become a willing participant. He would get so brainwashed that he would relish this whole gory game, and gloat in the “honor” thus bestowed on him. Voters in Pakistan deserve no sympathy. They can be linked to the sacrificial boy in this old, inhuman custom. They relish the idea for being victims, being helpless, being miskeens. They enjoy the game being enacted on them every now and then, and they happily participate in it. They never understand the motiveless malignity and evil of their leaders.
Politics and staying in power has a well-defined aim for the leaders in Pakistan; politics is what business is to a businessman. Adam Smith, the father of modern Economics was so right when he said that if a butcher sells quality meat; and the baker bakes good bread; they do so not because they are full of the milk of human-kindness; they do so because it primarily serves their own interest, which being the effort attracts more customers and more customers mean more money, and money is market, and market is God. Not so in politics and in business.
Nobody now buys the idea that the currently fallen PM and the formerly maligned PMs, suffered the fate that the Greek heroes had suffered, deserving public’s sympathy. No eye genuinely sheds a tear for them. People if found crying, they do so for their own losses that they fear, would accrue as a result of this fall.
Leaders in Pakistan are motivelessly mean, and inhumanly greedy. Their fall is not because of some minor character flaw, or due to a harmless error of judgment. No, their crimes are crimes in pure and simple terms. The people and the courts opine that they were corrupt; they amassed money beyond their means by abusing the trust and the powers the people of Pakistan had bestowed upon them. They violated the laws of the country. They have ceased to be, “Sadiq and Ameen”. If that were the case, hardly any leader or individual would find himself standing on his feet.
This script’s opinion is entirely different. The fiscal damage they have inflicted on the country and people, can always be recovered. Their real crime is that they have vitiated the whole mindset of people. They have transformed a whole population of Pakistan, once consisting of good, kind, compassionate, caring, hardworking, honest and well-meaning though comparatively poorer into a body of liars, cheaters, and untrustworthy lot of people. Alas, they transferred all their evils into these guiltless people.
People like us (left less than 3% ), who walked into Pakistan on foot in this month some 70 years ago, knew what dreams our elders have had then. Again and again I am reminded of Steinbeck’s beautiful novel, “Of Mice and Men”, in which he presents the idea that I am trying to bring home here. It being that it is not the upper class landowners, ranchers and the rich who become exploiters, callous, and mercilessly cruel as being guided by self-interest and money; it is the exploited and poor and the deprived ones also who begin to adopt the same traits, in their own circles and environments. And this is the worst that can happen to a nation. Alas, this present lot of leaders turned the innocent people of Pakistan into one like them. Neither the vendor nor the butcher, neither the beggar nor the baker, neither the chemist nor the clerk, neither the businessman nor the bureaucrat, neither the priest nor the politician: all are busy in gnawing on each other with a sense of vengeance. A Utopia that Pakistan was bound to be, turned into a Dystopia. My recent visit to Pakistan made me feel like I was an alien in a country that I had served for 25 years. There was a sense of abandonment and cynicism in the people. When the rich become less generous, their riches become a curse. This is the law of Allah. His Grace evaporates from all walks of life. (Continued next week)