The failure of institutions | Pakistan Today

The failure of institutions

  • Institutions are the basis of the rule of law

One of the most convincing theories regarding why nations prosper or fail places the credit (or blame) squarely on the institutions belonging to the country, on whether or not they function as they should, and whether or not they cater to the population without discrimination. All other factors aside, this best explains why countries like Pakistan have failed as spectacularly as they have done.

It is a lingering legacy of our colonial past that we insist on being colonized by segments of our own society, being ruled by persons whose have little or no interest in doing their job. We still possess cantonments which were originally garrisons for an occupying army, a total of 56 in the entire country of which 27 are in the Punjab alone. Government departments throughout the country are headed by a ‘bara sahab’ to replace the ‘gora sahab’ who must be obeyed. He ‘rules’ without reference to rules, and rarely for the good of the public he is supposed to serve. Democracy has not as yet filtered into the psyche of the people, who still follow whatever smacks of colonial masters who left this country just over 72 years ago. That psyche has now become so ingrained that people cannot see injustice for what it is, instead they view it as the rightful exercise of authority.

They have little choice in many cases. Poverty and the threat of further loss of income is one of the strongest motivations in any human being’s life. Whereas for those who are more affluent it is the threat of loss of power that leads them down unwise paths. If either of these segments of society were truly subject to the law without taking into account their financial powers, they would receive justice.

The latter seems to be how it is with Maulana Aziz who refuses to give up his position as the khateeb of Lal Masjid in Islamabad and has holed himself up in the mosque with some armed supporters.

In a country where institutions worked, someone like this Maulana would probably have had a much greater respect for the repercussions of his actions, and he would have had little support in society. Maulana Aziz however is relying on force and the strength of his armed supporters to win his argument, and to get him out of his tight corner at the end of the day.  He might even succeed so long as he does not shave off his beard and gives vent to statements liberally sprinkled with Arabic. That would be his ‘power-speak’, like the leaders the ultra-right aspire to. In the public’s eyes he will then represent a member of the inviolate clergy, a ‘anti-Hindu’ hero.

The Prime Minister, if he genuinely wishes to do anything for this country, would do well to strengthen its institutions, to provide security and economic well-being to its people so they may have a stake in life as citizens. The way to do the latter is not to dole out cash via programmes worth billions but to make sure that the citizens’ ventures are protected by the law, and that they have the education to see what is right and wrong for themselves.

Depending on the outcome of this event he may even win support in society at large as a consequence of standing up to the authorities, something that few people manage to do but many aspire to, because they recognize the injustice that stems from it. After all, if a man such as Ehsanullah Ehsan could escape the security authorities and leave the country taking his family with him, why can’t Maulana Aziz get what he asks for? Ehsan was after all actually in custody, he was the spokesperson for the banned groups TTP and JuA which were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of persons both civilian and military.  Which institution worked in his case? Intelligence authorities were silent regarding the event which was in fact first publicized by an Indian newspaper around a week after his escape. His escape was a discredit to the law enforcement authorities who had custody of the man and allowed him to escape. Most of all the very existence of the groups he belonged to, and their continued existence, is a slap in the face of the authorities who appear unable to control either the imprisonment of a known murderer or the defiance of a man who brazenly demands the restoration of his job and the allotment of land at the point of a gun.

The Prime Minister, if he genuinely wishes to do anything for this country, would do well to strengthen its institutions, to provide security and economic well-being to its people so they may have a stake in life as citizens. The way to do the latter is not to dole out cash via programmes worth billions but to make sure that the citizens’ ventures are protected by the law, and that they have the education to see what is right and wrong for themselves.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/



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