COMMENT: Setting standards —Mujahid Eshai - Thursday, November 25, 2010

Source :\11\25\story_25-11-2010_pg3_3

There exist enough vested interests to ensure that turmoil persists in one form or the other, because this chaos feeds their egos, lines their pockets, and prolongs their self-assumed leadership role. The vested interests, whether they lie in the bureaucracy, amongst politicians or self-appointed religious leaders, are all out to make money for themselves

What times we live in! The Hajj arrangements have now turned scandalous. A state of war, as if this was the only thing needed by Pakistan in these days and times, has been reportedly declared between the two sects of Sunni Muslims in Pakistan. The prime minister has told two ministers in his vast cabinet, representing the respective sects, to cool it. Nothing obviously remains sacred or untainted in the country now. To top it all, the women’s cricket team of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan goes on to win the gold medal at the Asian Games. The schisms in society are now completely in the open though a fatwa (decree) on the success of the women is eagerly awaited.

One has, for some time, been convinced that the future of this country lies in the hands of the young and the women in particular. The women are focused, whether it is politics, business, industry, sports, education, civil liberties, fashion or whatever else, and determined to succeed. Education, economic needs and a more open approach towards combating the realities of life in society have contributed to this happy state of affairs. But this has been a tremendous battle so far and there is still a fairly long way to go. The male chauvinists that abound in this society will not let go easily on one pretext or the other. But one is sure that the women of Pakistan will eventually succeed in creating the role for themselves that they are destined to play. More power to them!

But let us get back to the purported Hajj scandal duly sanctified by the letter from the royalty in Saudi Arabia and a promise of refunding 250 Saudi riyals to the affected Hajjis. The religious and Hajj ministries have finally been exposed. It is immaterial whether the minister had anything to do with the matter or not. What matters is whether we know where the buck stops. Just to clarify matters, by buck one does not mean the payout of dollars, riyals or euros; it merely means responsibility for whatever happens within one’s domain or field of control. One can, at this stage, only surmise and say that whether this was a contrived affair, a result of some heinous plotting by those who wanted the person in the ministerial chair tarred and tainted, or the folly of those who saw an opportunity to make quick money, they have established beyond doubt - if some still existed - that everything and everyone is for sale in this country. Integrity, piety, professionalism and honesty are words that appear to have gone out of our dictionary. No one cares a hoot for the image of the country or the increasing lack of credibility that surrounds the holder of the green passport. All that matters is making quick money at any cost.

The turmoil within the country is also the responsibility of our own citizens, a majority of whom, 63 years on, still live below or on subsistence levels. There exist enough vested interests to ensure that turmoil persists in one form or the other, because this chaos feeds their egos, lines their pockets, and prolongs their self-assumed leadership role. The vested interests, whether they lie in the bureaucracy, amongst politicians, self-appointed religious leaders or, for that matter, anyone rendering any service, are all out to make money for themselves. However, there is never any follow up, there is never any sentencing and what little exists is soon termed as ‘cooked up’ charges and forgotten. Scores of people have been arrested for creating turmoil and law and order situations, many for planning suicide bombings, but where are they all? The few cases that have been referred to the judiciary are sooner or later thrown out for lack of concrete, reliable evidence. So, is all of this a no-end game? Are we playing charades? And, to top it all off, the Chief Minister sahib bahadur decides to let all such alleged criminals go scot-free! Whose interest are all these people serving?

Is there a solution to this incomprehensible state? Yes, but the desire for wanting a more honourable state of affairs has to be expressed through action and not rhetoric, and should be seen as firmly implemented by everyone, beginning from the top. This may be difficult and not very agreeable for a very large number of people but one can feel assured that the majority would heave a sigh of relief. We all keep talking of having a policy of zero tolerance on all matters. Excellent, but what does it really mean? Those of us who are vociferous in demanding this have hopefully applied it within our own households and working places. Very simply, what it means is that no favours are to be done or asked for, no doors or gates of any kind will be open to anyone, and all issues shall be determined or decided on merit. This also means complete obedience to all laws by all and sundry. Is this society ready to follow such a policy or is it to remain a utopian thought?

This brings one back to the role of women in any society. As a mother, she is tasked to train the child and deal with all of her children fairly and equally, encouraging them to do better and look at the world with introspection. This is why her own education is absolutely vital and no government or party should block this path. Women must have a greater role to play in mainstream life. This certainly does not mean that they turn into libertines but what it means is that they should be able to contribute to the creation of a more tolerant and mature society over a period of time, which in turn is what we all desire: a clean, healthy and competitive society with respect for law and order. So, let us hope for greater support to the cause of women’s education at all levels and an enhanced participation by them in all facets of life.

The writer is a fellow and former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan. He also served as a member of the Federal Ad Hoc Public Accounts Committee

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