WASHINGTON DIARY: The profit of misery: what they know and we do not —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sourcd : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\11\24\story_24-11-2010_pg3_3

The ruling elites induce various crises to make money for themselves and their allies. From the power crisis to sugar shortages, every occasion is used to siphon off billions of dollars to private accounts. The misery of the Pakistani people has become a profitable commodity for the rich and powerful

I keep wondering what it is that Pakistan’s ruling class knows that we common folk are unaware of. The way the country’s majority population is perpetually impoverished and is continually hit by man-made crises — besides natural ones — is heartbreaking for every sensible Pakistani. For common mortals, the government(s) may be facing crises but we do not know if the ruling classes may be benefiting from such disasters. The regularity with which the ruling classes continue plundering the country shows that they are sure that their misdeeds have no future consequences for them and their coming generations. They believe that socio-ethical standards are for foolish idealists while the Darwinian survival (or conquest) of the fittest is the norm.

For the US, India and the rest of the world, the rise of extremism and Talibanisation is the sole notable aspect of Pakistan. The ruling classes of Pakistan also keep pretending that they are consumed with fighting terrorism. However, if one looks at the day-to-day operations of the country, it becomes clear that Pakistan’s ruling classes do not take terrorism that seriously, with the strong belief that jihadists are a marginal group that can be wiped out any time the security apparatus is unleashed wholeheartedly.

The ruling elite may be right in holding such a belief because when the Taliban advance in Swat and other areas was felt to be threatening the power centres, it was reversed. Therefore, the simmering of terrorist forces around the Pak-Afghan border is taken to be a manageable policy tool in regional politics. Rightly or wrongly, the Pakistani ruling elite is confident that the Taliban and other jihadi forces are just marginal irritants.

What Pakistan’s ruling class takes seriously is money making, mostly through illegal means. Different sections of the ruling class, from politicians to men in uniform, take turns to grab state power and enrich themselves. While the 1980s new rich were led by the men in uniform, the 90s brought opportunities for the political elite and their allies.

Led by two families, the different political parties took turns to make money. As the prime minister’s chair rotated between two politicians, the cast of actors kept changing to benefit as many as possible. From 1999 onwards, another lot of men in uniform, the technocrats, and a specific section of the political elite were let loose to plunder. After the restoration of democracy, the knights of the 90s are back with not-so-new techniques of money making and a varying cast of actors.

Ironically, the proofs of plundering are not difficult to find. Just compare the worth of family fortunes from towards the end of the 70s to the present and it will become clear how much wealth is amassed by one to ten percent of the richest people. The infighting of the ruling classes has also provided ample proof of the misdeeds of the entire governing elite. The Muslim Leagues, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and intelligence agencies have provided enough proof against each other to delegitimise the entire ruling elite.

Embarrassing disclosures by PPP Senator Faisal Abidi, through a recorded conversation between stalwarts of the PML-N and the highest judiciary, is the latest episode of the grand drama of the corrupt elite in Pakistan. The recorded conversation, played in a TV talk show, reveals how the ruling elites are divided into mafia like setups. This episode leaves the deep impression that there is no section of the governing elite, including the judiciary, which has the moral assets to judge others.

Since ruling Pakistan is a business in which different sections of the elite take turns at control, everyone wants to make the best of his/her given time. Except a few unlucky ones who had to spend some time in jail, no one has been brought to justice or deprived of their ill-gotten wealth. Therefore, if the people in power are continuing to plunder, they know that once they are rich no one can make them poor. In this backdrop, the apathy of the present or future governments should not be surprising at all.

The ruling elites induce various crises to make money for themselves and their allies. From the power crisis to sugar shortages, every occasion is used to siphon off billions of dollars to private accounts. Even the bankruptcy of large public entities like Pakistan Railways, Pakistan International Airlines or WAPDA is taken to be an opportunity to make money. The misery of the Pakistani people has become a profitable commodity for the rich and powerful. They are hit by the raging waves of rising prices of essential goods while the rulers keep on having a good time through borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan, which, in turn, has become a money printing corporation rather than an economic manager.

The present set of rulers can justifiably claim that they inherited the problems they are dealing with. But the point is that they have failed in fixing the problems the previous regime created. Instead of getting a grip on the crisis-ridden economy and social set-up, the deterioration process has been accelerated. The present governing elite has added their own poisonous prescriptions in addition to maintaining all the rotten policies of the previous regime.

The ruling elite of Pakistan knows that the problems of terrorism or bad governance are issues that have enhanced their capacity to make more money. Based on experience, they also believe, and maybe rightfully so, that there will be no accountability: once you are rich, no one can touch you. Probably this is what they know and we the common folks do not. How else can one explain the apathy of the ruling elite and perpetual impoverishment of the common people?

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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