Pakistan’s two value crimes no one talks about

pia cover wine

by Wali Zahid

Since its independence from Great Britain in 1947, Pakistan has been going through a crisis of values. We Pakistanis have been committing value crimes unabashedly, with no shame attached to it. And with no accountability.

MNA Jamshed Dasti’s statement on the floor that the Parliament Lodges in Islamabad are a den of alcohol, women and drugs, and the subsequent front-page and prime-time media coverage has prompted me to say the above.

MNA Dasti is no angel. And so are not the defenders that say that Lodges are fully secure.

See the photo above: A Muslim-country airline flaunting its wine menu in a cover advertisement? It’s only a matter of years that PIA would decline, other reasons notwithstanding. (I know you are thinking of Emirates, Gulf, Qatar, Etihad which serve alcohol yet prospering.)

There are the three value crimes common in a decaying Muslim society like ours:

1) Drinking alcohol, 2) womanising, 3) corruption money

These excessive crimes with public display have earned us the wrath of Allah, nearly destroyed the country with no street in the country – urban or rural, hills or plains – safe. That’s the causal relationship.

As everyone else talks about the third quite often, let’s talk about the first two. These are the most unpleasant ones to mention in the public space. Certainly, not a dinner-table conversation.

You may ask: Why did I pick these two?

Can’t my eyes see widespread corruption? Can’t my eyes see armed, violent and bloody conflicts that are ripping us apart? The Taliban issue? The mazakrat? The army operation? The land mafia? The Baloch injustice? The below-poverty-line? The lack of equal opportunities for all? Absence of primary healthcare? The child mortality? The absence of drinkable water? The sexual harassment at homes, in offices and in the streets? The street crimes in Karachi and elsewhere?

I see all of these.

So does everyone.

I have picked those two everyone sees but no one wants to talk about.

The elite, with only a tiny exception, have been and are the prime culprits of these two ‘product-and-service’ value crimes. Not that common people don’t. In fact, poor people in slums with no paid work probably consume more per-capita alcohol and drugs than our elite. We keep this for some other time.

Who do elite include?

Anybody who has risen to spotlight or a position of influence because of wealth, success, public office, ranks, etc.

Let’s see who are these elites in Pakistan:

1. Military generals

Thanks to first Maj-Gen AO Mitha (father of SSG, and also known because of daughter and kathak dancer Tehreema Mitha) and then Gen P Musharraf who took these two crimes to a scale within army and their inner-circle suppliers and created a culture of drinking and womanising. Gen Yahya lost East Pakistan while being excessively drunk and in the lap of hundreds of seducing women, most notable among them Gen Rani (her daughter has been a journalist colleague of mine, so there’s a personal sense of sorrow as I write her name).

2. Civil bureaucracy

All cadres, notoriously the top dogs: Foreign Service (Gen Ziaul Haq’s Foreign Minister Lt-Gen Sahibzada Yaqub Khan gave a lunch reception in France during Ramadan where reportedly alcohol was served), the DMG, the Customs, the Income Tax, et al.

Once I was editor of a monthly magazine, whose financier was a very talented Customs CSS officer. When I found out his game, I asked him why he channeled money (read: bribes) to his magazine. His blunt response: ‘Wali, you can only talk about honesty because you haven’t got the chance yet.’ That shut my mouth.

On another occasion, where apparently his deal didn’t go through, he angrily said about certain category of businessmen: If they need a rebate, they will even serve you their daughters and wives. I didn’t buy that though.

3. Police

So excessive that they need a separate article. They either run these two businesses, have a stake in these, or, at best, turn a blind eye. No further explanation required.

4. Politicians

As you rise in the ranks, become an MPA or an MNA, you start to know that this social language is the stairway to further progression, i.e. if you are not already an extensive user, or have not been born into these, like most feudal or even urban politicians are.

5. Feudals

The script as their children grow: You are the chosen ones. You need to enjoy these fine delicacies. You have a right. You don’t need to seek permission from society or law. Values? What values? That’s for a common man.

bilawal bhutto

Not picking on Bilawal in particular. The picture above of Bilawal Bhutto is his first image many Pakistanis saw on social media when he came to light as co-chairman of PPP in 2008.

6. Government ministers

Most government ministers and representatives are active users, promoters, license/permission-givers. President Zardari has known association with the only brewery in Pakistan.

The government functionaries have achieved what their brain tells them ‘a legitimacy’. They have worked hard and this is a prize.

Also, those who want illegitimate benefit from any government funcationary are quick to offer them these two, besides, of course, a kickback (the third).

7. Corporate executives

This is one group which is rarely under spotlight. They are the ones who run the economic engine: people with stash of cash. You only reach the top ladder (the 5-million PKR-a-month salary upwards) if you socialise on women and alcohol.

I have spent seven years as a Director at British Council (housed in Karachi’s British Deputy High Commission, which ran nearly 100 receptions a year with free alcohol served, i.e. one reception every second working day). Plenty of aspiring and ambitious men.

This is not just the top executive, their management teams, or the boards, but everyone who aspires. The bankers, the FMCGs, the big pharma, any sector.

Wherever there’s money, there are women and booze. Sales and dealers conferences with fully-booked planes are arranged in Bangkok and Dubai, centres of prostitution in our part of the world, because these venues offer them revival and renewal.

Upward movement within, lateral movements across companies and banks, and contracts are signed off over a drink (sometimes after a game of golf).

8. Mediamen

It becomes very interesting here: You wouldn’t see a media man rising to the top without one of these three.

Three scenarios: 1) Faithful to wife, but addicted to alcohol. 2) Won’t touch alcohol because it’s haram, but frequents women and prostitutes 3) Won’t do alcohol and women, but will accept illegit money and financial favours because of the inherent power of the media. With shades of gray. As I said earlier: Some tiny exceptions may exist.

9. Wannabees

This category hurts me a lot. I see cries and slogans of change from all directions: reformers, educationists, vice chancellors, teachers, trainers, upcoming politicians, columnists, thinkers. I see them at seminars, conferences, in airport lounges, at coffee breaks, on TV talk shows, in newspaper columns. These are the ones who, to a common man, appear to be a hope for future.

Sadly, their socialisation path is no different from their predecessors: filled with alcohol and women, i.e. assuming that they are so far clean of financial corruption because they haven’t got the moment yet.

Have I missed anyone?

Two personal instances here:

1. When I became the Editor of The News, Lahore in 1991, one of my most senior staff members, chief of a department, asked me to a dinner and hinted at alcohol. I said: I don’t consume. He said: but you can’t say no now because you are in the top position! My response: Will see.

During the entire time at that position, I didn’t go to even a single dinner or reception (with or without booze), including the private one given to newly sworn-in COAS Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua on his first visit to Lahore by his brother, and instead sent that ‘cool’ guy.

2. During the freelance evening hours in 1997 at an Islamabad daily which produced several high-profile Editors, a senior colleague was very passionate about exposing the French submarine kickbacks scandal and bringing down Admiral Bukhari. 

But when we received a correspondent story about an NWFP (now KPK) Minister being caught with a prostitute in an Abbottabad guest house, the same editor binned the story. I asked: Why? He said: It’s his personal issue.

My take: The editor didn’t think there was corruption beyond money. Moral corruption didn’t mean anything to him. Selective morality? Would shy from what this colleague himself consumed :p

Say drinking alcohol is immoral - Pakistan

Our public stance could be very different from the reality. In a Pew survey (above), 94% Pakistanis said drinking alcohol was immoral.

Below, a newspaper photo, showing leftover empty bottles after the PPP government’s five-year tenure ended in 2013.

parliament lodges

Let’s compare with other countries. Western democracies. Or China, for that matter:

USA: In every election season in the USA, we see so many promising Presidential, Governor or Mayoral candidates at the last stage get going just because of that one woman they kept or visited so many years ago. Every election season!

America cannot tolerate its public officials with an impulsive indulgence and no self-control leading the nation. And if there’s a Monica, the Clintons of their world need to be ready for a long process of impeachment.

Bottomline: If the disclosure hits the prime time, most will need to leave office for good.

China: China routinely executes public officials for corruption and keeping mistresses, i.e. after this becomes public knowledge. That is even long after they retire. China does not forgive criminals even if they are 70 or 80 years of age. They will have to pay the price for their moral crimes.

China’s Communist Party bans adultery for members

Australia: In 2007, opposition leader Kevin Rudd admits visiting a New York strip club during a drunken night while representing Australia at the United Nations. It costs him his political career. By 2013, politics was over for him.

Swedish minister resigns over drunk driving

14 August 2016 update: Swedish Muslim minister resigns over drunk driving

The way forward?

What’s the way to get rid of these two crimes? What are your solutions? How to turn this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle of clean men who take this Muslim country into a respectable nation?

Let us know in your comments below.

Wali Zahid is a futurist, disruptor, blogger, social media strategist, reformer, LinkedIn writer, author of iBook, Great Training in 10 Steps. He runs a #Pakistan2050 hashtag on Twitter. On, he’s writing a series called Pakistan: How We Messed Up. As CEO of SkillCity, he coaches several Fortune-500 CEOs on leadership. He’s founder of a global movement for humanizing medical education and practice. He is founder President of Tehreek-e-Adl, a political reform movement. He can be reached at Twitter @walizahid.

Wali’s two recent pieces:

Why Tehreek-e-Adl? 1/6

Wali on Pakistan of future

See also: 

UK too has a Jamshed Dasti. And a female one!

Tony Blair on sex, politics and alcohol

Power DOES corrupt even the honest: study

China: Actors banned for using drugs, prostitutes

China’s biggest political takedown in 30 years on ex-security chief

Xi Jinping: princeling who ‘owns’ China

South Asia world’s most corrupt region: TI

How we messed up Pakistan: A series by Wali

Messed-up Pakistan Series – No 1 crime: Claims

Messed-up Pakistan Series – Curse 3: monopoly

Raising a moral child


  1. Yes, Its true that people do not give these crimes importance as we are at bottom of our moral values.

    For us Money corruption is the most important and woman and alcohol are secondary even 10 steps down to secondary.

    Who are giving success to politicians? We…Because we as nation do not consider them as crime.

  2. Great article & an interesting read !

    … and what about nepotism, egoistical mind-sets, procrastination, and being prejudice … we also ignore these alongwith alcohol & women ?

  3. Good reflective article. It echoes the truth that entire fabric of our society is infested.

    I see very little hope.

    Solution? Revolution. French style.. Chop off many public.

    Will it happen? Not in Pakistan.

  4. well written, no society without criminals, where there is a man, there is a crime.

    You know lot of parties where alcohol is served, but I am sure that you also know much much parties where it is not served.

    You mentioned generals, ministers, traders, etc. Are they in majority? Not at all.

    We should work to point out these people and condemn them and take to court. But I took impression from your article, that such people are in majority and we all indulge in such activities.

    Pl write another article telling us stories of good people and character so that we may get inspiration.

  5. You have some interesting points. However, all of these value crimes lead back to a central reason – corruption of the soul. And treating the symptoms without addressing the cause is not very sustainable.

    The solution – evolution, not revolution.

    The Prophet SAW took a people who were considered the dregs of humanity at the time, and transformed them into the role models of a society that was emulated by the rest of the civilized world at the time – within one generation.

    Following the basic principles of Islam is the simple solution.

  6. Thanks for sharing.

    Interesting topic – indeed one that could be developed into a book with contributions from psychologists, sociologists, clergy, media persons and ordinary citizens

    You ask “What’s the way to get rid of these two crimes? What are your solutions? How to turn this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle?”

    I do not think there is any way to “rid ourselves” of these short of a major sociological overhaul.

    These actions (consuming alcohol, illicit sex, unlawful wealth) – exist because of the reactions against the actions i.e. how society as a whole reacts to these. Like it or not these may be Islamic values but not Pakistani values.

    A great majority of Pakistan does not count in public opinion (the illiterate, marginalized, the peasants and artisans who work only to make ends meet; in the opinion of those who count – the wealthy, educated, well placed in private and public sectors – these are not dis-values, perhaps just alternate values.

    There is a value clash that has been going on for quite a while – those who wrote the Objectives Resolution and most of those who followed (perhaps with the single exception of General Zia) did not internalize these Islamic values because these are not helpful in what they wish to achieve in life: wealth and power. If society were to really have negative impressions – and extract a public price (as in the examples you have quoted for Australia, etc) – then there would be some change.

    Our rich and powerful can count on the proverbially short public memory and their clout (on media and other societal watchdogs) to get away. Indeed, it is a manifestation of power to sin and commit crimes and get away.

    Until General Zia, alcohol was freely available in army messes; in fact those who did not drink were harassed as being too timid or too middle class – the bottle was the sign of being strong and attuned to the times. In recent years both the vices returned to the Presidency (sorry cannot name names).

    We are bound in numerous social networks – the zat biradri – which impede and supersede the impact of these values. I know some high clergy members involved in these dis-values and they get away with it. The value set of our ordinary citizens is not too great either. Indeed, the maximum casualties by drinking hard spirits (“tharra“) are during Ramadan when legal quasi-legal alcohol (sold i-on minority permits) is not available to the poor (as these mostly occur in poor localities). Recently a TV program even showed how the real tomb (underground chambers) of the Quaid-i-Azam was being rented out by the guards for illicit sex.

    Let me narrate an interesting story from perhaps 30 years hence in Sibbi. The police which is always under some pressure to fill up their quota of performance and arrests which can only be done by going after the poor and unconnected had hauled up a nobody for drinking in the graveyard and produced him in the magistrate’s court. The magistrate was with a friend of his – and both of them had been drinking themselves in the court the night before. The friend whispered to him to be lenient.

    The magistrate administering him the section 164 Criminal procedure code right of a confidential statement (in the absence of the police) inquired about the incident. The man confessed. Then the magistrate asked him to promise that he will not drink again. To this the man said, “I cannot make a false promise.” Finally, wanting to let the man go, the magistrate asked him, why was he drinking in the graveyard? To this the honest man said, “Sir, because I do not have a rest house to do it.”

    So dear friend, our law and order is geared against the poor and weak. I have personally seen (in the Ittehad Commercial Area where I lived till 2010 a licenced liquor shop and Hajj travel agents shops situated in the same building. I took a picture of it but after a few days my camera was stolen (from the car).

    Mr. Dasti – like any good politician – wanted to remain in the news and raised this issue recently.

    If the fear of God and the Hereafter are not enough for a value-driven life then I am not sure how and when this will change. As my teacher at the Civil Services Academy – Mr. Javed Ghamidi – used to say, “The only justification for the Last Day of Judgment is that “justice would be done”. If justice is done in this temporal world, the sole justification for the Akhirah or Judgment Day would be obviated.

  7. Dear Wali bhai, Assalam O Alaikum WR WB,

    The article covers most of the aspects concerning our Elite Class & the so-called Leaders. However, there is a vast majority of even the innocent Righteous people, who are not educated or lack economic resources to even have a decent one time meal.

    That is the root cause that they tolerate all this non-sense, elect such leaders for a very small amount of money or due to threat and don’t even know what is happening in their Palaces, Lodges and Hotels etc.

    The only Solution to all these menaces / problems is Islamic Education / awareness to all the members of this nation and implementation of Shariah in the country with Punishments as provided in the Holy Quran & Sunnah.

    It needs a Cultural Change using Islamic Model and setting examples both the Good ones and the Punishable ones so that the Evils eliminate or is reduced drastically.

  8. I believe the first step towards improvement is to change my own self. Then comes my home, family, society & so on.
    Our issue is that we have lost fear of Allah because morality has not remained the ‘concetn’ at Home. I hardly see parents teaching moral values to their children.

    A common example of moral violation is giving car or motorcycle keys to underage child. This is the first violation lesson willingly & happily given by parents & once the child is given this ‘confidence’ he/she moves forward at a fast pace. Ultimate out come is what you have nicely described in theaarticle.

    Nabi Karim (SAWW) emphasized on women education for the sake of bringing up morally strong Nation/Ummah but our priority is to convert a proud ‘home maker women’ to a ‘working women’. Maids hardly feed the children properly what to talk about Faith & Morality.

    My recommendation is already mentioned in the first paragraph.


  9. very common and pretty westernized word “privacy” or “personal life”.

    All these and such value crimes are brought under this category and then we are not allowed to discuss these crimes as it is postured to intrude someone’s privacy or personal life.

    It makes sense if we discuss “someone’s” private life but those who hold public office or responsible for public trust should be pointed out openly.

    Even in western world, such activities of politicians and public leaders are strictly criticized and penalized with appropriate laws and at times even the conviction is not proved, the alleged convict is asked to separate himself or herself from the assignment just for the reputation sake

  10. Can be cured with another value. I don’t vote just because I see there is no value attached to voting in my society. You should campaign to give value to the vote, it’s not an emotional throw away. I aspire certain politicians but feel disgusted when see a person from third or forth generation going to vote in that name.

  11. Dear Wali Sb, AA

    I second Nasir Zubairi Sb!

    Some of my friends who have been promoted to General, Secretary, Top business tycoons (all involved in these types of activities).

    When they saw that I was not in that filth, they started leaving me one after the other:)… good for me! Alhamdulillah.

  12. Thanks for ‘tazkeer’ and ‘inzar’ in simple and direct manner without disguising it or hiding it.

    We need inculcate fear of Allah and sense of Akhirah in our Masses as well as in our elite… Garbage in garbage out.

  13. My dear Wali Sb, Tujhay hum “Wali” samajhtey….. I think it comes to the same what you are contributing to the society, MashAllah!

    Yes, one of my learned colleague has said “evolution” is the solution! I will add a bit with “change from within” Khudee ko kar buland” walaa… light our own candles for that matter! Whatever we are doing , Improvement begins with “I” so start from our own house, neighbourhood, relatives, friends, colleagues etc …from our workplace by setting your own example!

    We missed-out the the “trick” initially OR due to “feudalism” this should have begun from “Masajids” & “Schools” both the teachers & Maulvees became “kammees” till date, unfortunately. We didnt give them the respect they deserved, so instituitions couldnt be built and only “few individuals” even today we can count them on our finger tips out of 180 million people!!!

    Last but not the least “training ” or “Tarbiat” at home,,,, completely gone due to our own mistakes, blunders.. everyone either for earning or for “competing” running after money and forgot that what our “children” back home doing!
    Wama Alaina Illall Balagh

  14. Thanks for your courageous step to unveil the real ‘dirt’ of our society. In my view, the only way out after fear of ALLAH ALMIGHTY’s grip, is by selection of better people of society by honest use of our vote..! It will take time, but gradually the things will improve INSHA-ALLAH.

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