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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 walizahid.com, 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: