Decay and erosion as currency: Messed-up Pakistan Series 5
On this blog and on my social media platforms, I take pride in publishing posts about infrastructure and development projects happening in all parts of the country.
A couple of years ago, on a post about under-construction Orange Line Metro Train in Lahore, a friend inboxed, and later phoned me why I was so enthusiastic about a mass-transit public-transport project.
Being a third-generation elite from Lahore, he was unable to reconcile with my fascination with and interest in public project. After all, to him I appeared to be part of elite, as I coached country’s top CEOs and trained senior corporate executives and business leaders and their SUVs would pick me from airport to hotel to venue.
What he didn’t know was that I travel by public transport when a client SUV is not available. Uber and Careem hadn’t arrived on scene then.
And it was so important for the likes of me to have a decent, fully-functioning public transport system available to me, the kind I was used to in London, Berlin, Washington DC, New York, Singapore, Sydney, Ottawa, Vienna, Hong Kong, etc.
I could also understand my questioning friend’s bewilderment because probably he would never have to take public transport in Pakistan at least. Because he is fully covered.
This brings us to fifth curse in the Messed Up Pakistan Series: Decay and erosion as currency.
The first crime being: Fraudulent Claims
The second curse being: The Sultan Rahi Syndrome
The third curse being: Under Control
The fourth question mark being: The Ummah Card
This is how decay and erosion work. Let us start with daily travel.
- Why do I need city Metro buses and trains, circular railways when I can use family-owned or office- or government-provided cars
- Why do I need decent intercity roadways and motorways when I have entitlement to SUVs, cars and official fuel
- Why do I need clean expressways or pathways to far-flung cities when my provided 4×4 can beat uneven road conditions, or under certain circumstances, even air transport is available to me
- Why do I need a profitable, modern railways when I can benefit from decay in safe train travel and launch bus services by my cronies
- Why do I need decent bus stations and railway stations when I am not going to use these spaces ever while in service or after retirement
- Why do I need a decent public-run airline with passenger ease when a scandal-hit airline can do wonders for me in trafficking humans, drugs and laundered money
- Why do I need functioning hospitals that deal with poor patients with dignity because I have access to our own dedicated hospitals whose staff can recognize me by grade or rank
- Why do I need country’s vast populations to be literate in decent public-run schools when, on the one hand, I can set up and successfully run my beneficiaries’ school chains with obnoxious fees, and on the other, the masses will know right from wrong and can turn up at voter booths and teach electables a lesson
- Why do I need a skill-based curriculum at schools, colleges and universities as education without a purpose can turn out graduates with little utility and growing unrest and I can recruit them to work for my clandestine objectives
- Why do I need professor and teachers, competent in their subjects, lifelong learners and emotionally intelligent, because their low self-esteem and flawed sense of power allow me to maneuver them to recruit students with impressionable minds for my interests later in the day
- Why do I need to end petty corruption in government offices, police stations, courts, or by traffic cops on the road because as soon I mention my grade or rank, all expectation of palm-greasing ends
- Why do I need public utility offices to be functioning and queue based with decent waiting places and announced timelines when my file moves even before my designated messenger, peon or orderly reaches their office
- Why do I need a functioning justice system when only on my calls, an FIR will be registered or quashed and when on my whim, a platoon of citizens and lawyers in various parts of the country will be willing to start litigation against a voice I do not like
- Why do I need to end case backlog when I want to instill a message in all warring parties that the only way to end fight is out-of-court settlement, usually by my henchmen, only after both sides have paid the necessary bribes to police and judges
- Why do I need libel and slander laws to be functioning when my HMV’s will parrot my brief in WhatsApp groups and on prime-time TV and social media
- Why do I need consumer rights protection in the country because most of the businesses are owned by my beneficiaries and any replacements means diminished profitability
- Why do I need to let it a level-playing field in most high-barrier-to-entry areas (like fertilizer, automative manufacturing, town planning) as most investments are by my special-interest groups and level-playing game means erosion of obnoxious profits and availability of these products on reasonable, at-market prices
- Why do I need to leash the likes of labour officers, food inspectors, etc, doing a daily round for collection of money from small and medium businesses when they do not dare to enter premises owned by my cronies
- Why do I need an effective tax-collection system when either my businesses are tax-free or tax officials shy from coming after me after a phone call reaches them
- Why do I need the fruits of CPEC as large-scale manufacturing in special economic zones (SEZs) would only create a new crop of middle class who may not be as vulnerable to my emotional messaging
- Why do I need journalists of integrity and competence when all I can do is provide them a WhatsApp brief which they can parrot all day and night on TV and in print
- Why do I need a crop of clean politicians when I know that they will not be as vulnerable to phone calls with their past dirt ending up in a file in the hands of the caller
This is Part 4 of How we messed up Pakistan: A series by Wali.
The Series looks only at events and patterns that impacted Pakistan in the past. No present assessment. No solutions suggested. That’s elsewhere on this blog.
Wali Zahid is a longtime China watcher and a Pakistan futurist. An award-winning journalist, he writes on issues of significance to Pakistan and CPEC & BRI.