Vested interest versus national interest (II)


The weakness of the Pakistani state and its institutions because our post-colonial state is a British inheritance, at that time was based on British values and principles; the ruling elite after 1947 consists of pre-modern British appointed feudal lords and tribal chieftains and religious personalities who mostly have no understanding of the values like equality or fraternity which should be the sentiments upon which a modern nation state is based. Long years of military rule and the inherent nepotism it fosters when the stay is elongated has certainly added to the difficulties to run a parliamentary democracy and its institutions. Our best and brightest are the ones who are selected on merit for the bureaucracy. Unfortunately once they understand system and the precis that go with it, they tend to deliver on good governance what they are capable of. Most bureaucrats are outstanding, being compromised by money and/or influence their potential for good governance is destroyed.
To be successful a modern state in whatsoever form to be based on those ideas of equality of all citizens in front of the law and the fraternity, i.e. solidarity between the citizens of differing social status. The needful reforms in our economic system like land reforms, extension of tax system on agricultural income, social security for poor and lower middle class and in the educational system where values like merit and straightforwardness have to be developed in the minds.
There is also the identification of the citizens with the state of Pakistan. Even in the face of draw-backs and hick-ups people do identify with Pakistan. To do so more efficiently it would be important to figure out what exactly is Pakistan’s national interest. This is not something self-explanatory. Unfortunately a public debate people from all walks of take part would be ideal but would throw up more controversy. That includes much more than just military or defence interest. It focusses on what the people want their country to be all about. Certainly jobs, social security would be among the demands. But things like a broad understanding about Pakistan’s place in the world have to be part of it as well. How do we relate to our past and what we see as our future?
I have worked on a project of national consequence for some time. While I have certainly a personal vested interest in it, it has far reaching benefits for the poor and impoverished. For technocrats it is a no-brainer. Forsaking paying of bribes to get the work done and fortunate to deal with honest officials, I have nevertheless been hampered by my competitors who paid bribes not to let my project, conceived and implemented totally in Pakistan by young Pakistanis, function. A situation came when person whom I thought had great professional competence honesty and integrity, was appointed in a position of consequence, I rejoiced in hindsight, I should have gone the route of bribery to get even things on merit done, it has been a saga of frustration being bring by this gentleman fed on promises that he did not mean at all. My only question is why? On what motivation for the subsidy for exports of sugar and wheat agreed to was the answer! If you look at the pattern of favours close by this individual whom I once held in great esteem, it is completely based on friendship and/or personal motivation. It has nothing to do with the public and/or national interest, but rather at their cost.
What really concerned me was the lack of importance being given to what is a national project. It is true I have a vested interest in it but far above that is the national interest, not only for the economic emancipation of the poverty-stricken masses but a giant step for documentation of the economy. Much later I realised that my “friends” gave only lip-service because they had no monetary interest and were embarrassed to ask me for this. Can you imagine that this is the priority given by those who matter to such a vital issue if it does not benefit their pockets?
The current government of Pakistan has made the fight against corruption its central endeavour. While going after misappropriation of public money, of tax evasion and others for what the NAB would be responsible, there have to be other initiatives in the field of education, media and may be other places to support the understanding that rules are there to make a process transparent and applicable to everyone in the same way, including those in a position of trust. Cutting corners, avoiding the rules or the process undermines the function of the respective institution and along with that, the state these people are not committed PTI hard-core but have served every regime, including Asif Zardari’s. Deeds for ‘friendship’, favours or straight forward bribes the bane of our society and undermine the very existence of Pakistan. Those who dish out such favours should be investigated by NAB, prosecuted and, once convicted, made an example.
the writer is a defence and security analyst