The social debacle we face
Growing up in Abbottabad, each year we would spend our winter holidays with my grandfather in Lahore or Lyallpur farms depending on his location. Dr. Sardar Ali was a family friend. His medical practice in Baghbanpura, Lahore was in proximity of my uncle Dr. Abdul Rasheed Khan’s clinic. My cousins and I were close to Dr. Ali’s kids and would spend time playing during our winter holidays. Those were the days of joint families.
It was exciting when Dr. Sardar rented a house close to our home in Abbottabad where his family would spend their summers. It would strengthen my cricket team as his sons were good players. It became an annual ritual. One particular summer, Dr. Ali’s nephew Khalid (I forget his real name) joined his family. He was older, stronger and we thought he was very wise. A sharp dresser with a Beatle haircut, he had impressed the neighborhood girls. We were in awe.
Dr. Sardar was fond of expensive watches. This time it was a Rolex. Very impressive and much talked about. A few days later the Rolex went missing. Hue and cry were raised and we all turned into Sherlock Holmes. Khalid was leading the investigations. Suspects were the workers at home with the cleaner as the primary one. The search yielded no results and the issue died down after a few days.
Khalid was the only one permitted to go to the movies unescorted. A huge privilege from our perspective. The cinema owner was uncle Niazi which entitled the family use of the “proprietor’s box”. A few weeks later Khalid was sitting in the box with some friends and uncle Niazi dropped by to say hello. The light was turned on and guess what, Khalid was wearing the stolen Rolex. That invited uncle Niazi’s immediate wrath. Khalid got a thrashing and his friends disbursed helter skelter.
The news spread like wildfire. Khalid, our icon’s image crashed and a family meeting was summoned. All his crying and begging for forgiveness fell on deaf ears. He was packed off to Lahore and uncle Sardar’s words still ring in my ears “Our family, the Arains of Baghbanpura never had a thief and a liar for last seven generations! Khalid whose blood runs in your veins? You are from not amongst us.” He was ostracized from the family and we never heard about him.
Those were the values we grew up with in the sixties. Globally, successful nations build on a platform left by their elders. We as a nation have done otherwise. Fifty years on, lies and theft have become a way of life and unfortunately acceptable. The apt description is through PML(N) mantra when confronted about their corrupt practices. “Khata tha to kuch lagata bhi tha” translates “if NS stole, he also invested a part too.”
One can blame the rulers for many ills prevailing in our society. However, have we ever stopped to think how we as individuals interact within the communities we reside in? What are the values that define our conduct in our daily lives? A society distinguishes itself through morality, legality and economic values prevailing at a given time. Unfortunately we have gone downhill in our moral values; the laws are redundant and pretty much unenforceable and our economy is a free for all grab.
The worst part is that no national dialogue has been triggered by this sharp decline in today’s Pakistan. A snapshot of where we stand today may help us focus on realities as they exist. Our morality emanates from the belief system prevalent in our society.
What have we degenerated into? The kids are being raped by unrepentant butchers. Adulteration in every kind of food is widely prevalent. Selling dead chicken as poultry, donkey’s meat, chilies mixed with brick powder, children’s milk mixed with expired milk powder, spurious life-saving and other drugs are some of the examples. Profiteers and hoarders are gouging the common man. Rampant bribery rates are going up and police continue to be a tool of suppression. Twenty-five million kids are being denied education. The list goes on.
It would be unrealistic to put everything on the doorsteps of the ruling regime under the present system. There is a need to overhaul our entire system of governance. The recent ordinance regarding rape cases brought a whiff of fresh air but patchwork will not work. The society needs a thorough cleansing. Like my friend Hassan Nisar says “an acid bath” has become necessary. When such rot exists change cannot come bottom up, it has to be top down, ruthlessly executed if we have to survive as a society. Cynics believe the train has left. I feel it may be possible through empowered leadership.