By Huzaima Bukhari
Day in and day out, many Pakistanis complain about the anarchy that seems to have permeated all avenues of our daily life. The tip of this chaotic iceberg includes traffic violations, heaps of rubbish lying unattended, roads inundated with overflowing drains, illegal encroachments, lack of clean drinking water, impurities in food and medicines, crime, tax evasion, poor productivity, wasteful expenditure, pathetic conditions of public institutions with special reference to schools; colleges; hospitals; government offices and courts. There exists a general consensus that nothing runs smoothly and efficiently in this country. Perhaps this is why vigilante justice seems to be on the rise, despite the presence of law enforcement agencies. The 2010 Sialkot incident — when two innocent brothers were brutally murdered by a mob. The lynching of Mashal Khan in 2017 is another example.
Where our approach to fixing these issues is lacking is that we only focus on alleviating the symptoms of the disease, rather than curing the disease itself. A fever isn’t the problem, it’s the infection which is causing it. Similarly, a society that is fraught with symptomatic ailments cannot be cured with minor cosmetic surgeries.
Unless rule of law is enforced tooth and nail and irrespective of who committed the violation, we can never envision our country as anything better than what it is today
But how can these issues be resolved at the earliest and in the best possible way? The key requirements for addressing and resolving these matters are conviction and invoking strict discipline.
We need to understand that ours is not the only country that is facing these multitude problems. There are many countries and government administrations which had to suffer immense damage before they became a model for others. Two examples are worth mentioning: Singapore, and New York City (NYC). In the early 1970s, Singapore was thought of as the world’s dirtiest city. But, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew it progressed to eventually be considered a developed country, despite its location in an underdeveloped region. By introducing extremely stringent regulations in all spheres of life, Lee managed to convert his wayward nation into a strictly disciplinarian one.
Similarly, NYC’s Manhattan was once infested with AIDS and violent crime. Today it is one of the cultural, financial, media and entertainment capitals of the world. Unlike the crime problems in most cities, NYC’s were not limited to certain neighbourhoods. In July 1985, the Citizens Crime Commission of NYC published a study showing widespread fear of theft and assault in downtown Brooklyn, Fordham Road in the Bronx, and Jamaica Centre in Queens.
Riders abandoned the subway, fearing assault from lunatics and gangs. While the crime rate had started declining by 1990, the main credit of cleaning up the city goes to Rudolph Giuliani, the 107th Mayor of NYC and his appointed Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton. In the words of an elderly resident; “New York was not better before Giuliani. It had its charms and even a young person fresh out of school could afford to live there. But it was a dirty, dangerous, stressful, difficult, depressing place to live and almost every bad stereotype or awful story you heard about or saw in a movie was based on reality.”
Employing the theory of Broken Windows by criminologists, George Kelling and James Wilson, whereby a person committing a crime is encouraged to continue because of the laid-back attitude of the community, Giuliani instituted a zero-tolerance approach.
By following the Singaporean and NYC models, we can undoubtedly transform our country. If illiteracy and ignorance are excuses given by those in authority, then how come the very same people start following the law the moment they set foot in say, Dubai, Singapore or New York? Why is it that they form queues on disembarking the carrier there but start pushing and shoving on returning to Pakistan? It just means that the authorities have either no vision or they lack the conviction of their founding father, Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah whose own life was ‘discipline’ personified. What irony that the country he created cannot even observe traffic rules. How then can there be discipline in government, non-governmental organizations and other spheres of life? Unless rule of law is enforced tooth and nail and irrespective of who committed the violation, we can never envision our country as anything better than what it is today.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)