Barbarians at the Gate

Spearhead Analysis – 20.08.2018

By Farrukh Karamat
Senior Research Coordinator, Spearhead Research

It is that time of the year when the spirit of sacrifice should pervade every facet of our lives – Eid-ul-Azha. What makes it an even more poignant occasion is the fact that we are on the verge of witnessing the birth of a Naya (new) Pakistan. The media is flooded with images of sacrificial animals herded together in the major cities with buyers trying to negotiate good deals. The prices being demanded for these animals are nothing short of astronomical. Imagine a buffalo or cow being sold for Rs.3.5 Million plus – this in a country where the economic situation is being termed as dire. And yes, there are buyers at the Rs.3.5 Million plus levels. At the same time, the demand for the Kassais (Butchers) is high with advance booking in progress, once again at astronomical rates. Very soon the vacant plots of land around the cities will be red with the blood of these animals, animal waste will line the road sides and an unbearable stench will be in the air. The story will not end there, for once the animals have been sacrificed, a tussle will start for the possession of their valuable hides. And the poor will go from house to house looking for handouts, while the rich will plan parties to consume the meat. All through these monetized and non-monetized transactions the government will not get an iota in taxes. The fact is that there is money definitely there in the hands of the consumers, or some consumers, and it is now up to the new Finance Minister to devise a method to tap into these and the many other undocumented transaction so that the Government is paid its fair share in taxes and levies.

The requirement in the true spirit of Islam is for sacrificing an animal at the end of Hajj as an expression of submission to the will of Allah. Similarly, in the true spirit of religion Hajj is supposed to be an occasion for the ultimate submission to the will of Allah, in an environment where all are equal. Hence, the requirement for a simple white unstitched dress with no worldly possessions. Unfortunately, the true spirit of religion has been all but forgotten. On the one hand are the individuals who are spending crores of rupees acquiring sacrificial animals such as cattle, camels, buffaloes, and goats to exhibit their financial might, rather than being imbued with a sense of true sacrifice. While on the other hand there are individuals who are unable to afford even a scrawny looking goat. Similarly, at the time of Hajj there are distinct classes depending on how much an individual can afford. One can perform Hajj in ultimate luxury with five-star hotel like facilities or with bare minimum amenities – again depending on what one can afford. As in everything else, religion too has been overtaken by materialism and exhibitionism in the garb of submission to the will of Allah. The spirit of sacrifice and submission has been lost as people fiercely compete to outdo one another, while trying to please Allah. Pakistanis need to learn to sacrifice in the true sense for the betterment of their future, and this requires honesty, faith and discipline in every facet of life. 

The country has been ravaged by years of neglect where wrong is now considered right, and right is actually wrong. There is an abject breakdown of discipline, and the rule of law. A tribe of pseudo-intellectuals have assumed the highest offices and are moulding the opinion and mindset of an ill-educated and naïve nation. There used to be a time when those taking bribes or indulging in corruption were looked down upon and shunned. When knowledge was prized and there was pride in an honest day’s work. Now such individuals and practices have become rather rare and mainly been destined to the sidelines. This attitude needs to be changed and the barbarians that have destroyed the fabric of society for so long need to be kept at the gate and not allowed to enter the Naya Pakistan. We need a Pakistan that follows the Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of Faith, Unity and Discipline and a Pakistan that is not reliant on the dole outs from others. For that structural reforms have to be implemented to enhance productivity, performance, and revenue generation, while inculcating a spirit of professionalism and pride in the people of Pakistan.

Imran Khan has hinted at making Pakistan an Islamic Welfare State. He has also hinted at austerity measures at the State level. Lofty ideals that one hopes he is able to implement, as he would be surrounded by institutions and individuals who have become accustomed to living in relative luxury at the expense of the state. The long motorcades of expensive luxury imported vehicles, the expansive estates, the bevy of servants, the extravagant functions and the overseas trips at Government expense have become the norm. Similarly, burdening bankrupt state organisations with additional expenses through corruption, nepotism and cronyism; and acquiring loans with relative impunity to fund the ill-conceived developmental projects have become a way of life for many. In an environment such as this and surrounded by the beneficiaries of this loot, the new Government might find it an uphill task to curtail the extravagant lifestyles that many have come to believe are their birth right.

In his first address to the Nation as the 22nd elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan rightly spelt out the myriad problems facing Pakistan. He has assured the nation that effective teams would be put in place to resolve the issues and that Pakistan would be a different country at the end of his five-year tenure. There will be hurdles along the way as those with vested interests who have lost power, and are used to having their way with free access to government funds would try and create problems at every step as they try to resist the change. Plus, the rot has set in so deep within the government machinery and the bureaucracy which in itself would require massive and stringent clean-up efforts. But as the ancient Chinese proverb states, “A fish rots from the head down”; one hopes that when the head is healthy the other parts would automatically improve. It is time to keep the barbarians who have been ousted at the gate and set the house in order.   

One sees the content sacrificial animals lazily chomping away on the fodder being provided to them, oblivious of their ultimate fate. The nation too is on a spending spree oblivious of the problems being faced by a cash starved government facing economic distress. It is time that the government starts working for the people and the people start contributing towards the government. An environment of trust has to be built up nationally and internationally and perhaps Imran Khan is the last chance to build such a credible relationship. Keep the Barbarians outside the Gate and rebuild the lost glory of Pakistan – that is what the people of Pakistan expect the PTI-led government to deliver.