Dawn News

Mirror, mirror on the wall …

WHY the outrage at tainted tycoon Malik Riaz’s disclosures about how advanced the state of rot is in the Islamic Republic?

Is it because he has held up a mirror to us? What we see is an ugly, disfigured, unrecognisable form, a far cry from what we would have wished to believe about ourselves, our purity and all that nonsense about an invincible fortress defended by nuclear-tipped missiles.

We are allowed to feign discomfort, surprise, shock, even outrage. We are also allowed to exclaim how terrible that unbeknownst to us such a lethal disease hasn’t just touched us but its tentacles are now intertwined with our entrails.

Hand on heart, tell me you didn’t know. And I’ll tell you what I think: Malik Riaz may be guilty of a multitude of sins but, at least, in this specific instance he isn’t being a hypocrite. In his world, he is quite candid the only way to move things is to put ‘wheels’ on them.

We often forget that these wheels (banknotes) always bear the image of the Father of the Nation, gazing pensively at how we, the inheritors of his dream, have transformed it into a living nightmare. What’s wrong with me today? What’s with this ludicrously verbose and pointless imagery?

I have no defence. I am in a state of shock and denial too, even though we are known to go after the wrong ‘Haqqani’. It is wonderful we have read Khalil Gibran with great attention and admiration. But is it right we couldn’t see what our own Ahmad Khalil was capable of doing.

Recall him? A man Malik Riaz describes as one of his partners, said to be the prime minister’s ‘buddy’ and such a good friend of the chief justice’s son that even the honourable father visits his home in Lahore. He’s the reported intermediary between Arsalan Iftikhar and the tycoon’s family.

Have you wondered why during his ‘contemptuous’ press conference, Malik Riaz seemed to fly off the handle? I think he lost it completely and will pay for it. How could he, a successful man so adept at constant cost-benefit analysis, have acted so out of character?

How would you react if you considered yourself the master of the universe and a man half your age, a fellow member of the elite with a shared honour code, made you feel like a fool?

The land acquisition of Malik Riaz from the poor may lack subtlety and legality but the foundations of his dealings with ‘equals’ or near equals must be on a word of mouth, trust basis. I scratch your back (be as it may in khaki, sherwani or Armani), and you scratch mine.

How dare you not deliver when I take care of your every material need from flashy SUVs to expensive London flats, from Harrods shopping trips to the tables at Monte Carlo? Not just this. I even cater to your spiritual side and pick up the tab for a soul-enriching visit to the Buddha Bar.

And when it’s time for payback, all I get is promises, promises, promises….

Was the whole episode a conspiracy to discredit the judiciary then? Your guess is as good as mine. Reflect on the past few years. Striking down the NRO to unearthing corruption in state corporations to pursuing cases against the government with zeal, the judiciary will have made few friends there.

The Supreme Court’s vigour may not have produced too many of those ‘missing’ in Balochistan but that it had stirred the feathers of those being blamed was clear from the press conference of the general who heads the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the province.

But did either or both conspire to scandalise the only institution which many see as the saviour of the nation, a bulwark against corruption and a guarantor of fundamental rights? We don’t know.

There is only one certainty, one constant: greed. Without the alleged greed of the son there would be no question mark over, one can be sure not beyond, the judgment of the father. Even if this was a conspiracy, it was a crime of opportunity.

It is also ironical that when one massages one’s ego with the thought that one has been placed in the midst of history as if by divine will it becomes impossible to retain one’s balance, sense of perspective, even reality.

The politician has always looked the most fallible of all players in the country and the most tarnished; the military hasn’t been far behind and rightly so. For the first time in recent years the vulnerability of the judiciary and the media is being felt by their most ardent believers.

More than for any other group, the need for integrity in an all-encompassing sense in both the judiciary and the media is paramount. And honest reflection, an open-minded look at the evidence will tell us we have both been found wanting on many counts.We are free to embark on a witch-hunt with each institution batting for its own narrow interest; we can bask in the glory of our own self-righteousness; we can mock at those unfortunate, careless or outright stupid enough to be caught on camera.

But can we say we are different in any meaningful way? Tell me how many times you have dramatically sailed to the top of the queue while the man in tatters somehow couldn’t move up a place from where he started because he didn’t matter?

In our beloved land we are all Malik Riaz in one shape or the other. We all do what we can get away with. Don’t worry. It’ll all be business as usual soon. It has to be. We can’t live in an alien world.

(I must be scrupulously honest in saying all this is based on conjecture and all named deny any wrongdoing.)

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


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Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.

He tweets @abbasnasir59.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (19) Closed

Jun 15, 2012 11:32pm
Every institution stands discredited, only difference being the degree to which it has become rotten. The common man apparently has never been on the top of any agenda, and is expected to be a silent spectator to all the tamasha. One of these days, at least by sheer luck and hubris of the elite, the common man may have his say, and get his foot through the door.
Jun 15, 2012 11:12pm
a fun to read article...amazing mix of humor and sarcasm along with really good analysis of the whole situation. i agree with the conclusion that the rot has seeped into everyone. I think we need another 100 years of British colonial rule to build better institutions and expand our railway system and canal system.
Jun 15, 2012 11:15pm
The beginning of this article is remained to be one of my life's long memories. Invaluable piece and very thorough observation. Sir; author has once again clouded with his creative intellectualism. This piece of genuine nature arise a smoke within everyone of us. Let us stand still and be within.
Jun 16, 2012 03:51pm
No, we don't need to be enslaved by the west(either UK or USA), this is the reason we are in this predictment,we have always tried for the easy way. Look at our history instead of working hard and improving we selected the aid of the west and sold ourselves as slaves. Why don't you go live in the west instead of advocating slavery. Look at Malaysia. Be a part of the solution and not the problem. Are we not an independent country,are we not muslims???Get rid of the crooked politicians and the easy life of living on the west,tighten your belts get rid of the boss mentality,keep the mullahs at bay and start on a middle road of self reliance. Hang all the crooked people and treat all Pakistanis as one.
Mohammed S. Khan
Jun 16, 2012 03:14pm
It may be whole truth or half truth. But, we as nation must stand up and fight for the truth, honesty and justice.
T Ahmed
Jun 16, 2012 01:53pm
When the writer says "even though we are known to go after the wrong ‘Haqqani’", he puts his finger on the root of the problems plaguing Pakistan.
Jun 16, 2012 12:46pm
We are all Riaz Malik yet we are all willing to cast stones at him.
Irfan Husain
Jun 16, 2012 11:50am
Sadly, the Brits warn their citizens not to visit Pakistan, so no more colonial rule for us.
Jun 16, 2012 11:25am
Its all about building character in our Youth...If we want a better Pakistan we need to develop our Youth,we need to focus our energies in one direction. The other thing is Law.Law enforcement agencies are weak/corrupt. A day ago a friend of mine was caught due to fancy number plate on his car.The officer was strict and that friend of mine was released after changing his fancy number plate with the original one.It took around 3 hours and My friend said hell never go with the fancy number plate. This should be the attitude of law enforcement agencies. Together we have to build Pakistan and it begins with ME
javed siddique
Jun 17, 2012 05:07pm
We are all Malik Riaz...........
Jun 16, 2012 02:06am
Sir wall mirror shows how are you looking externally only the inner mirror show ugly or good a person is. very frankly speaking and the little experience I have got during my little life, every person of this pure land is naked in bath room and who say I am not he is either liar or have not got an opportunity. a country where you can't get a outward number or stamp from the office of Mukhtiarkar (patwari) without paying, where you can't get the date for next hearing without paying and where each and every want to live a luxury life in that country if some one plead that Arslan is not guilty is sufaid jhoot.
Joe in USA
Jun 16, 2012 04:06am
It is a penetrating, moving portrait of today's condition. After reading it, one feels like taking a deep breath. We know we must not allow ourselves to "do what we can to get away with". The article challenges us in three ways: first, let us go to the mirror, and look long and truthfully into the eyes we see there, and not look away until truth is seen; then next, to carry that feeling of what is truly fair, kind, and just forward into the day with the family, and on the job, and in the marketplace; and then third, to most strongly demand that those who are in power (whether they be mullah, minister, or military) maintain the high moral standard as leaders to our future.
Muhammad Bilal
Jun 16, 2012 04:15am
Very nice article... The whole nation needs to uplift its character.. As soon as you start moving in Pakistani society you realise, you can't move without putting wheels around. Truly said, we are all Malik Riaz.
Jun 16, 2012 05:04am
Institutions are being destroyed in all South Asia. We are agin falling into abyss that had lead to our colonisation. This is true to both India and Pakistan that we have never been actually " independent" what a shame.
Masud Zaidi
Jun 16, 2012 05:32am
" It will all be business as usual '', just wait for some more weeks. This is the harsh reality of the jungle world. Talks of morality are made to make other fool and keep them behind yourself in race for reaching to top. Rule of law is basically business of some which they donot want to loose. So enjoy the life. After God, have belief ONLY in your own skills and always try to improve these if you want to live a decent LIFE.
Nasir Khan
Jun 16, 2012 05:53am
Agreed, we all are Malik Riaz,
Jun 16, 2012 05:54am
true, but cynically Pakistani way of summing up things
Jun 16, 2012 08:55am
Tehkedar is just a sample in the limelight.
Jun 16, 2012 11:15pm
Nasirr Sb! "We are chasing wrong "Haqqani" Million Dollar sentence