Hotel California

We hear all the time about what Pakistan’s real problem is. Let’s talk about what Pakistan’s real problem isn’t. And let’s begin with job insecurity.

The government sector jobs in Pakistan are as secure as the government itself. And often very lucrative – the shorter and more volatile a position, the bigger and quicker returns it offers. Generally speaking, you get a public office for life, and beyond. A grade 17 officer and the janitor in his office will be paid by the government till the last day they live, and their families will be paid after they die. Government employees are the only citizens the government feels somewhat responsible for, in terms of providing basic services.

The government can be very generous in appointing its servants and retaining their services. A recent example would be that of Mr. Rehman Malik. The gentleman who has a natural talent for comedy – he could shine, without a make-over and professional coaching, as a police chief in a Pink Panther film – was instead hired as security expert and given the test assignment to protect a party leader and a former elected prime minister on the hit list of terrorists. Poor woman survived one bomb attack, and was killed in the second attempt. The government then decided to give this man charge of the whole country’s protection, from the inside. He was made a minister before the government realised he wasn’t qualified to be one. At this, he was allowed to be a minister who goes by the title of an ‘advisor’. He was later made a proper minister by admitting him into Senate and getting a big university to give him an honourary degree. Unimpressed, the court took away his Senate membership, and he became advisor again … and all along his job never changed. He continues to be our interior minister. Now that’s job security.

In the private sector, the issue is a bit complex, but healthy nevertheless. People in the media for instance, are fired all the time but they always find another employment before the previous employer settles their account. For those who won’t be accepted by any one at all, there’s always the  All Rejected Yeomen of Media, that takes them in and nourishes them to be strong enough again to work for a real media house.

Some of the jobs are so secure that the person holding the job cannot leave the work place, let alone work. The garment factory in Karachi that was burnt to ashes earlier this month was so possessive of its workers that they were literally barred from leaving even when flames were eating them up. As they rushed to the only exit, they faced a smiling watchman on the other side of the grill: ‘Relax’, he said. ‘We are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave’. More than 250 charred bodies dug out of the rubble are an irrefutable proof of the commitment of employers to retain the work force till they die.

A degree of job insecurity is actually good. It promotes healthy competition and leaves a large number of job seekers always floating and fishing, which results in a thriving informal job market. It allows police officers and female college lecturers in Karachi to work part-time with gangs of thieves; it encourages students in south Punjab to earn a living and free food by joining one of the many jihadi outfits; it puts totally useless, brain-dead young men to use as models for suicide vests and as live demonstrators of explosive devices; it provides thousands of jobs of holding political rallies and wrecking the same of opponents; and it supports emerging professions such as street agitation, counter-street agitation, art of strike, art of breaking a strike, talking for TV, negotiating for more powers and perks … and these are all well paying jobs, with no tax liability. These jobs couldn’t have been created if job insecurity hadn’t provided the necessary space.

The informal sector is also responsible for weeding out the unprofessional and the weak of flesh and spirit. The dumber ones kill themselves making or transporting bombs and while trying to burn down cinema houses owned by influential politicians; at least one of them managed to kill himself with smoke from the American flags he was burning in Lahore recently. And when they die, their families too get a pension from the informal employer or from the state.

And best of all, there is no gender discrimination in the informal sector. If anything, women are preferred in certain lines of work, like cleaning, begging, and prostitution. Old, young, pretty or plain, every woman is guaranteed a job in one of the three areas. If our economy was documented, women would already be seen to be making a substantial contribution through their labour, particularly in the field of prostitution which is spreading horizontally into every city and town as women take over the role of procurers, traditionally assigned to men. ‘How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat. Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.’

This system of employment is working just fine for children too, who may prefer to learn a trade instead of wasting time in a school. They get on-job training, food, and sex education for free, and in time, start getting cash remuneration as well. These kids could never avail of such generous opportunities if their parents had secure jobs.

So it’s working both ways in favour of Pakistanis – those who have job security are happy to have it, and those who don’t are happily employed in the informal sector and helping the engine of economy chug along. No problems to report in this area.

(Readers are requested to suggest more areas in which Pakistan and Pakistanis are doing alright and don’t need fixing.)


Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at

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

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Comments (15) Closed

Sep 30, 2012 06:17am
heart felt Sir.
Sep 30, 2012 03:35am
good one
Raw is War
Sep 28, 2012 11:49am
gory. but good.
Sep 29, 2012 03:09pm
Very interesting analogy to the song. The country has become a death trap, the tentacles do suffocate.
Sep 29, 2012 11:47am
Loved it !!
from india
Sep 28, 2012 06:27pm
Sometimes I wonder, if pakistan have people like you...why its still in a mess or why it went down so fast. Or maybe people like you are scared to write the same thing in URDU press. Dear Sir, If you really want to change the Pakistan, start a campaign to change its history books which spreads false hatred against hindus and christians. Then only you can preach about stopping sectarian hatred and suicide bombings.There is a long list to be done by pakistan to get out of the present mess. But next step should be Job reservations for backward pakistani communities. Next should be land reforms. if you need the complete list...just check out what india has done till now. India is not perfect but I have hope for it even though I come from the general category which lost jobs due to reservations. This is the mind set pakistanis need where they accept that poor and backward communities like baloch and native sindhis and muhazirs must get job reservations in pakistani system.Then only you can hope to rein in mullah and army syndicate, which has destroyed pakistan.
Sep 29, 2012 12:56pm
Good work...loved the sarcasm.
Sep 28, 2012 11:16am
you couldn't have put it better...
Sep 28, 2012 07:11pm
How about Power outage!
Sep 28, 2012 10:35am
education can be another area
Sep 28, 2012 08:35pm
great article, says it like is is.
Alex Sal
Sep 28, 2012 11:27pm
Pakistan is a socialist country. There is reason why everyone feels entitled.
Wajahat, CA, USA
Sep 29, 2012 12:01am
Superb article, right on the money, especially when you talked about Mr Rahman Malik..Speaks volume of Pakistan's cultural, social and political problems..Well on serious note, it's a sad sad affairs of Pakistan
Sep 28, 2012 01:33pm
but no life security ...
Mrs. Fatima Raziuddin
Sep 30, 2012 08:45am
I was once a Govt. servant teaching in a college in Karachi. I never intended returning to Pakistan. So I let go off my job ,so some one else could get a job. The funny thing about Govt. job is after I had ex Pakistan leave, I was told by many people to continue the leave till retirement age without pay,so I could benefit at age 60 with pension. Many of my teachers who taught in the same school went to America to be with their children and did it. I am happy that at my age, I did not do it. I am working and feel blessed by Allah for having a job.