Why we must come down hard on VIP culture

Updated September 19, 2016

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We all play the cards we’re dealt, and some of us just have better cards than others.

Imagine driving on a highway in your Civic or Corolla and getting flagged by a police officer. Parked on the side of the road, you roll down your window, and feign curiosity as to why you’ve been stopped.

You needn’t do so.

You know you’ve been over-speeding, and you understand what the law authorises the police officer to do in this case.

But somehow, you feel you shouldn’t be subjected to the same rules as everyone else. You can hardly resist intimidating or charming the policeman with your class privilege.

When asked for your license and registration, it feels pertinent to also inform the officer that you’re a lawyer, or an engineer, or a doctor working at a big hospital nearby.

You may also mention that your dad or your uncle is a high-ranking military officer.

And you most probably succeed in getting away.

This is what corruption looks like.

But if you have the power to get more out of a situation than just avoiding a traffic fine, you will apparently have few reservations doing so.

Recently near Attock, four members of the highway police were beaten up and unlawfully detained by army personnel, after the police attempted to fine them for reckless driving.

Although public outrage is palpable, apologia for the army officers involved is clearly visible on social media and in family drawing rooms.

Many have speculated that the army officers were en route to an important place, undertaking an important task, and that this should override the legal requirement for safe driving.

The argument is that the fault lies with the police officers for performing their duties with diligence; for the egregious audacity to implement supposedly unimportant traffic rules on exceptionally important people.

Ordinary people driving ordinary cars on Pakistani roads are accustomed to the unannounced arrival of convoys cruising notably faster than the speed limit.

Security personnel sitting at the back of the vans and trucks point their guns to gesture nearby motorists to make way for the important people coming through.

The school van, the ambulance, and the Suzuki full of low-waged workers are all performing important duties without which this country cannot possibly function.

But they’re all humbly waiting at the roadblock for one motorcade or another to pass through.

Yet the upper-middle class gentleman, who uses his social standing to negotiate his way out of a traffic fine on his way to the airport, is incensed when his flight is delayed for a VIP.

Why?

Haven’t we all signed up for a system where each is entitled to grab whatever is in their power, common good be damned?

This VIP culture is a consequence of a social, political, economic system that produces inequality at every step.

Without the will to address inequality at all levels, injustices, like the one that occurred near Attock, will continue at a steady pace.

Correction: The earlier version of the article incorrectly noted that the incident between the army officers and the motorway police took place on the Islamabad-Lahore motorway.