MY phone was snatched just a few metres away from the Town Police Station in Peshawar recently. The culprits fled, while the police officers continued to claim that it was not “our jurisdiction.” This incident, seemingly insignificant, lays bare a truth far more profound: who, truly, is responsible?

We condemn the muggers, but can we ignore the system that fails them? Youth unemployment runs rampant, with the opportunities of employment becoming a mirage shimmering above parched hope. Blaming them for desperation-driven crime is easier than addressing the systemic failures that push them to it.

Truly, this is not about absolving individuals. Choices have consequences; even desperate ones. But let us not pretend this is purely an individual failing. When a police station shirks its responsibility, politicians prioritise power-grab over public welfare, and establishment plays its own game, the ground under the feet of the ordinary citizens becomes treacherous.

Unfortunately, we, the people, voted as being part of this system. We, through our apathy or misguided choices, allowed it to fester.

Do we then absolve ourselves, pointing fingers at politicians, bureaucrats, and an amorphous establishment? No. Shared responsibility demands a shared and fair accountability.

The mugger who snatched my phone was a symptom; a product of a broken system. But the system was not built in a vacuum. It reflects the collective choices, actions and inactions of a nation. Until we rise to the challenge of demanding and actively building a better system, incidents like these will remain mere symptoms of a deeper societal malaise.

Let us not just point fingers, but hold ourselves accountable. Only then can we build a Pakistan where desperation does not breed crime, and responsibility finds its rightful home, not just in, say, punishment, but in prevention.

Asghar Khan
Peshawar

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2024

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