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The poor blessed ones

Published Aug 03, 2012 04:33pm


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-Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Some places are not conducive for work – physical, mental, or any kind of work at all – at any time of the year and under any circumstances. Pakistan is a world leader in this phenomenon that has not yet been recognised as an industry. (This opening is meant to frustrate the Indian readers of the forum who take away the exclusivity of every subject I touch, by commenting: ‘it’s same to same in India, no?’. No, not this time neighbour.)

Muslims all over the world generally monopolise the no-work trade but being a Muslim and a Pakistani makes all the difference. The Gulf Arab will accept any job which has the word ‘mudeer’ in the title, comes with a big mahogany desk in a plush office, a secretary to remind him what needs done, and an assistant to do it. The Afghan likes to mix business with pleasure and will take up a job happily if it comes with an employer-provided rocket launcher and offers monthly bonus for killing infidels. But a Pakistani will only accept a job that ensures his ‘ghareeb’ status will remain unchanged so every time he or she is asked to do something they can excuse themselves by pleading: ‘but I am ghareeb’.

A declaration of poverty is advanced and accepted as a logical antidote to work, and a direct appeal for help in cash or kind. Try offering an able-bodied beggar a well paying cleaning job at home or work. He or she will remind you of their poverty and you’ll end up apologizing for your offer and taking out your wallet even if you don’t believe in patronising street begging.

It also absolves the declarer of all responsibility. Say a motorist hits you while driving opposite to the flow of traffic, and therefore clearly in the wrong. You walk up to him as he’s lighting a cigarette. ‘Bhai saab look what you have done, the right headlight is broken, you know how much …’ Visibly calm after taking a couple of quick drags, he looks up at you: ‘sorry’. That is hardly a consolation you deserve: ‘The damage, who is going to pay? Do you even have a license? My car …’ you helplessly keep pointing at the bashed side of the car. ‘No insurance or license. And I can’t pay because I am poor,’ he utters the last words triumphantly, and drives away.

Then there’s the heat that keeps Pakistanis paralysed eight months of the year. It’s not the fancy 33 C heat that Europe has to endure a few days every summer. It’s a wholesome 50 Celsius and above, we are talking about. It saps energy and cooks your brain on low flame. Avoiding the sun and rigour of any sort becomes second nature. Whatever one does to beat the heat – staying indoors, consuming gallons of lassi, improving air-conditioning and arranging back up power supply – ends up adding to the lethargy one feels in one’s bone marrow. No one in Pakistan works or expects any work done, during summer.

And just when you thought the poverty and the heat and dust had combined to define the lowest level of productivity possible in this country, along comes Ramazan. It is not called the month of blessings for nothing: you are blessed with a blanket immunity against work, whether you are at your work place or at home and whether or not you are fasting. That’s between you and your god. The government of Pakistan, on its part, ensures that all citizens enjoy equal access to no-work routine during Ramazan and till a week to ten days after Eid.

The only calories a citizen is allowed to burn between sunrise and sunset are meant for tasks like blinking, changing channels, answering doorbell or a call from boss, throwing things in irritation, and beating up a diabetic man caught sipping cola in the toilet of a roadside restaurant.

The post office is open but there’s no one inside or out of the building to stop or help you. The bank is open half day and the number of manned windows is slashed by half, so that if you are last in the queue at the opening time, you won’t make it to the window by the closing. In the market, shops open and close at will. If you find one open, chances are the shopkeeper is away for prayers, or generally not interested in doing business. The bootlegger won’t answer his phone because he is using Ramazan to wash himself of the sins of bootlegging accumulated in the previous 11 months. Electricians and plumbers will take up a job that requires an hour of work and they’ll do it at the pace of five minutes a day. Do your own math.

It’s not like no one wants to work here, Ramazan or no Ramazan. But the working types have already left the country. Each one of them left for work, or studies leading to work. What else will take them out of the heaven that is Pakistan! The world knows only too well that ‘Pakistani tourist’ is an oxymoron. They don’t tour, or visit. They go somewhere so they can live and work there.

For those who are left behind, a comfortable, highly nutritious, and work-less Ramazan Mubarik!


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.

Comments (35) Closed

Shoaib Aug 03, 2012 01:58pm
Fantastic. Pakistan is a country that is both deluded and rejects any notion of responsibility. What will change this place?
abdus salam khan Aug 03, 2012 06:19pm
Let us look at the issue from the other side,Masud Sahib! you might aver that the glass is half empty and I look at the glass as half full. I am a Pakistani living in U.S.A and I find that we from the Middle East, from South Asia and from the Far East are working wonders in America while the younger American generations are enjoying themselves. Even in Pakistan I take my hat off to the common working man who ekes out a living on a pittance; the Dakiya, the Mochi, the mechanic, the dhobi, the carpenter, the fruit vendor. the "na-ee" who comes to my house to cut my hair... they are all my heroes and need to be saluted.
Sandeep Aug 03, 2012 06:14pm
@Jam you are echoing what the writer is stating. All working Pakistani's have left Pakistan and are no doubt being admired by their employers and the country they are employed in.
pimmy Aug 03, 2012 10:08am
Garib with 12 children will pull all in garibi.
@SecularPakista1 Aug 03, 2012 01:35pm
Our productivity as compared to the rest of the world sucks. It is degraded further by Ramzan. Fasting, is the excuse for sluggish behavior and short tempers.
raika45 Aug 03, 2012 10:36am
With the situation being such,I am surprised you managed to write this column.You must be really exhausted by now.Poor fellow.
@vickxz Aug 03, 2012 12:28pm
That is incorrect. It's mostly the black expatriates who are on welfare (at least in the UK).
fika77 Aug 03, 2012 01:00pm
Agreed 100%. We just need to work hard regardless of ramazan or any other event. Ramzan doesn't stop us doing anything and I just don't get it that why we are so lazy during this month. Also, another question, why are we so busy in reaching home for iftar. I mean if you can you should otherwise it is not life-death matter. A single date in your pocket would suffice for iftar no matter where you are.
Jam Aug 03, 2012 12:37pm
Incidentally i work in Switzerland and also previously worked in Middle East. I can tell you that at least in my organization, the talent and hard work of PAkistani professionals is really admired by our European colleagues. For that matter, Indians, Turks and Egyptians are also admired for their hardwork and drive. I feel the article above is over-negative and oversimplistic... there is nothing inherently wrong with Pakistanis and a large no of PAkistani professionals and Pakistani labor working across the world is a testimony to that. How can you call a Pathan laborer who digs roads in Karachi or Dubai in +40 degree heat as "kaamchor"?? The phenomenon of not having good work ethics is limited to certain conditions and people within the country... e.g. the govt offices in PAkistan where half the staff is recruited on sifarish indeed don't have good productivity...
Lakhkar Khan Aug 03, 2012 02:10pm
Bharat, the article has a very humble approach to Pakistani society’s short comings. However, it is written as pure sarcasm which applies to many nations in South Asia, including India. I know you want to use this article to take the liberty to bash Pakistanis but I have news for you, India is not any different than Pakistan in many respects. Yet, both Indians and Pakistanis living abroad are as productive, if not more, as Europeans and North Americans.
Capt C M Khan Aug 03, 2012 07:53am
Masud sahib, what a good and correct article. I have been a victim of Mein Ghareeb Syndrome quite a few times. Keep writing the ills of our people and country and maybe the future generation will get us in line with the present Era.
Bharat Aug 03, 2012 07:48am
One way of explaining why there are so many Pakistanis on welfare in Europe. The rest of world knows it - Pakistanis are never told about.
mohammad Aug 03, 2012 08:01am
very nice and thought provoking. please write more as we want more for our nations youth to have a positive thought.
Shahid78 Aug 03, 2012 08:16am
2 Aug is the national day of Switzerland and I was so admired to read in Dawn yesterday that after over 600 years of independence, the Swiss people decided only in early 1990s to take a national holiday on this day. No doubt why their per capita income is over $45,000. :)
s k basak Aug 03, 2012 08:19am
Dear Masud, I will add to your woes being an Indian. Who says it is different in India. Come to any traffic signal in any metro. You will be pounced upon by bowl-holding bystanders. As them why they do not work, you will get same answer. Again come Diwali or Dussehera, Ganesh Chaturthi, Pongal et al; work grounds to a halt. You are lucky in Pakistan; you have only one (Ramazan) in a year; here it is one every month. And yet you complain!!!!
Johnny Aug 03, 2012 08:25am
Good. Now how about writing an article on another attribute of Pakistani, being critical of everything and never delievering. Having an answer for everything but just talk and no action. Just to be clear i was not talking about you.
Saz Aug 03, 2012 09:09am
True our people will talk of inflation joblessness but will leave any job if any actual hard work is involved in it sayin that the employer is talking advantage of gharib adami
Zalim singh Aug 03, 2012 09:14am
@ Masud Alam " beating up a diabetic man caught sipping cola in the toilet of a roadside restaurant. " Is this really true or just a gag to make us laugh?
Shazia Shaza Aug 03, 2012 06:53pm
very well said.
fika77 Aug 03, 2012 09:27pm
I will partially agree with you. Unfortunately, majority in our country who are in public service sector and no matter what their post is tend not to be present during office hours. From bureaucrats to clerks in public offices like to just kill time and work with so much attitude. Exceptions are there though. In private sector may be it is a different story but how often a common man has anything to do with a private firm. And labour or people on daily wages cannot afford to be lazy or kaamchor so obviously article is not about them.
Asif Ansari Aug 03, 2012 09:50pm
Good, your every words tell the story of TRUTH.
Mohsin Sayeed Aug 03, 2012 10:02pm
Dear Masud, Kudos for writing it as we experience it. I am so glad that someone else on this planet shares my opinion about Pakistanis and gareebs. (They sound even smellier, dirtier, lazier and more despicable if pronounced as 'gareebs' instead of 'ghareebs. tip for the next time you mention these masses). You are the man after my heart.
zahid Aug 03, 2012 10:50pm
excellent comment Jam
deva Aug 04, 2012 02:35am
in UK, welfare program is max used and exploited by Pakistani. Lot many Paksitani drive illigel Cab and without insured car. Having mulitple festivals during whole year is good rather not work for whole month. Different multiple breaks give energy back of monotonus working life.
imran Aug 04, 2012 04:57am
I don ,t agree with this why you always see the dark side can,t you see the achievement of pakistanis there is just a long list no need to me nt ion just open your eyes and see the other side.
Pranav Aug 04, 2012 06:05am
The problem is that good guys are working abroad... leaving the lemons behind.
Pranav Aug 04, 2012 06:07am
I read this article yesterday and today I pulled up my car cleaner for not doing his job for the past 15 days.. When I asked him to leave the job he said that 'Main garib hoon'...Reminded me of this article... I told him that you realise that you are poor. Why cant you realise that you have to work as well.
Azaad Freeman Aug 04, 2012 09:10am
Wonderful. But sorry Masud, we in Quebec are perfecting this art and, God willing, will beat Pakistan, soon. We too have scores of "never wanting to be employed, claiming poverty" types, always angry, always feeling hard done by, while collecting a thousand dollars in monthly welfare checks. We must concede that some are of Pakistani origin, but they are now OURS. You can't get credit for them!!!
Haroon Aug 04, 2012 09:43am
Great comment!
Mohammad ali gaad Aug 04, 2012 04:17pm
Ramzan Doesn't mean to leave your work behind! neither it says to be dull-minded, if one is fasting he should do his proper work and at other full-fill all Islamic activities.
illawarrior Aug 04, 2012 06:28pm
helloooo........ no wonder they love Aussie Centrelink!!!!
Khalid Aug 04, 2012 08:54pm
Nothing can be further from the truth. Pakistanis have a reputation and the article nicely highlights that. Why do you think that Philippines has overtaken India in the call center business? (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa are not far behind either). If we were so good, that would have come to us. Let us agree that we do have a problem and only when we accept there is a problem, we will do something about improving the situation. Digging road is probably one of the lowest jobs in the world, we specialise in it because our education system has failed us. Do you know that the only reason Pakistan provides labour for digging roads is that we are the cheapest in the world. NOT THE BEST, NOT THE MOST EFFICIENT. I could go on....
Larry Aug 06, 2012 04:04am
Agree that Pakistanis are lazy and do not like working. One avoids work here for the strangest of reasons but saying that all hardworking Pakistanis have left is not right. You cannot ignore and undermine the hard work of millions of people who work in this 'Heaven' just to make a living.
kanak Aug 07, 2012 11:06am
Call centre job is low tech low paying and thus most Indian companies have moved up the value chain. The exports of Indian software industry is growing in double digits and has crossed $60 billion last year proving the author's point that hard work pays.
farrukh zain Aug 08, 2012 10:13am
The article is a light heatred punch at our own misgivings hence should be taken as such.