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Governance at its best! (Part II)

Huzaima Bukhari

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes.”—Andrew Jackson (1829-37) 7th US president.     

In his letter written to the newly appointed Governor to Egypt, Maalik Al-Ashtar, Caliph Hazrat Ali (AS) wrote valuable words of wisdom for good governance to not only maintain perfect order but also for the overall prosperity of the state. In addition to giving due consideration to the basic needs of the masses and eradication of poverty in particular, he clearly warned him of the rich in his domain: “The rich are the people who will be the worst drag upon you during your moments of peace and happiness, and the least useful to you during your hours of need and adversity. They hate justice the most. They will keep demanding more and more out of State resources and will seldom be satisfied with what they receive and will never be obliged for the favor shown to them.

For the business and industrial community Hazrat Ali (AS) not only appreciated its contribution to the economy but also alerted the governor about certain misdemeanors. He writes: “I want to advise you about your businessmen and industrialists. Treat them well. They are the sources of wealth to the country. One more thing, you must keep an eye over their activities as well. You know that they are usually stingy misers, intensely self-centered and selfish, suffering from the obsession of grasping and accumulating wealth. They often hoard their goods to get more profit out of them by creating scarcity and by indulging in black-marketing.”

Those who have immense wealth have also a lot at stake and because of their money power can exert substantial influence over civil-militro-judicial-political entities. They can go out of their way to protect their interests even if it entails putting at risk the destiny of the majority of the people. Thus in Pakistan, essential services like education and health have been converted into flourishing businesses just because these attract substantial profits. These were supposed to be part of the universal entitlements to be enjoyed by every citizen but what happened? Only the rich few can afford sending their children to high standard educational institutions and also have access to state-of-the-art medical facilities while the majority down-trodden are left with extremely inferior quality services. The main idea is to prevent the lower social classes from rubbing shoulders with the ultra rich and forever remain in their subordination.

Even today, the so-called Pirs (spiritual leaders) who claim to be descendants of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) allow their mureeds (followers) to touch their knees and sit on the floor while they are seated on plush sofas. These pirs are not productively employed but thrive on donations or fruits of labor of tenants who work on their land granted by kings to their forefathers. Being rich and powerful, they place themselves in strong political circles, relishing high positions and vociferously resist eradication of feudalism and land reforms that would give their followers an equal status. A former president of Pakistan, hailing from a backward area of South Punjab, on taking charge of the office was quick to retrieve his agricultural land that more than a decade earlier, had fallen under the mischief of land reforms of his own political leader.

Presently too, there are known kingpins of the sugar industry who have been instrumental in destroying the agriculture sector of the country. Cotton, a vital crop for our cloth manufacturers has been replaced by sugar cane and now this country is importing cotton to provide raw material for the textile industry. These men have no sympathies with the miserable segments of society. They are least pushed about their physical and economic problems considering them dispensable and ones who are expected to submit themselves to the whims of these mafia leaders. They themselves live in palatial houses with every known facility available for them and their families while the poor tillers of the soil are condemned to live in sub-human conditions, highly deleterious for their physical and moral health

In order to become wealthy overnight, many traders and members of the business community, have blatantly made use of hoarding, adulteration, black-marketing, tax evasion, contractual violations and to make matters worse justify their acts by claiming that the world is cruel towards honest people and if they do not indulge in such activities, they would not be able to survive. The truth is that because of this notoriety life of the genuine trader has become really difficult with many having no recourse but to close down their businesses to take up petty employments.

If centuries ago, this bleak situation was prevalent in a comparatively simpler lifestyle, imagine how monstrous these transgressions must be in this complex and rapidly globalizing world of today. Had the rulers in Pakistan lent their ears to Hazrat Ali’s (AS) advice, we would have never suffered from economic collapse and resorted to heavy borrowing. Again, when the common man’s woes are totally ignored, the domino effect of his distress will certainly reflect in the government’s wretchedness forcing it to take actions that ironically have hardly any negative effects on the rich and mighty but cause the poorer people colossal anguish.  

When severe measures are taken against traders and industrialists, in reaction they close down their factories, shops and business centres and start agitations. As a consequence, the labor force living on daily wages having no other source of income is the one to be hit most aggressively. The rich will continue filling their bellies but what recourse would these hungry people have, but to commit crimes or beg for food. Such is the price societies, states and governments have to pay for disregarding principles laid down by the people of God. (To be continued)


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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