Don of Dons

Bahria Town Karachi

When the Panama Papers story broke, I wrote that just because someone wasn’t named in the leaks it doesn’t mean that they are corruption free. I noted a few examples of privileged institutions showing signs of severe corruption that have never been given the attention like politicians. However there was no way I could have predicted what would come next.

Dawn’s report exposing Bahria Town is amazing for many reasons, beginning with the fact that it ever saw the light of day. Like the Panama Papers, what is shocking is not to find out that there is corruption, but to see it laid out so plainly before our eyes. The Bahria Town report is even bigger than Panama Papers though because it directly exposes the one institution that is considered beyond criticism: the military.

The Bahria Town expose is a big story by itself, but it is made even more stark as it is read while Army troops are literally going to war against their peasants. No, this is not a typo. TV anchors will not be covering this development as closely as PM’s shopping spree medical care in London, but it is no less reality.

Chotu gang operations may be in the headlines but Army is also carrying out operations in Okara where they have deployed heavily armed troops against Pakistani farmers who dared to protest their conditions.

Army's anti-farmer operations in Okara

This is not the first time that Army has turned its guns on the farmers who work their land. Conditions at Okara Military Farms have been lamented by the peasants who work there for years, and only two years ago Army troops opened fire on the farmers for daring to protest against being treated like disposable serfs by their feudal military lords.

Panama Papers has shown us just how wide spread is the problem of corruption in our society. But Bahria Town and Okara Military Farms are showing us that overseas accounts and posh London tailors are peanuts compared to what is taking place right before our eyes. Our political leaders may be feudals, but in reality they are mere vassals compared to the real Lords of Pakistan.

Whose Nation Is This?

The post below by Musam Memon was originally published on Express Tribune Blog, and I am republishing it here because he gets it 100% correct. Whatever you think of Musharraf or Nawaz or Zardari or anyone else, it is the right of the people, not the right of an unappointed elite in the media or the military or the courts to select the country’s leaders.

Like Musam, I hear too often people telling me that democracy is good but only if the well-educated people are voting. They tell me that you cannot trust the poor to vote because they do not understand the important issues.

But this is nonsense. Do the spoiled children of Punjabi businessmen understand the hardships that are faced by rural families? Most of the country is still in poverty and poorly educated. Their voices must be heard, too.

Saying that the poor and uneducated are not fit to select their own leaders is the same attitude of feudalism, whether our new elites will admit it publicly or not. We must do away with these attitudes and embrace all of our brothers and hear their perspectives. Then we will know the facts and be able to work together to find solutions to poverty and education, bringing everyone up to a modern level of development.

Democracy: Whose right is it anyway?

I would be surprised if you still have not engaged in a charismatically disingenuous conversation in which a mischievous friend let lose a blasphemous idea, revolving around the topic of whether we, Pakistanis, are ready for, or deserve democracy. Democracy, which can be simply understood as the right of people to choose their leaders.

Now some, without chivalry, argue insistently that our country lacks education, maturity, intellect and economic growth levels – typical indicators of a developed nation. Of course, I do not refute the idea that we are a developing nation with abysmally low levels of education and economic growth. But the fact that the majority of the nation cannot read or write, is involved in subsistence agriculture and lives below the poverty line, is hardly reason enough to strip them off the right to choose their own rulers.

If those who are uneducated, who do not have access to clean water and nutritious food and are scraping together a living toiling on a farm are not allowed who to vote, then who does? The military? And the hedonistic educated elite, who seem to feel that they have an inherent right to play savior to the ‘uninformed’ and uneducated public?

Democracy means the right of choice. It is the right of the people, no matter what social strata they belong to, to choose to make their own mistakes. I say that because it is not democracy that we are not ready for, it is a lack of choice that has continued to paralyse the entire nation for over half a century; most of us vote for the party that we think will do the least damage.

Former president Pervez Musharraf probably understood this; the second time he felt like sitting on the ‘hot seat’, he did not resort to a ‘coup detat’. He has a party now.