Elites are Only Part of Pakistan’s Deep Rooted Problems


As Pakistan stares into the default abyss, the media and public attention seems to be focused on blaming the elite for “stealing public resources, conspicuous consumption, and dollar flight.”

However, as columnist and nuclear scientist, Pervez Hoodbhoy argues “this super-simplified, sophomoric reasoning misses the real point. Doesn’t every country have its ultra-rich? Are they less greedy, avaricious, exploitative, and degenerate? Wealth and privilege in America, Europe, China, Russia, and India are still more concentrated than here. But mafias and silovikis notwithstanding, their knowledge-based economies keep soaring and their spacecraft are circling the moon and Mars.”

The real difference he argues is how the Pakistani elite differs from others. “Beaming a spotlight onto this is useful because it reveals actual differences between societies; every elite mirrors what lies below. Look at Pakistan’s home-grown elite. Like the common man, they spit on the law. Pakistan’s plight isn’t solely because its elite are corrupt; their values and worldview have failed.”

Hoodbhoy notes that in “cultured societies, elites take delight in scientific and academic matters. They endow universities with chairs and professorships. Institutions bearing their names immortalise the donor. Named after J.R.D. Tata, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is the proud flagship of Indian science. But you can fruitlessly scour all of Pakistan for someone who will donate for science or the arts. As for music: famed Pakistani ghazal singers like the late Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali received more appreciation in India than Pakistan. Philanthropy in Pakistan means donating to madressahs, mosques, and hospitals.”

Hoodbhoy warns that the country needs attitudinal, cultural, and ideological changes to move forward.

First, “stop force-feeding nonsense to our schoolchildren. What goes under “education” is actually religious and propagandistic indoctrination. The result is mass stupidity and Somalia-level learning outcomes.”

Second, “stop blaming the world for Pakistan’s problems. You cannot hate the West and, in the same breath, supplicate it for bailouts or apply for immigration. We are authors of our own misfortune.”

Third, “stop being a security state. Pakistan is chronically unable to live peacefully with its neighbours as well as with itself.”

In conclusion, Hoodbhoy states, “Pakistan doesn’t need an external enemy for collapse; its civil and military elites have hollowed out their own house.”


Author: Shaista Sindhu