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Disturbing inequality

The policies of Pakistan’s ruling elite have turned the country into a death trap for ordinary people in the holy month of Ramazan. The hapless, wretched and destitute rely on free sacks of flour, bachat bazaars and distribution of alms to make ends meet.

This year, distribution drives organized during the early days of Ramazan were mismanaged, resulting in deadly stampedes. This economic inequality is a result of extractive policies of the elite – politicians, generals, judges, business owners, landed aristocracy and bureaucrats who have created an unjust and discriminatory society.

The inclusive state apparatus is missing; investment in human development is a far cry; and health facilities for ordinary people are few and far between. In the absence of any credible and uniform education system, national cohesion and social integration are missing. The educational policies of different governments have created schisms in society, and the divisions can be seen at every socio-economic level. The discriminatory policies of successive governments reflect the British policy of creating two classes – rulers and the ruled.

Consequently, only ordinary people are bearing the brunt of massive inflation which is causing death and destruction.

When MNAs or MPAs visit their constituencies, people swarm the streets to catch a glimpse of them and feel overwhelmed when they shake their hands. They remain oblivious to the fact that he uses a new SUV every time he visits them and that his glittering face and healthy stature speaks volumes of opulence that he and his family enjoy.

It is rather disappointing that schools, hospitals, roads, drainage systems are nonexistent in most parts of the country. Yet voters continue to consider these politicians their messiah. This happens because these influential people control the police, district administration, and budget of the area.

The legal system of the country is so expensive and hostile for ordinary people that it requires nerves of steel, unimaginable finances, limitless time and energy to pursue genuine cases.

The attitude of people holding public offices is so humiliating for ordinary people that any sane person would avoid visiting offices of bureaucrats for a legitimate matter – unless one is well connected and has pockets deep enough.

The police as an institution mainly serves as a tool for the rich and the powerful who use them to further their political agenda at the cost of controlling and suppressing people.

Ignorance on the part of rulers reigns supreme. They are blissfully unaware of the problems faced by the people of Pakistan and are more interested in expanding their political activities to extend their power.

The scenario portrayed above carries all the ingredients of a failed nation where we are divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, and food and famine. The extractive narrow elite have never considered human development, a uniform system of education, proper health facilities and equality of opportunity for people.

The dejected educated youth believe that the ruling elite has been betraying its citizens for the last 75 years and that this country is not meant for them. We now see an increase in the number of students registered with coaching centres offering IELTS, TOEFL, GRE preparation classes.

At least eight out of 10 students want to leave the country to find a decent life outside Pakistan. They want to immigrate to a country that can provide them equality of opportunity, social justice and protection of life and property, which they find missing here. Unskilled young people have apparently resigned to their fate. The scenario is quite bleak, however damage control is still possible.

Countries like France, the UK, the US, Australia, and Canada flourished because they moved from extractive to inclusive institutions, created a market economy, and invested in human development. As a result they are now the most powerful nations on earth. It took them centuries to create egalitarian societies.

It is time Pakistan’s ruling elite took steps towards creating a just and viable society by encouraging conditions which enable full and active participation of all citizens from all walks of life. This can be achieved by providing equality of opportunity to people regardless of ethnicity, colour, cast, creed and geographical location. This will help utilize the full potential of all with the resulting emphasis on inclusion, empowerment, ownership and overall development of society.

If steps for creating an inclusive society are not taken, it may lend credence to the fact that the country is not meant for us. We live in a sharply divided country where the people continue to face death, humiliation and discrimination, and the elite continues to flourish.

Email: rafique.memon@usindh.edu.pk

Dr Rafique A Memon, "Disturbing inequality," The News. 2023-04-18.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social justice , Human development , Politicians , Equality , Australia , Canada , Pakistan , GRE , IELTS