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Dog-eat-dog season

Perhaps ordinary, concerned Pakistanis expecting the so-called audio leaks to pit one central state institution (judiciary) against another (military) to protect some of their most fundamental rights are missing the forest for the trees. There’s no denying, of course, that no right-minded, law-abiding citizen would ever approve of the state’s intelligence agencies spying on its own citizens and then releasing taped phone calls whenever it suits them; or suits the people that suit them.

The average Joe’s outrage is understandable, no doubt, but it’s still a bit rich of the political and institutional elite, who are featured in these leaks, to hide behind the constitution and worry about their right to privacy. For, just like everybody knows exactly which government department is recording and leaking these phone calls – despite the initial noise about mysterious hackers, dark web, etc. – people also know just what kind of politicians, political aides, bureaucrats and judges usually get to grow rich and powerful in this Islamic republic.

They also know which respective sides of the law or the establishment these people need to stand on, and have stood on since forever, to get that privilege. So they also ought to understand that such people tend to throw a fit and cry Article 14 only when they’re being taught a lesson, so to speak, for getting too big for their shoes.

Yet this is usually when most of us sheep, which make up the vast majority of the country’s 230 million population, go into a frenzy about “our fundamental right to privacy”. Even though this particular setting, especially what led to and leads from these audio leaks, raises some fundamental questions about when this “fundamental right” should be defended and if we, the people, should do it for them, the people that played parts in wrecking this country, ruining our lives and making themselves immensely rich and influential in the process.

Let’s not forget why Pakistan is counted among the most corrupt countries in the whole world. The military’s penchant for hatching politicians that manipulate the civil service and buy and sell top judges has gone on too long, and even its recent step back from politics – taken at face value – can do nothing about the rot that has already set in the system. And while it would be natural, and right, for one to feel violated if a selfless, preferably secret, act of kindness, or even a future political strategy for that matter, were suddenly leaked to the public.

Isn’t it a different matter altogether when these leaks spill the beans about crooked politicians’ links with corrupt judges, or expose a self-professed messiah’s mastery of tickling women’s “pleasure points”, or (more than) hint that a judge that loved to grab headlines by taking everybody to the cleaners every day, including weekends, might not have been clean enough for his robes himself? Why should honest, hard-working citizens light social media on fire just because the people that bent the system to harm them got caught with their pants down?

There’s the other side to consider too. Just because one bunch is getting exposed doesn’t necessarily make the recorders and leakers the good guys. You can’t really expect the intel machinery to compromise its own commanders, even if you can be sure that even the top brass is not immune from phone tapping. That would lead to a civil war inside the army that would push it to implosion, which is unacceptable; so that’s just how it is.

But that’s just one small part of the much bigger reality that too many Pakistanis don’t have the luxury of dwelling into when they go about their days dodging falling knives – unemployment, hyperinflation, climate poisoning – and are reduced to hoping for, and expecting, nothing more than keeping their homes and raising their children. For them to get wrapped up in this mess might make some sense if the constitutional articles they think they’re fighting for were being called upon to protect everybody’s rights, not just people whose phone calls reveal crooked, even criminal, schemes that the same constitution frowns upon much more strongly.

For the people, at least, that is just how things are. They had no part in the loot and plunder at the top that drowned the country in debt and will, in time, push it to default, yet they must pay the price for it. They had nothing to do with the idiocy, incompetence and downright corruption that broke the economy, yet they must lose jobs and pay extra for everything while their purchasing power is decreasing, if not disappearing altogether.

Similarly, constitutional clauses that compromised politicians like to toss around whenever the spotlight is on them are never invoked for the common man, so what sense is there in him fighting this fight like it’s for everybody? As Pakistan’s working classes know only too well, such is the reality of life in the corrupt, poor, stinking armpit of the third world.

The audio leaks just go to show the dog-eat-dog nature of the fight at the top of the country’s food chain – a place far removed from the reach of almost all its citizens. And even if some powerful individuals find temporary refuge under the constitution, everybody knows that such privilege will never extend to the average citizen.

So, why bother?

Shahab Jafry, "Dog-eat-dog season," Business recorder. 2023-04-27.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social issues , Social justice , Fundamental rights , Social reforms , Civil war , Constitution , Justice , Pakistan

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