Woman secretly giving a bribe
Woman secretly giving a bribe

It was an embarrassment for the whole country when Zarrar Haider Khan, an officer of the Pakistani Ministry of Industries and Production, was caught stealing the wallet of a member of a delegation from Kuwait. The disgraced bureaucrat was caught with the help of surveillance footage.

The Kuwaiti delegation was visiting to discuss investment plans with the Pakistani government. A video of the theft went viral on social media and damaged Pakistan’s image, as the matter was reported all over the world.

The government of Pakistan has fired the disgraced officer and an inquiry is looking into why he tried to steal the wallet of a foreign dignitary knowing that surveillance cameras were all over the place.

The inexperienced and unprofessional team of the Imran Khan-led government is highly dependent on the civil bureaucracy to run government affairs. There is a self-created hype of accountability of political opponents and all the focus is toward making people believe that it is the rival politicians who are responsible for collective moral bankruptcy and corruption.

Electronic media, dancing to the tune of their masters, are successfully creating hatred of politicians and democracy in the public eye. News anchors who have no experience in field journalism are giving lectures to the masses that politicians’ corruption is the main reason for Pakistan not being able to progress, and yet do not dare to give one minute’s coverage to the white-collar crimes of the owners of their own TV channels or the blue-eyed bureaucrats who are involved in using their influence to gain monetary benefits and exploiting the system. Tax evasion and the whitening of black money are not seen by the electronic media as corruption or misdeeds.

The same is the case with most of the major news publications. Somehow the pillars of the state are exempted from being labeled as corrupt, as questioning their misuse of authority means risking your life. You cannot accuse the judiciary of all the misdeeds it has done by validating martial laws. You cannot criticize judges for taking monetary benefits and rewarding their benefactors with judicial decisions that favor them. It is called contempt of court, a law that was made by the British to silence the voices of the masses in the subcontinent during the colonial period.

You cannot question the faith merchants for their alleged frauds in collecting charity in the name of religion or a shrine and then using that money for their personal gain.

It is considered a sin to ask about the accountability of the military establishment that has been responsible for four periods of martial law and which, according to political commentator Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, runs the biggest business empire of the country.

All this gives birth to the hypocrisy and double standards in the collective psychology of society. It creates a perception that if you are in the good books of a well-connected and influential person you can’t be brought to justice.

The masses who love to criticize politicians and listen to fabricated lectures on corruption have double standards too. From illegally acquiring homes and bribing government officials in order to get approval for false construction maps to using substandard construction materials, everything is justified.

It is every one among us who sells expired medicines or unhealthy milk, or who hoards food and grocery items, or sells stolen mobile phones; government workers who accept under-the-table commissions, earn wealth by breaking all the ethics and rules of law yet consider themselves the purest of all. After doing all these misdeeds a prayer or a board containing sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about not indulging in corrupt practices relieves such people from the unbearable weight of the guilt of corruption.

A country where a patient on a deathbed is given fake medicine or where doctors and private hospitals are looking to earn even more from the dead body does not need any external enemy to destroy it, as it is already in self-destructive mode. Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan or Asif Zardari do not force any milk seller, shopkeeper, government servant, doctor, engineer or any other person associated with any field to become involved in corruption.

It is our collective attitude of acquiring luxuries at the cost of morals and ethics that has given birth to a society where everyone is involved in moral or financial corruption but expects others to respect morals and law. You cannot justify your corruption as a necessity to live and accuse others of not being ethical. A society can only progress when each and every individual takes responsibility. Accountability is good but it should start from one’s own self and should be across the board.

We all need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are ready to face the truth, that we as a society are opportunists who are not fulfilling basic duties and responsibilities but are in search for ways to exploit the system according to our own status and power.

This incident of the bureaucrat stealing the wallet of a foreign dignitary is a glimpse into our collective behavior and psychology to exploit each and every opportunity for personal gain. We need to stop this double standard regarding morals and ethics or else we will forever remain in a state of denial and will always be recognized as a group of opportunists rather than a civilized society or nation.

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.