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Why Do Systems Fail?

A star-spangled group of concerned citizens of various ilk have recently launched a campaign for peace and harmony in the country, particularly in Karachi, by putting their weight behind a mass appeal in the form of a major rally organised by the Mir Khalilur Rahman Society in Karachi and a separate campaign in the media. Opposition parliamentarians led by Mian Nawaz Sharif simultaneously organised an All Parties Conference (APC) in the city. On the surface terrorism’s immediate reaction to this was gunning down of one of the participants, the outspoken Editor of Takbeer, Muhammad Salahuddin. While the actual perpetrator of this ghastly assassination remains a matter of conjecture as late Salahuddin had many enemies (including those whom he had exposed as being corrupt), this vicious repudiation of the combined voice of reason underscores a deep apprehension of impending doom, a refrain heard alike in the drawing rooms of the elite and the tea-stalls of the impoverished, hovering like an ominous dark cloud over the minds of our citizenry. It is almost as if we are willing ourselves into becoming prisoners of our worst nightmares. This deterioration of the national fabric into anarchy, very much visible all around us in every institution of any note, can be solely and wholly blamed on the various permutations and combinations of small coterie in Pakistan that has always wielded power, whether in or out of authority. It is not surprising that these people conveniently remain blind and deaf to what’s happening to this country but do not fail to spout rhetoric far divorced from reality as to the reasons. The elected and the selected, with sometimes little difference between the two, have generally put greed and career respectively (or both together) before their conscience i.e. they have operated on the basis of their selfish personal needs by putting their own welfare and contentment before the safety and comfort of the citizens they represent and/or are responsible for, seldom giving greater priority to the honour and glory of the country they profess to be loyal to.

In this degeneration process, the first factors that we give lip-service to are merit and accountability. Merit is suspect because nepotism has so undermined the process of upward mobility that anyone showing signs of above par excellence is considered dangerous and dealt with accordingly. Those who have reached the upper levels with little to show for ability ensure a vicious cycle where no “upstart” with any merit comes through the pecking order. In Pakistan, as in third world countries, character assassination by the help of motivated intelligence reports is the order of the day, bloody assassination a la Salahuddin takes place only where everything else fails. An endless blackmail is conducted by twisting facts and mixing it with fiction in order to wear down the patience of the victim till he (or she) simply gives up out of sheer frustration. How many voices have we seen silenced, how many brilliant careers have we seen going down the drain in this manner? From time to time fate intervenes to correct this imbalance but the broad momentum of nepotism is maintained to the detriment of those crucial leadership attributes which are a necessity at every level of society and discipline. When merit thus becoming a negative attribute for survival and advancement, how does one expect accountability which in any case is mostly selective because it is directed towards the “enemies” of the powers – that – be (i.e. whoever is in power at that precise moment)? Selective accountability focus undercuts its credibility, the basis of fact being eroded by its motivated interest in persecution for the sake of persecution, sometimes even as a revenge motive, rather than purely altruistic intentions to uphold the laws of the land. There is a conspiracy of silence that makes for a sort of a “Thieves Pact” not to really put each other into any inquisition until one crosses a particular fail-safe line. To be effective, the concept of accountability has to be blind, compromises makes the process ineffective. One of the reasons why we are in a holy mess is because we have systematically destroyed the integrity of the accountability process.

The youngest functionary of the State in the learning stage, whether one is a Probationer in the Civil Services Academy or a Gentleman Cadet in the Military Academy, are at the leading edge of the required qualities of future leaders of the country, among them honesty, integrity, loyalty, dedication, responsibility, self-sacrifice, courage, honour, etc. The obvious anathemas are nepotism, corruption, greed, etc, self-serving qualities that give preponderance to individual needs over that of the State. There has been a slide over the years from the qualities that are required to these levels that one used to abhor. Earlier the slide was more gradual, more pronounced as one headed into retirement but now the breakdown of character takes place much earlier with a hurried impatience to make money and quickly acquire the trappings of power in direct contrast to the concept of the society our forefathers were yearning for. To achieve that goal we are ready to serve any interest, morality notwithstanding.
Courage of conviction makes for fine reading after the event, how many of us have had the courage to stand up and state the obvious when it was NOT fashionable to do so? Mohammad Salahuddin did and look what has happened to him? For all those given to rhetoric how many could put their life on the line for what one believes in? Unfortunately for the measure of our collective character those who have done so are in a minuscule and vilified minority, taken mostly as aberrations best lodged in a funny farm (or made very dispensable in a graveyard a la Salahuddin). Far from being cloaked by the veils of secrecy, corruption has become blatant and those who have the power to check it have tied themselves into a Constitutional knot out of a respect for the due process of law. Benign neglect has allowed criminals to completely rule the roost till justice in this environment is akin to a crime. While one must respect the judiciary the fact remains that their credibility has been eroded by the perception of their servicing of wholesale loyalty to a particular affiliation. One feels sorry for the learned men of law on the bench, these good men have been put in an untenable position vis-a-vis their conscience.

Without casting aspersion on any one individual soul or indicating motivation thereof, one appeals to the sense of patriotism in those who remain clean not to be swayed in the matter of national security. To survive as a nation this is one aspect that cannot bear compromise. Our own history is replete with mistakes of omission and commission, cannot we learn any lessons from the disasters we have had to endure? Those who have responsibility to collect, collate, disseminate and distribute have a duty to the nation and its citizenry to report facts as they are, to analyse with logic and honesty, not to doctor facts and analysis to suit a particular vested interest. It does not matter if one is the head of the institution or its lowest employee, the duty to the State demands an absolute honesty that is not shackled by motivated interest, either personal or for a particular sect, society or any other incumbency that is used for motives other than what it is meant for, one erodes the credibility as well as the effectiveness of that organisation. There is always the right to disobey unlawful commands, are individuals down the line so dumb that they cannot differentiate between what is right for the State and what is motivated out of selfish, individual interest? Character is made by subordinates standing up and being counted when the institutions of the State are being misused by superiors for their own narrow selfish ends. God has given every individual who has been chosen to be a functionary of the State enough common sense to differentiate between right and wrong, for the sake of the State each person must exercise his or her judgement according his or her conscience. Not only is this morally wrong, the fact remains that the meagre resources of the State should never be misdirected for personal use. The greatest patriotism lies in standing by the truth, not to let it be coloured by narrow vested individual ambition. Can any individual’s interest be greater that of the country?

Systems fail because we have allowed State institutions to be corrupted by individual ambitions and greed. The law for traffic offences is manipulated by the traffic police to extract bribes from the motorists, the stiffer the laws and penalties, greater the propensity to collect money for one’s own pockets. While collecting bribes may not be a heinous crime by itself, this analogy is relatively harmless in the face of those who use the cover of draconian laws to smear and/or blackmail for their own personal interest. Our history is a sorry witness to brilliant men of known integrity with great potential to offer to the nation give up their careers in sheer frustration in the face of motivated rumours and reports. And one may well ask, what is the prime motivation of such campaigns and who is at their origin?

Systems fail because we have never dealt with the enemies within us, those who corrupt an honest process to further their own individual ambitions or greed. Systems fail because we do not have the courage to stand up and name the individuals who are destroying our way of life for their own selfish interests. Unfortunately for those who would use the system to further their own designs, many many more exists as honest cogs in the process. For fear of their livelihood, their families, their pensions, their reputation, their credibility, etc, etc they remain “the great silent majority.” How much more will it take for this majority to say enough is enough and stand up against the corrupt and greedy of this Earth? The day that Rubicon is crossed, revolutions are given birth. But do we have to depend only on revolutions to correct the system? Those belonging to the great silent majority must not remain silent. To prop up the system, individuals must exercise their capacity to control fear and cross over into the domain of courage so that they come to terms with their own potential and act for the good of the country at the right time.


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