Beggar at Ghazi Chowk


Hopelessness is Rampant.

20 Jun 2010

I often ask people what they think of this blog. This has also included people I interview. Often my analysis is thought of as simplistic, and often I’m told that all of it is very surface level, and often my analysis lacks depth. More often than not, the depth of the analysis yields way to a hidden vice, at times to a conspiracy theory, generally just failure on many levels by many involved.

My common excuse is to say I’m not anthropologist, renowned journalist or political analyst, so I do what I do. What I usually don’t say is that often I will choose to ignore the depth of any analysis if I see no benefit in thinking about it. So when I shamelessly proclaim my love for mainstream pop/rock and Coke Studio, I choose to not think about how corporations are ‘taking over everything’ and ‘selling everything to us’. So what.

At times it leads to an obvious loss of authenticity in artwork, when it doesn’t, to be honest I couldn’t care less who paid for it. Often I say I’d rather have corporations with money than politicians, and then I quote Coke Studio, and the positive insights and exposure its given us. Many people think businesses and politicians are equally dangerous. Whatever the case, I pretend that hope exists.

However, while I try looking around for signs of hope, genuine or not, often just gimmicks and other times actual facts or stories hidden somewhere, a real sense of hopelessness exists in this country. Their have always been skeptics, but this is not them. This is normal people actually thinking that nothing can be done. Some choose to ignore it, I filter it at times, but other times it just stares at you.

Ardeshir Cowasjee is a senior columnist for Dawn, and I was compelled to write this post after I read this column. I found it posted by a friend on Facebook. No comments, just the link. I’m not sure what comments he could have added once I thought about it. It’s not the first time I’ve heard/read that Pakistan has just gone downhill since it was created. I’ve heard it as an argument for people who choose to emigrate to more prosperous, and (as the concern now is) safer societies.

A friend and I shared an email exchange with Cowasjee after this column. I sense that the blame game is slowly expanding to Pakistanis as well. By this I mean that in addition to the blame we put on the US, ‘the West’, various intelligence agencies and India, we now also think Pakistani politicians, corruption, a lack of effort is also part of the problem. I have heard many people say to me that this ‘previous generation has failed us’, meaning the generation of my parents has failed my generation. This is said more so by my parents’ generation than mine.

In the spirit of my superficial analysis, I want to mention this story. While many administrators may have actually gotten worse in 63 years of independence, one District Coordination Officer (DCO) in Jhang set up an ingenious anti corruption mechanism that was successful enough to catch the eye of the Economist. Zubair K. Bhatti (read his profile here) ensured that for every recorded transaction, the mobile phone number of both parties was also recorded. Mobiles are now unbelievably common/cheap in Pakistan. He would then randomly call people and ask if they were asked for bribes etc. The mechanism worked like a charm and was promised to be implemented by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif but fell through somewhere unidentified. The idea was to use call centers to implement this on larger scales. That hasn’t happened but at least we now know we have an idea.