What the rich can do for themselves

By Ammara Farooq Malik

When the outgoing director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Pakistan Marc-André Franche, said that ‘the only way a critical change could happen in the country was when the influential, the politicians and the wealthy, would sacrifice short term, individual and family interests for the benefit of the nation’[1], he was just explaining what many Pakistani elite already know but would not like to spell out.

Traditionally in Pakistan,  those who question the status quo are branded as ‘trouble makers’ and ostracized from opportunities and the peacebuilders are at the highest risk. Some have even  become victims of target killing.[2]

Pakistanis are living in a very complex country with an equally complex society.

It is the convenient defenses that the elite present at every instance when they bring their own interests in front of those of the nation, that are mind boggling for the remaining minority of professionals.

As a nation, people have started accepting many wrongs as right and it is unclear exactly when and how quickly Pakistani society slipped, inch by inch into this new era of ‘acceptance and entitlement’. The principles of the world and those of professionalism upheld by the Jinnah seem to have become remnants of the past.

Majority of the social wrong doers feel entitled to do what they do because some are inexperienced while the others are uneducated and some just feel ‘entitled’ because they are wealthy.  When such people turn up late for a flight or bus, they expect the airline or bus to make all the passengers wait. [3]When elite fashion designers put up misogynistic images in their shoots promoting their brands[4] and then wonder what they did wrong, society slips a little closer to enslaving women in a misogynistic social mindset rather than empowering them[5]. In the development sector, mountains of resources that can be far better utilized in the field are spent on senseless activities and at times unnecessary documentation that makes action oriented leaders cringe in invisible shackles.

When educated people behave this way, what expectations should we have from the 42% illiterate Pakistanis and the many more who are considered literate only because they know how to write their names? Or from those who are criminal by nature?

It is the small social behaviors and changing trends which become instrumental in allowing greater evils to flourish. Slowly and gradually, ideals start degenerating. Standards start falling and those who never saw higher standards become accustomed to the lower standards of society. Society slowly and steadily starts decaying. Indeed there are only two possible outcomes after this: Either the society that stays quiet becomes dead or the oppressed revolt.

In the Pakistani  society with the widening chasm between the rich and the poor, the country is heading towards a revolution unless those in influential positions start giving back to the community in all possible forms. And if there is a revolution and the concept of entitlement ceases, those who lead through bad policy formulation centered on self interests and stay silent in the wake of injustices, could be the first ones to go down.

This is why despite the fact that a majority of the elite Pakistanis might be just as the UNDP outgoing chief described, but the tiny minority of educated elite who still believe in and strive for a strong Pakistan must come together to become the ‘dominant elite’[6] through the vote or through social awareness, irrespective of political party affiliations. The great divide between policy, practice and the ideally desired direction of the development of the society must be filled. Unless all stakeholders are on one page about what is good for the country, self-interests which suit the elite will shape national policies and those will in turn direct the form of our future societies.

Ironically, the wealthy must understand that saving Pakistan and its interests is the only way that they can secure a promising future for themselves.  No other place in the world will give them the power and influence to make them uncrowned kings than in Pakistan.

Ammara ISW, bwThe writer is a doctoral candidate in action based leadership, social entrepreneurship and policy at Business School Netherlands. She is the founder of the SEPLAA (Seeds of Education, Policy & Legal Awareness Association) Foundation and works as a legal development consultant.



[1] http://www.brecorder.com/br-research/brief-recordings/0:/78765:pakistani-elite-needs-to-decide-whether-or-not-they-want-a-country-outgoing-country-director-undp-pakistan/?date=2016-08-24, Web accessed 1st September, 2016.

[2] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/04/pakistani-rights-activist-sabeen-mahmud-killed-150424210251526.html, Web accessed 1st September, 2016.

[3] http://tribune.com.pk/story/762939/angry-passengers-force-delay-causing-vips-off-islamabad-bound-flight/, Web accessed 1st September, 2016.

[4]Ali Xeeshan and Saira Shakira under fire for glamourising male gaze and abuse’, http://images.dawn.com/news/1176085/ali-xeeshan-and-saira-shakira-under-fire-for-glamourising-male-gaze-and-abuse. Web accessed 1st September, 2016.

[5] https://www.facebook.com/dyot.pk/videos/603557849817157/?pnref=story, Web accessed 6th September, 2016.

[6] Term used by Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi, 2015,  Seminar on ‘Change but no change: Public Policy Dilemma’, Executive Development Institute, National School of Public Policy.

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