Karachi has witnessed a new uprising over the past week. People, frustrated by the ineffective law enforcement authorities, have taken matters in their own hands and there has been a series of incidents where mobs of people have beaten up or burned the caught criminals. Whether this is good or bad is a separate debate altogether and maybe at the moment not as important as the gaping loopholes in our institutions that the incidents point towards. Again, it is not the action that we should be worried about, but the causes. It is not the symptoms that we should be treating but the disease itself. And that disease as we all know is the massive corruption that prevails not just in the police but in every institution in Pakistan.
Bribery is one of those evils that is hardly a vice anymore. The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) curses both the giver and taker of bribe. If only this one Hadith would have an impact on the public officials in this country, half the evils will automatically be cleansed. Instead, bribery is by now so deeply-rooted in our society that there is no way even the most morally upright man can escape it. It’s either surrendering your principles and paying a bribe or becoming a victim of constant harassment and injustice by the very defenders of the law.
Such a wide scale bribery culture, thus, becomes the most single most decisive factor behind the lawlessness in the city. In a land where you can your way out of retribution, the law becomes insignificant and sense of impunity reigns supreme. Anarchy becomes the order of the day where anyone can get away for anything.
The question, then, is, Can this malice be uprooted from the system? Why does a police officer accept bribe when he knows it is wrong? The questions are simple. The answers aren’t. Meager salaries are one reason behind rampant corruption. Lack of professionalism is another. Absence of a sense of responsibility and the trickledown effect of corruption at higher levels, yet some more.
Raising salaries for lower level officials can be one incentive to discourage them from accepting bribes, however, this is one problem where solving matters only at the grass roots will be of hardly any consequence. As long as NRO cleansed leaders continue to rule this country, any change in the system cannot be envisaged. When one segment of society is beyond accountability, the down trodden segments are bound to be frustrated. When the biggest defaulters in this country can have their loans wiped off and the small debtor harried to no ends, the masses are bound to strike back.
When Dr. Shoaib Suddle was appointed IG Sindh a few weeks ago, many thought street crime in Karachi would come shooting down but that was not to be. It comes as no surprise that a people, already barely able to make ends meet in the face of sharp price increases, have finally found a voice to express their grievances. The actions of the past week carry symbolic significance. The enraged Pakistani society is not just setting fire to a handful of robbers but it is the system and those who run it that they wish to bring to ashes. Opportunistic rulers of this unfortunate country, take heed. A nation is waking up!