Three days ago, two amateur videos captured from mobile phones started circulating on social media and instantly went viral.
The videos clearly show how ex-interior minister Rehman Malik and PML-N legislator Ramesh Kumar faced public ire due to a delay suffered by an Islamabad-bound flight as it waited for these VIPs. There was a cry of “shame shame” from the passengers. As one passenger voraciously stated, “It’s been going on for 68 years and it’s enough”. This particular incident should not be taken as an event that occurred out of the blue but it is a result of the accumulation of desperation and agony in public caused by the humiliating VIP culture in Pakistan.
Pakistan went through a turbulent start after it obtained independence in 1947. From the outset, Pakistan witnessed concentration of power in the hands of those who governed her, whether they belonged to the political class or the khakis. The treatment meted out to the motherland was no different. And this, as a consequence, led to the destruction of democratic values and principles. Those who were in power indulged in bending and twisting the democratic practices and methods of governance according to their own liking and choice.
The VIP culture in essence is demeaning. It negates the idea of equality. By its virtue it creates a class of citizens that are superior to the other citizens. A very small section of society enjoying special privileges as they are escorted by large police motorcades and given a special treatment creates a difference of status at the cost of the self-esteem of the ordinary citizens. This alone is the reason why “VIP culture” should be challenged and torn apart. Some may argue that government functionaries, be it the President or Prime Minister, enjoy special privileges around the world. But they fail to factor in an important fact that this treatment is not accorded to the individuals but to the offices they hold. In Pakistan we have effectively subverted this logic in creating special breed of people who enjoy a luxurious lifestyle at the expense of taxpayers’ money. Here this phenomenon is not limited to the individual office holder, who derives his status from government or state assigned duties but these privileges are extended to their families as well.
The VIP culture in Pakistan is widespread. Elected parliamentarians, bureaucrats, high ranking police and military officials wave flags on their cars and their ear-piercing loud sirens are a reflection of their privileges and are a common scene for the ordinary Pakistani. Citizens of all major cities of Pakistan frequently witness gunmen in large caravans clearing the roads for the VIPs. This shows the arrogance and superiority of the government functionaries and the VIPs. This behavior reflects disconnect that exists between the public and public servants. There are well-reported incidences where ambulances got stuck in traffic jam due to the VIP movement causing loss of lives as these patients could not make it to the hospitals in time.
Pakistan is a country where there is a great shortage of police force and what is even more disturbing is a fact that a woefully small proportion of cops is made available for the ordinary citizens. That’s because a major share of police resources is mobilized to provide security to our VIPs, rendering a common citizen vulnerable to crime. The ordinary man remains unsafe both on the street and at home. It is ironic that a common man pays for the security of the VIP while he himself is left at the mercy of criminals.
The VIP culture in Pakistan has to change now. I, as a common citizen, would like to see our public representatives, government officials taking public transport – a practice which is common in developed democracies.
A common man wants the VIPs to go through the treatment that they have to face when they break a red signal or are caught speeding.
It’s time that we apply the fundamentals of a functioning democracy in Pakistan, where all her citizens are treated equally before the law, irrespective of their political affiliations, class or economic status.
Dismantling the VIP fortress is necessary because without doing so the VIPs won’t realize how they are undermining the values and principles of a true democracy. They too have to understand what a common citizen goes through in his life viz a viz the so-called civic facilities made available to him. The should be made to experience what a common man goes through in public transport, government schools or the hospitals.
We as a nation have to realize that the time has come to bring about urgent changes in how this country is governed. We will have to rollback the VIP culture which is no less than a curse for the masses. This culture only adds to their misery as they helplessly behold how mercilessly their hard-earned money that they pay in the form of taxes to the government is squandered on luxuries.