Thoughts and opinion from the wards
The Ministry of Corruption (and its associated buffoonery)
The term institutionalised corruption suggests that corruption has slowly crept into the psyche of the Pakistani people and into its governmental institutions like a plague of insects, thoroughly rotting the once noble foundations before taking over the system like money sucking leeches. However this term seems rather mild in describing the current affairs in the country.
Rather than institutionalised corruption, Pakistan it seems has an entire dedicated governmental Ministry of Corruption (the MoC). This is a specialised, well formed institution with policymakers specifically designed to produce disorganised and illogical thinking, encourage maximally effective corruption and promote the Pakistani brand of dishonesty, untrustworthiness and buffoonery throughout the entire world.
It has been so disheartening to have had the same conversation with every single Pakistani I have met, whether poor or rich, home or abroad, flood affected or flood relief workers. They do not trust the government to perform any task, simple or complex with any skill or integrity. Instead the people complain with vigour and rigour that the government will just swallow finances like a Venus money trap and place it into its own already bulging belly.
Although the Pakistani floods have affected more people than the tsunami and the Pakistani and Haitian earthquakes put together, the international response has been insignificant in comparison. The reason simply is that along with the people of Pakistan, the people of the world also do not trust the government. Instead, money has been seeping its way into the country through small, hand to hand donations and to nongovernmental organisations working on the ground that have a modicum of transparency and trustworthiness.
When I arrived in the country from Birmingham, I was appalled to watch the President of Pakistan, Zardari make the exact opposite trip, travelling from Pakistan to Birmingham for predominantly social reasons whilst the country drowned in front of him. It was painful but also humorous to watch a shoe being thrown at him whilst he was in Birmingham on Pakistani television but less humorous to discover the TV channel that had shown it had been taken off air whilst the government denied the incident.
I was utterly flabbergasted to read that the Pakistani government had requested one of the UN offices (International Telecommunications Office) to place aid donations into an unmonitored Swiss bank account. Such outright blatancy, stupidity and outrageous buffoonery is somewhat incomprehensible and suggests Pakistan’s corruption is so rife it no longer has any shame.
I was at first disbelieving when local Pakistanis were telling me flood waters had been deliberately diverted away from certain lands in the Sindh province (by breaking infrastructure) to protect land and houses owned by influential and richl members of the government. And then my heart sank when the news has only just broken on the international media scene suggesting it is true.
And to consolidate its good work and destroy the morale of the Pakistani people further, the Ministry of Corruption has again successfully exported its Pakistani brand of stupidity onto the cricket team. The heroes of the Pakistani nation once again breaking the heart of the people by acting like the government - selfish, idiotic, greedy and without an ounce of pride for the people it represents. Its really sad when the only joy for these people in such tremendously difficult times is now another reason to feel dejected.
All these stories are news reports, media hype and second hand information. However I too was treated to a delightful display of Pakistani buffoonery a few days ago as I attempted to collect cargo from Islamabad airport that had been sent by one of our team members for our relief work. Pakistani International Airlines (PIA) and the government had offered free delivery and free customs of relief goods into the country. However, when I first arrived, I was told that the goods we had sent were now owned by PIA and our boxes would be making their way to the army without question. After some raised tempers and significant threats from my colleague, we were told to go back and have our paperwork changed by the UK office, who were by no means innocent in this buffoonery.
Three days later I returned (by myself with a hired pickup truck) with updated paperwork only to be told I needed further customs paperwork to collect the cargo. Their request (although extremely frustrating as this had not been mentioned on the previous visit) seemed genuine. After frantically organising the fax of the desired paperwork with some countless phonecalls and emotional pleas, I was treated to some more delightful Pakistani idiocy.
I witnessed my paperwork being transported to no less than six offices at different points in the airport. Within each office sat a man with a non-specific title who would firstly be busy with other clients, before musing over the paperwork and adding his signature. After six signatures were collected, the details are then placed onto at least 3 very old looking computer systems, all manned by computer technicians who are either not at their desk or seemingly too busy to acknowledge your presence.
After six hours at the cargo office, through a combination of incompetence at the UK office and downright institutionalised idiocy at the Pakistani office, I managed to collect 9 out of our 10 cargo boxes whilst also paying a hefty price for the so called free delivery of the relief goods. The last box is languishing behind, its fate uncertain and its heartbreaking to know peoples donations are left like this. The entire PIA cargo decks are filled with donations and supplies that the quite ridiculous system cannot cope with.
Internally I too am now seething at this government’s actions and I have been here less than 4 weeks. I now understand why every Pakistani is so demoralised. But I always try to end these diaries with some hope. Firstly, I have been privileged to work with an exceptionally caring government official in the Nowshera district who has not only supported our efforts but has been working harder than us, something I thought harder to achieve within the government.
I have had four meetings with him, and each one of them has been just before midnight in his office as we quickly drive down to meet him at the end of our days work. Since arriving into the region after the floods, he has worked from 8am til midnight every day without fail and has won my trust as a man who does what he says with good intentions and good results.
And secondly, the good nature of the genuine people of Pakistan is still there and as long they remain, there is still hope in the country. In the KPK region, an area in which the local people are already overburdened by millions of Afghanistani refugees and internally displaced people as a result of the Taleban fighting, they are still doing what they can to help with the floods. They tirelessly deliver water, food and assist with organisations like the one I am working for to assist those suffering more than themselves. In the UK, I could never imagine us tolerating so many refugees, so many internally displaced people with such open hearts and then working as hard to battle both the government and natural disasters to help even more.
Despite the Ministry of Corruption and its associated buffoonery, there is still hope for Pakistan. And it lies within the hearts of these good people who still work so hard to try and improve their country despite the ongoing nonsense described in this post.
With love always,