Saturday, May 23, 2009

Comparing Pakistan with the United States

By Saeed Qureshi

Comparing Pakistan with America is an incomparable undertaking. After stating that both the countries are independent sovereign states and are friendly, the parallelism enters into the zone of inversion. Drawing a comparison between Pakistan and America is more in the nature of contradiction than conformity or convergence. There might be an element of exaggeration in this contention, yet I would not dwell on comparing the features of both the countries by marking these as similar, dissimilar or somewhat similar. To my mind if you show only the American picture, one might well understand the corresponding contrasts or similarities in comparison to Pakistan. The essence of the American society is order and accountability. Then we shall proceed to highlight the civic life by taking into account the city government, institutions, cars, road network and huge shopping chain stores.

The strength of the bustling social life of the American society resides in spending and purchasing power of the people. The automobiles and the countless motorways and access roads are backbone of the vibrant socio-economic life. Besides, the retail businesses via countless chain stores keep the competitive and entrepreneurial climate alive. After the 9/11 tragedy and as a result of the devastating Iraq and Afghanistan wars, United State’s economy has suffered a staggering $ 3 trillion fiscal loss.

If it were any other country, such an astronomical financial loss would have severely impinged on the living standards of the people. But people in United States drive automobiles as usual, shop as before and make fun as they used to do. The shopping centers remain busy with shoppers: the clubs and restaurants with visitors and fun and food loving people. The courts dispense justice as usual. The city governments, the taxation, police and other departments have been functioning without any strain or stress or obstructions. Externally, America is burning money and entangled in costly and bloody wars: internally it has peace, harmony and stability as ever.

There is a pervasive spirit of freedom, equality and bonhomie in American society. The job opportunities, the chances to buy a house, procure a car or business and to get a loan are always open and varied. If a person cannot get a job, he can get an unemployment allowance out of his social security fund. The senior residents are entitled to disability stipend, food supplies and free medical aid. The retired or very old people live in old homes with all the requisite facilities and care. Mothers with children receive food stamps to get free grocery and food items from the stores. The government provides free medical treatment and medicines to the poor and low-income individuals. There are countless emergency food banks and philanthropic agencies that provide food and edibles to the needy and the homeless. Homeless is a kind of human breed that likes to remain one with nature and abhor living in built up tenements. Why should then we not call America a social welfare state?

You can challenge the ticket of a traffic police sergeant in a court of law. For such people who cannot bear the lawyers’ fees, pro-bono attorneys and human right agencies are there to help them. The verdict of the lower courts can be challenged in higher courts. It would be extremely difficult for a judge to decide the cases on the basis of favoritism, nepotism or personal bias. The personal whims may occasionally influence the adjudication but that is rare and can be challenged in proper forums and in higher oversight courts. Indeed there is a craze for making extra buck and in this regard lawyers and doctors do not enjoy a good image but such deviations happen sparingly and there are recourses available to seek justice and remedy against the abuse.

In many years of my stay here, I have not seen the power supply disrupted for a minute, hot and cold water ever stopped in taps, sewer lines ever choked, telephone lines ever gone dead. If the grass in the lawn shoots up beyond a certain height, the city inspector posts a warning on your door and if it happens for the second time a fine is imposed. Such are the strict regulations about environmental cleanliness. Throwing litter in the open places is unlawful. The garbage is unfailingly picked from the houses, highways and roads on fixed days and there is never any lapse in this timetable.

Without fail, the city lanes and roads and parks are mechanically swept. The utility lines both of public and private buildings are regularly checked. The toilets in public places, in offices and commercial buildings are seldom dirty. The traffic lights are never out. There is not a single traffic controller on any intersection yet the traffic is orderly and smooth. Very few drivers would violate the traffic rules even at midnight. Those who do are apprehended and duly fined.

One can walk into a grocery store, in the gas or convenience store any time in 24 hours. You are at liberty to go for a long drive, do your laundry or commute between your job places and house at any time of the day. No one will check you and you are on your own. Your neighbor will not ask you any questions and will not bother or interfere or be nosy with you for coming late at night. You may call 9/11 if you have any problem to your security or health. The trained staff will take you to a hospital soonest in an ambulance with wailing siren while the other motorists would stop on one side of the road.

In Muslim’s mosques, in Hindus’ temples, in Jewish synagogues and in Christian’s churches there is never any acrimonious theological debate about the faith. The faith is strictly observed as personal obligation. In Mosques, Sunnis and Shias and all other sects pray together with hands folded or opened; from Arab lands or from Africa, from Far East or the Central Asia, from Pakistan or India. While praying, no one stares at each other for covering the head or not. An exemplary sectarian and communal peace prevails.

Irrespective of their status or social standing, from a president down to a senator, a congressman, the CEO of a company or a business tycoon, a bureaucrat, a public figure, every one, is subject to an accountability system that is part and parcel of the American society. No one is above law and no one can defy law or the constitution. If caught one has to face the consequences and indicted if found guilty. There is neither favor nor taking sides in the legal process because everything happens in the full public view. The cases of President Clinton, Richard Nixon, the Enron chief, several senators, congressmen and prominent public figures, among others, who were disgraced, imprisoned or punished for misconduct and violation of their office ethics, speak for the supremacy and inviolability of the American legal system. This testifies to an absolutely fair, strict, inflexible and ingrained accountability system.

In the present time, it is immaterial to live anywhere on earth because the world is becoming a global village. One can talk and interact at any time, with any one in any part of the world. The geographical boundaries are losing their relevance. It is, therefore, better to live in a country where life is easier and one can benefit from and enjoy the comforts of a modern civilized society.

The societies of the third world countries will eventually adopt the models of the developed countries for good governance. Till that time, it is advisable for the ambitious and talented to become part of the advanced societies. Many people may harbor such feelings, but living abroad does not involve any moral, national or patriotism questions in regard to the country of one’s birth or origin. The birth place of a person demands affiliation and love but the interests and problems are now are not exclusive or confined to a particular country or region. If there a famine in one part of the world the other countries jointly move and act to remove that scourge. The humanity is now united and integrated than the past because the distances don’t matter now.

It is rather profitable to learn from the experimentation of the modern societies and apply them to one’s own country. The United States is one country which encourages innovative passion and acknowledges and supports scientific research and inquiry. The students and the individuals with a penchant and bent of mind for conducting technological and scientific research for the benefit of mankind are the most valued persons in the United States.

Recently I have had the opportunity to attend the naturalization ceremony for granting the citizenship to the foreign immigrants. Among the whole lot the highest number was that of the Somalian, a nation engaged in hijacking American ships and in high sea piracy. Such is the degree of magnanimity of the American system. Can we expect of Saudi Arabia or other affluent Islamic states whose relgious dogma enjoins upon them to help others especially their Muslim brethren, and allow them to become their citizens? Same applies to the Soviet Union or China that talk of a world with dominance of the downtrodden masses but would not allow any one to stay there as permanent residents.

The socialism’s utopian classless society with the dictatorship of the proletariat as well as the Islamic ideal system of governance can find their image and expression in the American society where people carry respect; equal rights and gets social justice. If that were not the case and petty considerations of race, color, ethnicity relgion and gender would matter, then Barack Obama with a mixed race ancestry could never become the president of the United States. Many immigrants from various countries attained fame and distinction in America in various fields ranging from politics to science.

In this ephemeral and material world, ideal situation can never be possible. That is why there is the dogma of an ideal abode called paradise in the next world. But given the hardships resulting from natural phenomenon and by virtue of human limitations and deficiencies, the life in America is certainly a forerunner of what one can possibly get in the paradise in the hereafter. If the detractors of American capitalist system want to see the taste of pudding then they should do so by eating, which in this case is to witness and feel it by living here. The American spirit or ethos anchored on liberty and human rights are most precious to the American people and if some one goes out of it then he is despised as un-American. There cannot be a batter definition or interpretation of American way of life than by calling it American.

Every society occasionally gets bad and errant leadership as was America under G.W. Bush. But such interregnums are viewed with disfavor by the people and finally such deviant and whimsical leaders are thrown out of power arena by the people through the ballot. American spirit of fairness, accountability, freedom of expression and liberty, civil rights ultimately triumph. This is the beauty of the American democratic system that has panacea of self correction and catharsis and therefore rebounds in a more refined shape.

American imperialism is essentially benign. In comparison, we have witnessed that in Soviet Union and East European communist countries, the Communist ideology of dictatorship of the proletariat had turned into the dictatorship of the communist party. As a diplomat posted in a communist country, I had the opportunity to closely witness the life of the citizens in a communist society. I was horrified to notice that the people remained under a constant paranoid of being caught and punished by the intelligence agencies. The markets were never full supply of items of daily use.

The economic system in the communist bloc was visibly anti dollar but was actually dependent upon dollars procured from the black market or through loans from capitalist institutions like the World Bank. Human and civil rights were the commodities either non existent or in short supply. That is the underlying reason that a benign capitalism remerges with attending welfare for the whole world. On the contrary, the oppressive system of communism falsely premised on the welfare of the masses had doomed, with the collapse of the former Soviet Union, in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan creating its domino, collateral fallout on other socialist countries which now stand liberated.

America has its share of violent crimes, homicides, robberies, drug abuse and fraudulent practices. But these are of much lower number for a population of 300 million. Some or most of these crimes are resolved and once a criminal is caught, he has no escape. As such the scare of law is paramount.

"I have stated the case for America. In the light of this, I leave it to the readers to compare Pakistan with America".

No comments:

Post a Comment