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What price Jinnah’s word?

By Syed Saadat | From the Newspaper Dawn

HONESTLY, I did not want to write what you are going to read ahead. I waited endlessly, more in hope than anticipation.
As they say hope is the last one to die, so I hoped that even a couple of months down the line the prime minister would reappoint the former secretary establishment Sohail Ahmed, who was made officer on special duty (OSD) amidst the tug of war between the judiciary and the executive over the transfer of a particular officer investigating the Haj scam.
Avoiding any digressions, I would admit that even when the former secretary establishment was ‘definitely’ appointed as secretary of the anti-narcotics division which is a demotion in essence, I was hoping against hope that the prime minister might reconsider, but happy endings happen only in the movies.
The establishment secretary is considered the father of bureaucracy and is always a very seasoned bureaucrat with decades of experience behind him. It is a position from where the state machinery is run, where roles are assigned, that every bureaucrat looks up to for instructions regarding the description of job, placement of personnel and even the interpretation of rules.
Bureaucrats are criticised every other day for corruption, for the perks they enjoy, for the privileges they have, for the influence in decision-making they wield and even for the sins they have never committed. But when someone takes a principled stand, he is discouraged, victimised, criticised even by the public and made to pay a heavy price for being honest and upright, for following the principles laid down by Jinnah in his oft-quoted speech to public servants at Chittagong on March 25, 1948. Here is an excerpt from the speech to refresh its memory in the minds of the public and public servants alike.
“You should not be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or individual politician. If you want to raise the prestige and greatness of Pakistan, you must not fall a victim to any pressure but do your duty as servants to the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly. Service is the backbone of the state. Governments are formed, governments are defeated, prime ministers come and go, ministers come and go, but you stay on, and therefore, there is a very great responsibility placed on your shoulders … make the people feel that you are their servants and friends, maintain the highest standard of honour, integrity, justice and fair play. Work honestly and sincerely.”
Sohail Ahmed’s is not a lone case; it’s just that he was in the spotlight because of the high-profile nature of the circumstances surrounding his removal.
Let me share what happened to a middle-level bureaucrat when he tried to keep the word of Jinnah. Mushtaq Rizvi was deputy head of mission in Jakarta back in 2002 when he pointed out anomalies in the sale of Pakistan’s embassy building in Jakarta .Since the man behind the nefarious plan was reportedly a friend of the then president, Mushtaq Rizvi was called back immediately and made OSD till his retirement in 2008. Nobody dared to stand by the man and Mushtaq Rizvi died in 2010 owing to psychological and emotional distress, and his wife has become a patient of acute depression; this, then, is how we treat honesty and guts.
There are countless examples, many of which don’t even come to the surface, and all of them cannot be mentioned in this little space. Bureaucrats stay quiet because they are trained to follow rules, because they are bound by a code of conduct and those who speak up can be later grilled for violating the code of conduct, and then, even the law is not on their side.
Does it mean that they should be left to die in oblivion and depression like Mushtaq Rizvi was? I could not be a silent spectator despite a selfish wish of wanting to be one. No matter how many apologies or eulogies I write, the man is not going to return and his family is not going to recover from the loss.
Mr Rizvi did not choose the ‘right’ friends otherwise he would have definitely got a civil award which this year went to even those civil servants who did nothing out of the ordinary. Unlike the established norm to befriend a powerful politician or a ‘generous’ general, he could be regarded as a friend of Pakistan which, under the circumstances, appears a really poor choice to make.
One does not get an award for keeping Jinnah’s word; instead, one has to pay a price for it. On the contrary, every general who has pummelled the constitution has been the recipient of awards and was never stripped of the honours even when he deserved it. If a nine-to-five office job is worth an award then almost the whole world deserves at least one. Who knows, if I manage to befriend a certain someone, I might get three in the near future, one for doing the nine-to-five routine, one for my rozas this Ramazan and one for not being bald.
Lastly, I have a feeling that people like Mushtaq Rizvi are beyond such awards and he would have got his award if Mohammad Ali Jinnah said to him up there, “Thanks for keeping my word.” However, I do wonder if a hurt Mr Rizvi might not have replied, “Sir! I kept your word but your people did not.”

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