Pakistan’s Bazaaris

By Brig® Mehboob Qadir

Islam’s unique egalitarianism, remarkable habit of critical nearly Aristotelian deductive thinking to sMiddle Eastolve contemporary problems and massive thirst for knowledge were the master propellants that carried its followers on an ever ascending trajectory of a dominant world power for close to seven hundred years. The ascent was so splendid that it took another five hundred years to retouch the base line. Thereafter we are where we are with little in view to show for an honorable place among the sister nations. Just look at the contemptuous manner in which Muslims are held today. An spark of great knowledge, substantive humanitarianism, social uplift or good governance in Muslim countries is dismissed as a freak rather than credible. Contemptible abominations like ISIS, Alqaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, AlShabab and Abu Sayyaf , most unfortunately , have become the pockmarked face of blistering Islam today. Apathy towards tragic plight of Rohingyas is a direct consequence of this unfavorable global sentiment towards Muslims.

Radicalization, murderous extremism and sectarian militancy along with pervasive moral erosion are not the causes by themselves but the symptoms of a deep rot that has slowly and gradually percolated amidst Muslim societies all over the world. The downward slide has been further accelerated because of an urge out of nostalgia and imperfect analysis for reversion to roots via the puritanical/ fundamentalist track; a strategy which was the brain child of the same class of crusted main stream mullahs who were responsible, in the first instance, for the destruction of reason and tolerance in the fast decomposing Muslim thought. Loss of Muslim power and prestige was being erroneously ascribed to deviation from true Islam .Whereas Muslim intellectual silting had been a major function of shifting of focus from scientific research and innovation to worthless and circular debates over wasteful theological issues, just like in Pakistan.

With the exception of Moghal Delhi and Istanbul, Muslim capitals like Baghdad, Damascus, Fez, Granada and Cairo all degenerated, one by one into shouting pits of vociferous mullahs over some of the most ridiculous issues in Islamic practices. At the time of sack of Baghdad by Helagu (1258) reportedly ,there was a roaring debate in progress in the city square whether or not a crow was halal. Mongols decided the issue with the point of their sword, massacred them regardless of who believed what and let the crows and other scavengers have a field day. Delhi suffered a different sickness; a fatal attraction to poetic pastimes rather than hard affairs of the empire. Moghal Delhi too was sacked nonetheless; peculiarly the opportunist mullah with his pestilential fellow prowlers appeared in Delhi just when it was surrounded by besieging forces(1857) and tried to sow the seed of communal discord true to his vile nature. Punjabi merchants from Lahore were the main financiers of the mullahs’ mischief. This rabid but typical alliance of the lowly and the scruffy was mainly responsible for the eventual sack and massacre in Delhi. Muslims in undivided India never recovered from their resultant fall from grace.

stanbul was different in the sense that the role of ulema had been institutionalized and was constrained to act as the de facto third pillar of the power canopy. The other two were the Sultan and the judiciary .Had the Ottoman Sultan not been discouraged by the court clergy from patronizing Gutenberg ‘s invention of mechanical printing press(1435), Muslim world and particularly Turkey could have been in a different league today. Such is the debilitating influence of the hide bound mullah. The impact of Gutenberg press on spread of knowledge and technology was so great that within a decade mass printing of books in Europe went up from less than a million to 1.5 billion copies affordably available and the introduction of newspaper. An unstoppable revolution in information dissemination was kicked off.

With the onset of capability degeneration in the Muslim power centers alliances were being formed by the like-minded and shoddy segments of the society and elements of the splintering state structure to retain their turf and take under their wings what was left unprotected by the failing state institutions. Public welfare, education, merit, justice and security were the first casualties as the states began to melt. Informal rival power centers were set up by those who were either on the fringes of the state power ,or were themselves the instruments for articulation of central authority. Mullahs, security forces and petty shopkeepers from the traditional bazaar, fundamentally an evil coalition, came together to share the spoils. Of these three, shopkeepers or the bazaaris were the ones who provided necessary finances to this power seeking band of crooks to sustain themselves in the rising tide of anarchy around. This predatory trio invariably appears at the time of the downfall of an established Muslim state and inflicts irreparable damage. Pakistan has suffered from just such an alliance of the petty and the perverse since last fifty years, and ominously is headed towards disintegration but for the armed forces who have been refusing to become a full scale partner,by and large, except for a few temporary co-locations.

Bazaari is a Persian term denoting petty traders and merchants of small profit in the market place, in other words the bazaar. These men, unlike major traders, are highly opportunistic, believe in quick gains and make no long term undertakings or investments. Their pliant morals are firmly anchored to profit only, therefore character, culture, education and legality mean nothing to them; a thick wad of money does. No question and concept of noblesse oblige anywhere near them.
These bazaaris and their collaborators are the ones who have a choke hold on our national life since decades. Truly reflective of our regretfully criminalized society, our bazaaris keep an equally devious company who represent a wider variety of the skunks populating the sinking ship, than merely the nebulous threesome. Along with bazaaris we have even more unethical sub- species hitched to the plunder wagon which among others comprise the vulgarly rich real estate manipulators, bribe marinated bureaucrats, fake contractors, smuggled autos dealers, Ephedrine pushers, parasitic pirs and the sleazy scum of the petty market. This scum hangs around the fringes of the partly defunct cinema halls selling tickets in black,theater tea stalls, obscene roving circuses, dilapidated fruit and vegetable markets, filthy bus stands, bulk storages, abandoned rusty railway yards and stinking back alleys of hotel clusters looking for chance booty. Abundance of these bands of thugs indicates the extensive rot that has set into our entire national structure, society and more importantly in the way we think and regard ourselves.
In order to better understand these vultures let’s see how the bazaaris are viewed historically. Nikki Keddie in his book Roots of Revolution (on Iran) writes:
“ Ulema ( mullahs)and bazaaris often belonged to the same families( light weight social backgrounds );much ulema income came from levies paid mainly by bazaaris; the guilds often celebrated religious or partly religious ceremonies for which services of ulema were needed (like charities, mosques, trusts and dastarkhans of our robber barons) ; and piety and religious observance were among the signs of bazaar standing or leadership. Even today respectable bazaar shop keepers are often addressed as ‘Hajji’, whether or not the speaker knows if the addressee has made a pilgrimage……………..”( Emphasis added)
Another description of bazaaris by a foreigner in Tehran in 1994, “ a fat guy with meaty hands and fingers like keybabs( uncanny resemblance),with gold rings on them( perhaps a diamond studded gold wrist watch also). He sits in his shop and sips tea. He trades( and swindles). He makes a lot of money and he prays several times a day. He comes home at night to a big, expensive house (like obnoxious Raiwind palace and gruesome Bilawal fortress in Lahore ? ) With nothing of taste in it where he has a wife to slave for him”. See what the Iranians themselves had to say, “ The bazaari is a businessman(unprincipled) ,his idea of religion is different from that of a cleric. The bazaari is willing to bend the rules of religion for the sake of finance……….., a bazaari will say to himself, I am a man of God who prays very often…. A religious man like me would never lie. Because the bazaari is religious, he believes he is always right”. How close to the way our Bazaaris esteem themselves. ( Emphasis added)
Irresistible Kaplan made an amazing observation followed by a forecast which is worth noting. He say the new age bazaaris in the Muslims states are dark , rootless, master monopolists( Similar to what we have), and then he asks a question: “Was the twenty-first century to see the implosion of political Islam and the rise of the Islamic bazaar state?” (The Ends Of The Earth by Robert D. Kaplan)
Somewhat the way Pakistan is headed to. Arab Spring in the Middle East has already degenerated into just such a thing, while Pakistan is engaged in a mortal combat with them and can succumb to, in not a very distant future if we let the bazaaris in power run vicious metros through our nation’s soul and drill monstrous concrete pillars into its wobbly body.
The most worrisome specimens of bazaari gang up are those who have been able to graft into the musky mullah legion, first as a measure of assured existence and then use the doubly expanded platform to further their vile agenda. Egypt’s sub -proletariat Ikhwan are just such an example, which is why they are so dangerous and are the core doctrinaires of modern Islamic terrorism; Sayed Qutb and Ahmad Bana leading.It could not be a coincidence when late President Nasir began to prosecute Ikhwan in Egypt, Qutbs fled to Saudi Arabia where they groomed a celebrated student called Osama Bin Laden among others. Ikhwan was set up in Egypt in 1929 .Now we have Mursi once again forging the same alliances and kicking off similar destabilizing shock waves into the Egyptian state structure; not that Sisi is any better.
Discussion of certain leading brands of bazaaris in the Muslim world must help identify surprising similarities with our home grown ones. Notice their deep commitment to making quick and easy profit, multiplying personal assets any which way and jerky, visionless governance. They have a sickening fixation for grand but redundant and people unfriendly projects, wasteful and heavy spending from the national treasury for the sake of temporary gains and show off, a closed clanish style of national decision making , no patience for spending on education, health, food security and job creation. Since they are mostly from the urban petty markets of inner Lahore, Ichra, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Faisalabad, therefore they have a built in revulsion for the rural. That is why they have thoughtlessly over loaded selected cities with all the attractive civic facilities thereby setting up a flood of rural migration to major cities. Two thirds of the total population is already there and full half will be by 2025(UN report).This rootless rural mass in shanties will overwhelm municipal services including health, education , policing and the cities themselves. See the way Islamabad’s civic services are coming apart at the seams. The other dreadful consequence would be an eventual fall in food production and rapid depopulation of our rural areas as is already happening. The larger yields of crops which we see are not the result of extensive cultivation but a ruthless over use of fertilizers, poisonous pesticides and excessive irrigation. Again encouraged by these greedy men to produce cheaper raw materials for their agri- based industries.
There is an evil chain of cascading effects that had been set in motion since a long time but none cares. Our industries mostly owned by these bazaaris and their henchmen alongwith all our city administrations without exception are dumping their toxic industrial waste and raw city sewage directly into river waters.Our agricultural chemicals also eventually are drained into our rivers, simultaneously causing serious surface toxicity and land infertility in tandom with relentless over- cultivation. Polluted rivers charge underground aquifer with highly contaminated water causing widespread diseases. Reportedly after independence not a single sewage treatment plant was added to what were left by the British. We should also be one of the most determined polluters of our atmosphere and vicious enemies of our environment. This too has never been realized by these money minded men.

They have never prevented or legislated against suicidal destruction of forests, rising salinity and water logging in our agricultural lands control of excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides and devastating discharge of untreated industrial wastes and emissions. Brick lining of irrigation channels to prevent water logging, helping rural population to get quality education, health, electricity, jobs and justice closer home do not figure in their cash register priorities. They take a strange psychopathic pride in promising motorways and metro bus projects to equally dumb provincial colleagues but provision of clean drinking water to citizens has been literally outsourced to Nestle, so to say and genuine medicines to WHO. Our population is exploding, the country has become Polio intensive and disgracefully placed under international travel sanctions. Hepatitis C( close to 10 million infected in Punjab alone) , TB , kidney failures and gastro-intestinal diseases are becoming an epidemic, but one has hardly ever heard any of them speak about these deadly public hazards with any urgency or sustained focus.

Unthinkable food adulteration, a torrent of fake medicines and total absence of protective or preventive security to the citizens is driving men sick and neurotic. The whole nation is becoming a psychic mob. But that does not move them at all. Because solid public welfare projects will earn them people’s gratitude only, in which they are not interested as there is neither cash profit nor applause. Flashy and grandiose projects with hefty budgets offering opportunities for kick backs and nauseating self projection through huge banners caress their base egos and provide delusions of sterile glory, until mugged by reality.
Punjab is the nest of our leading bazaaris. Just a glimpse of their latest budget is enough to show where their priorities lay. Clean drinking water rupees 10 billion, flood affectees rupees 20 billion and Orange Train for sight seeing in Lahore rupees 120 billion. If Lahorites want their children to live a long and healthy life, they should refuse to accept this latest monster and instead insist on sewage and factory emissions treatment plants, clean air and pollution free environment. Incidentally ,Hudiara Nullah would need to be blocked right upto the border if the Indians do not see reason. It is pumping extremely poisonous slushy industrial effluent from East Punjab through the heart of Lahore right into River Ravi, since before 1982 as I know. You may also like to visit Mahmud Booty Bund sewage outlet where Lahore’s untreated sewage equal to the size of almost two BRBs is being discharged into River Ravi since ,at least, last twenty years.

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