Recently, a friend asked, how does one define 'elite' in Pakistan. It is one of the most important questions in the current circumstances. Not to make us hate them more personally, but rather to fix the mess we live in. The credit of this social mess, political mess, micro economic failure, and flawed policies, all goes to our elite. Basic human rights like access to quality education, healthcare, etc, are all out of reach for 60 percent or more of the population because of their non-elite status.
So, the question was, who were the elite?
The elite is at the top of all that is existing in this country. They are the ones in military, who have been there for the past many generations, decorated by the British. They are the ones who were bestowed with swathes of land by the British and have their people in the military, in the power corridors, in the cabinet, assemblies, etc. They have also married their children to people who form the business classes and bureaucracy to keep their money and power in place. These intermarriages have also enabled them to reproduce offspring who can go to the best schools, colleges, foreign universities or even local top academic institutions.
Their offspring are visible holding guitars in universities singing to the likes of Habib Jalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. They get to sing in Coke Studio, they get to become editors of newspapers and chancellors of universities. Which means they get to represent the 60 percent to the rest of the world in the language they speak, 'English'.
They can own and run hospitals. Their teenage kids get to blog on various news websites. So many of them, also get nominated for awards and run NGOs. It is the elite who are shaping the narrative of what this country is. They or their families have directly or indirectly created this mess that they sell in PowerPoint presentations to get the funding needed to make some cosmetic changes in between their foreign trips and shopping sprees in Dubai.
It is after them that we have the office working class, who serve all these people. They hardly reach the bottom of the merit list because their father did not have a personal library or a bank balance to send them to an elite school where they could have polished their English to the right accent or their understanding of international relations. They lag behind in almost every way compared to the elite. They lack the finesse to compete with the toppers. For them getting a 'Fullbright' after an education at a neighborhood school is close to impossible.
After them come the poor, those who were born to serve everyone. They are considered a test for everyone. If they get to eat, they provide us a perfect example to be content with whatever we have. "You should be happy if you are eating three meals a day, what if you have only one?"
|An excerpt from The Shape of the Beast: Conversations with Arundhati Roy|
The Shape of the Beast