There is something about foreign (read: “western”) air that makes Pakistanis follow all the tiny inconvenient rules with enthusiasm. These range from forming proper queues to obeying traffic rules and regulations. Such tiny ‘inconveniences’, however, become a heavy burden as we break the very same laws in our own country.
Here is a list of the behaviors Pakistanis adopt in their own country, which they wouldn’t dare take up abroad:
1) Breaking queues practically everywhere, from cinemas to NADRA offices:
It doesn’t matter if it is the exclusive movie theatre of Royal Palm in Lahore or a waiting room at a fancy restaurant, someone will always try to jump the line with their impatience shining through. More gravely, however, NADRA has a thriving business in the form of the ‘line cutting mafia’, which expedites the process for whoever can afford the hefty ‘sifarshi’ fees. This, of course, comes at the expense of a man standing for hours in the heat because he cannot buy his way out.
On the contrary, once abroad with our freshly renewed passports, we behave the exact same way like the man in the heat. Ever wonder why patience becomes a virtue abroad only?
2) Throwing garbage wherever the heart desires:
Interesting, how people who throw garbage practically anywhere in Pakistan actually become proponents of recycling abroad. We might not have the most effective garbage disposal system on a mass scale but there is someone picking up the mess we make on the daily; it is women and children who self-assign themselves the hazardous task of separating the garbage. So, next time we praise the citizenry abroad for their environment-friendly ways, let’s at least think about our own people impacted by us casually throwing a juice box out the car window.
3) Breaking pretty much every traffic rule in the book:
Whether it be breaking signals at a less busy intersection or over-speeding on the motorway, we are definitely more cautious of breaking these laws abroad. It might be that consequences in Pakistan are much less severe than abroad, which doesn’t give the rule-breaker much to reflect on. For instance, the fees for overspeeding in Pakistan is nominal in comparison to most foreign countries. We appreciate the smooth flowing traffic abroad but, in our country, we consider rash driving a skill. What is even worse is we actually pride ourselves on giving fancy cars to underaged children. Driving without a license is also considered normal. If an unfortunate accident occurs because of the underaged, non-licensed driver then we further dupe the system by bypassing justice. This creates corruption at higher levels as influentials bribe people responsible for ensuring that justice prevails.
So the real question is: If we are so fascinated by traffic abroad, what are we contributing to better the situation in our own country?
4) Tax evasion:
In 2016 alone, there was an estimated tax evasion and fraud of about Rs.76 billion. It may be argued here that those who pay their taxes abroad perhaps see the returns on the services provided by the government. This, of course, is a far cry from what happens in Pakistan. However, this is most likely not what drives the upper class to evade taxes. They can already afford basic amenities and luxurious services to top it off. So the argument that they don’t get anything in return becomes null and void. Why dupe the system in our own country when we wouldn’t do it abroad?
5) Bribing our way out of unfavorable situations, no matter the intention:
The idea that going with the system, no matter how corrupt it gets, is literally putting us in a dangerous rut. Of course, this is easier said than done when survival becomes necessary. But, it would help to question trivial bribery in the first place. Stuff, like bribing our way into a prestigious educational institute or asking a policeman to distort the truth in legal cases entrenches corruption at the heart of the system. We wouldn’t dare flash currency notes in any law-abiding citizen’s face broad. Then why do we so carelessly and seamlessly find the easy way out for everything in Pakistan?
6) Smoking outside designated zones:
A question for all those who disregard smoking laws in Pakistan: Is there an additional high you get from breaking the law? Most Pakistani’s wouldn’t dare smoke in an undesignated smoking zone abroad fearing social condemnation. Nor would an adult buy cigarettes because an underaged individual asked them to get it for them in return for some extra cash. With the widespread disregard of laws in our own country one would think legislation doesn’t even exist. But smoking in Pakistan too, like abroad, is mostly prohibited in public spaces. Violating smoking laws is not only mocking the legal system, but it is also harming other people around. Passive smoking causes chronic breathing problems and even neurological problems in unborn children if a pregnant woman inhales the smoke frequently.
If we appreciate the clean environment and fresh air abroad, why not do our bit by following smoking laws within our country?
8) Lack of airport etiquette:
People flying into Pakistan from Dubai, London etc., suddenly start breaking queues, fighting at luggage carousels and even bribing people to get through customs quicker than others. Even before entering the airport building, Pakistanis will start unbuckling to grab their overhead luggage with the seat belt sign still on. It is something you will never witness when the flight is landing at a foreign airport. If we behave in the same organized fashion as we do when traveling abroad, then maybe praises of how seamless airports are abroad won’t seem so ironic.
9) Being derogatory towards pretty much everyone from service providers to government officials
Whether it is speaking with a service provider behind a Ufone counter or a government officer, our sorry’s and thank you’s quickly turn to: “tumhain pata hai mera baap kaun hai?“(Do you know who my father is?). We wouldn’t dare be derogatory towards a white man behind the counter of whatever service we are seeking. Yet, somehow it becomes necessary to reaffirm our class position when talking to our own people. With all the frustrations of low wage jobs, our humiliating attitude is no help.
Respect is a two-way street. Give some before you expect it in return.
These are just a few instances of our personalities and behaviors changing when we’re in our own country. Our lack of compliance with laws would not be so mind-boggling if we were behaving the same way abroad as we do in our country. We have it in us to be law-abiding citizens; unfortunately only in countries that aren’t our own. Let’s reflect deeply next time we scream over lawlessness in Pakistan. It doesn’t matter how big or small the law being broken is. When seemingly trivial laws are broken en masse, the effect eventually amounts to a very weak social fabric upon which rests the nation-building of Pakistan.