Contemporary art and science of building fabricated perceptions – McCarthyism

The recently held Central Selection Board (CSB) for the promotion of senior civil servants has opened up more questions than answers. A number of disgruntled officers ignored on flimsy grounds are on their way to litigation or knocking the doors of the Prime Minister’s secretariat. Whether the courts, the Prime Minister or any of his assisting bureaucrats would afford the time and affection to go through the contents of the petitions and redress the genuine grievances of the ‘poor’ officers subjected to injustice – remains to be seen. Even if the petitioners get lucky enough to attract the

Even if the petitioners get lucky enough to attract the tending of any of the ‘masters of fortunes’, whether their outcries would be treated as mere catharsis of their ‘misfortune’ or would they catch any iota of intent from someone to understand and do something about the ‘contemporary art and science of building fabricated perceptions’.

It is highly appreciable to promote honesty and integrity in every aspect of the society including the various components of the statecraft. It is also true that corruption – whether moral, financial or intellectual – has been pulling the cart of our national progress in the opposite and undesirable direction. All efforts to keep the corrupt and sleazy officers away from the helm of the affairs of the state are appreciable including their rejection in the promotion boards like the CSBs.

But… how do they determine the incompetence, corruptness or sleaziness of an officer? Can over a dozen members of the CSB (about five of them belonging to the concerned cadre) aided by the reports of the intelligence agencies accomplish that? Yes they can if there are cases of NAB pending decision against the officer under consideration. Yes they can if there have ever been some reference of corruption sent to the Anti-Corruption department or had ever been departmentally handled against the officer. Yes they can if the ownership of any commercial plazas, luxury houses, petrol pumps or other huge or irreconcilable investments in any sector or domain can be established on record in respect of the officer under consideration. Yes they can if there is some complaint of moral turpitude from anyone on earth against the officer pending decision or enquiry at any quarter. Yes, they can if there is anything adverse on record in the PERs or the Training Institution’s reports of the officer regarding his personal or professional conduct. But in the absence of anything whatsoever can they still do it?

Whether they can or can’t, they are doing it and that too ignoring the opinions of dozens of other officers and training Institutions recorded in the PERs and the Course Performance Reports of the officer under consideration. They are also doing it brushing aside all the recorded accomplishments of the officer. They are also doing it despite the fact that there have been no complaints of financial or moral corruption of any nature whatsoever (in media, in service dossier or anywhere else) against the officer. They are also doing it despite the fact that the back of the ‘poor officer about to be declared corrupt and sleazy or incompetent’ has actually been broken merely by the fleecing prices of the daily necessities of life and despite that he is fast losing his health and shape due to work stress. Yes they are doing it. In fact they have done it.

There is no need to wonder how they do that. There is one magic wand. They fall back upon the fabricated perception of the officer that had once been created by some ‘saint in service’ with the aid of likeminded professionals and basically having its roots in ‘personality clash and non-acquiescence of the officer’ or in other words ‘McCarthyism’.

In fact, malice and bravado, which have become the main ingredients of public discourse in Pakistan, are now threatening to develop into a wave of persecution against whoever is considered to be on the wrong side of the all-powerful authorities.

Citizens who care for their basic freedom of thought and action and the rule of law must be on guard against biased campaigns designed to silence the voices of reason, for they carry the germs of McCarthyism. In the 1950s, a modern-period witch-hunt, known as McCarthyism, a Republican senator called Joseph McCarthy forwarded his ambitions by exploiting the bogey of a communist threat to the United States. He launched a campaign to purge the US State Department, other government agencies and Hollywood of communists, causing several thousand Americans to lose their jobs and unmitigated suffering to countless others.

The US Senate eventually condemned McCarthy, but not before the whole of society had been affected by this witch-hunt. The paranoia had led to many ridiculous excesses, such as the banning of the story of Robin Hood in some educational institutions; robbing the rich to help the poor was perceived as communism. What makes McCarthyism especially reprehensible is that its disastrous effects are not confined to its direct victims. The climate of suspicion (that any witch-hunt generates) suppresses not only dissent but also freethinking. In a way, the persecution of individuals or groups for their ‘different’ views or outlook dehumanises society to an extent that it consumes itself within a short period. McCarthyism’s most sinister aspect is the procedural acceptance of questionable approach adopted to fight so-called subversion generally by individuals suffering from paranoia, pessimism and criminal bias.

Coming back to the dynamics of the two CSBs held recently, it is unfortunate that where nothing is available on record against an officer who has to be kept out of the race for promotion through McCarthyism, they adopt the approach generally employed and propagated by the religious extremists to condemn their rival sects by declaring them either Qadianis or infidels (Kafirs) for their religious beliefs – hence knocking them out from the mainstream populace having a right to exist and flourish in the society. The irony is that when all the officers responsible to comment on the conduct and professionalism of an officer under consideration have only praise to offer and the training institutes have only appreciation to convey, some ‘ghosts’ or extra-terrestrial creatures not only jump in to suggest otherwise but also prevail.

Where should the poor officers subject to this kind of persecution or McCarthyism go? Thinking freely, having the honor of floating the flipped perspective, believing in the blessings of Almighty not the powerful lobbyists, calling spade a spade, believing as much in intellectual integrity as in the moral and financial ones, implementing rule of law instead of becoming acquiescent, working day and night on their official business instead of forging lobbies and developing personal relations with ‘the ones who matter’ adopting ‘out of the world flattering with a submissive attitude’ – there is a whole list of the factors making them ‘unsuitable’ for their professional growth as against the genuinely recorded credentials.

Does this persecution need to be put to end? Do the overwhelmed ‘victimized officers’ having no way to go deserve some justice? They are the ones who would think more than twice to knock the doors of the courts of law as their meager resources need more to be diverted towards the education of their children and their humble future endeavors. Do they need to be protected or condemned and left at the mercy of injustice and stoicism? Who will come to their rescue? They are mired deep in the fabricated morass of ‘unsuitability’ triggered by the ghosts of egocentrism; jealousy, bias and paranoia or in one word McCarthyism!

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Muskan Khuram

The writer is a student at Kinnaird College Lahore