In Pakistan, rising outrage towards pols' "VIP culture."
In Pakistan, rising outrage towards pols' "VIP culture."
Naeem Sahoutara

KARACHI — In Pakistan and many other Asian countries, politicians are given preferential treatment on the roads, in airports, and in services while everyone else waits in line. So it's not surprising that this lopsided system is breeding growing outrage.

In a wealthy suburb of Karachi, where many high-profile politicians live, a small middle-aged man stands at a busy traffic intersection. Wearing a long a black gown with a sign that reads "NO VIP," he says that while your house is yours, the public road is for everyone. With him is a group of around 50 protesters who have been coming here every week since the end of September.

In Pakistan, politicians, high-profile judges, and members of the military travel everywhere with state security guards and are escorted through traffic by police. They are assured smooth rides while creating terrible traffic jams for everyone else. It's not unusual for flights to be delayed because VIP politicians are late.

In a rare case, passengers recently fought back. This video, which went viral in Pakistan, shows what happened when former Interior Minister Rehman Malik kept a plane waiting for two hours. Angry passengers eventually forced him off the plane.

Dr. Irfan Dawoodi, a senior surgeon at one of Pakistan's top hospitals, says this is not an isolated incident. "A lot of times, people can't get necessary treatment because they are stuck in traffic," he says. "This happens all the time in Islamabad. These are the terrible things that are happening in our country. The bureaucrats, military officials, rich people who have armed guards flouting arms have complete disregard for the poor people. These are the people who are horrible, disgusting. They should not be allowed."

Sharmeen Osmany, a lawyer and the wife of a Supreme Court judge, says the term VIP is being misinterpreted.

"VIP means you are influential and have too much money," she says. "This is the meaning of VIP at the moment. I'm sorry but I don't agree. What should be the true definition of a VIP? I think a person who is law-abiding and paying taxes, contributing to the nation. They are sons and daughters of the nation and VIPs."

The Pakistani constitution, she notes, says no one in the country is above the law.

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