In Pakistan, the #VIPCulture has to go

Published: September 24, 2014

This almost royal protocol is one of the key perks of becoming a VIP in Pakistan, probably the most attractive feature too; one every wannabe VIP dreams of. PHOTO: FILE

Commuting in metropolitan cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad often bestows upon you the unforgettable experience of being reminded how ‘ordinary’ you are.

You may only use the road when it isn’t being used by a Very Important Person (VIP). When a policeman raises his hand or puts a picket to stop you, he may only be saying ‘stop and wait’ but what you actually hear is,

“Wait, you ordinary, worthless citizen! Your time, life and business are of no value. Wait while the all-important VIP passes”.

It is quite similar to how when kings and queens passed through markets and thoroughfares, everyone and everything were brought to a halt. The only difference, however, was that those weren’t democracies.

Not only does this experience entail the pleasures of frustration and irritation for you, it also has, on occasions, caused death of the sick in ambulances stuck in traffic and birth of ordinary non-VIP babies in rickshaws and taxis. In effect, saving 15 minutes off a VIP’s travel time has sometimes proven to be more important than a citizen’s life.

One wonders why a VIP’s life is more valuable than that of an ordinary citizen. A very common response to this question is: it is not the person who is important but the post that he holds.

This almost royal protocol is one of the key perks of becoming a VIP in Pakistan, probably the most attractive feature too; one every wannabe VIP dreams of. A frequently raised question is why are these servants and representatives of the public causing us such anguish and mental torture, which even results in loss of lives? The oft used and popular reply is the recently found excuse of ‘security risks’.

It is the terrorist threat that forces these poor VIPs to travel in convoys, honking sirens and blocking traffic for ordinary citizens who actually face far greater and severe security threats and die thereof every day.

Under that logic, if you separate the person from that post, is the president, prime minister, chief minister, minister, chief justice et cetera, not replaceable? Likewise, is a citizen not somebody’s father, brother, son, daughter or mother? Is that not irreplaceable?

If I am the head of a state where a pathetic law and order situation causes citizens to be killed like diseased animals on a daily basis, my conscience would not allow me to hog a thousand security guards employed by the state for my own security. Wouldn’t it be my moral duty to ensure security of a citizen’s life and property before I secure my life or the lives of my family?

The fact is, I may never be 100% motivated to improve the security situation in my country unless my life or the life of my son or daughter is as exposed and threatened as the life of an ordinary citizen. The unrivalled fact that we need to be reminded of is that there is no distinction between the state and its citizens. We are all VIPs as well as ordinary citizens.


Zafar Zulqurnain Sahi

A Lawyer by profession. A Gold Medalist in LLB from Punjab University and has a LLM degree from University of Warwick, UK. He is also a former Member Provincial Assembly of Punjab (2008-2013). He tweets @ZafarSahi (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed Ali Khan

    These Damn VIP’s have occupied D Chowk, occupied the Parliment, attacked PTV, GEO, Sama without even the slightest danger of the law touching them. This must end!Recommend

  • Arslan Khan

    Paki need to physically train their officersRecommend

  • human

    I agree . why cant they live as local normal people .

    if they did wrong & have enemies they should start believing in KARMARecommend

  • Ordinary paki

    Perfectly summed upRecommend

  • Parvez

    Although I agree what what you have said…..but let me play the devils advocate here.
    A lady parliamentarian once said…….if we arrive at a public function in a Suzuki Mehran , do you think the people will respect us ? …….so she had a point.
    It’s not just the VVIP that has to change , it’s the mindset of the people that needs to change as well and enforcing the rule of law, for all, in the country, would be a good start.Recommend

  • Rasheedullah Khan

    Couldn’t have been better explained a very important issue.

    Thankew You Sir Zafar


    Rasheedullah KhanRecommend

  • Shah (Berlin)

    Wht……do you know what Democracy means..???? Do you know its your fundatmental right to protect?? Do you know government has NO right to divert an international plane??? Do you know the government has no right to kill protestors….???? I am sorry may b u have never lived in a Democracy thats why you are so confusedRecommend

  • Satti

    To an extend i agree with you . Yes common people are also not replaceable but Security risk is a issue in Pakistan. You also dont want international media reporting how the ministers are killed very day…Recommend

  • H Chaudhry

    Govt has every right to divery a plane if it deemed threat to security. Sorry but go educate yourself on rights of Governments and that is why Emirates did not file any claim in ICJ. I live in the US and I can tell you that VIP culture is actually at D Chowk, attacks on PTV and Parliament. In any other country/western country try attaching state institutions and see the result. Govt has every right to Kill protestors if they attack State Institutions or try to blockage police. Every year in US several people are killed resisting arrests or attacking police.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Say no to VIP culture.Recommend

  • NaturesLaw…!!

    VIP culture is worldwide, even hollywood celebrities are treated by this way…Both khan N qadri followers are deprived people, who donot want to earn but snatch…!!So first deserve than desire…!!Recommend

  • Paki

    Seriously you think TuQ was a security risk.
    As for US they have Institutions which are answerable to the public.

    Yes true several people are killed while resisting arrest but then again actions are taken against Police / Law Enforcement agencies in the US for brutality.Recommend

  • Paki

    Thanks Z for bringing this up !!!! Agree with you completelyRecommend

  • Guest

    If she arrives in a Mercedes Benz with a bunch of security staff, we’ll admire the car, fear the guards but is that real respect?
    You have a valid point, the culture has to change, but its not the common folk who set the trend they just follow.Recommend

  • observer

    VIP culture is a creation of this nation. As long as the powerful have the police and the law enforcement agencies on their side this culture is going to continue. VIP culture depends on force to make sure it is implemented, without force on their side, this status quo cannot hold good. Pakistani’s are neither patient or disciplined, civic minded, or tolerant, these are our national traits. Our leaders too wish to pursue an agenda of pretense, false promises, hollow morals. They know they cannot deliver. After 67 years do we Pakistani’s even have the very basics in life, i.e. clean drinking water, No, do we have law and order, No, do we have food to eat, No, do we have universal education, No, do we have health facilities, No.
    We Pakistani’s love hero worship, and we love to listen to hollow promises, this the only hope that the poor masses have in this country, and so these demigods will continue to rule over us.Recommend

  • Humza

    In the US they would not tolerate the behavior of the violent protesters. By all means they would be allowed to protest peacefully as long as they want but the moment they used sticks to attack police, threw stones at police, used a crane to remove barriers, occupied PTV buildings, vandalized government buildings and called for anti state behavior such as defacing currency, not paying utility bills, using illegal banking such as Hundi, defecating and making mess of public places, the law enforcement folks would arrest all of them – no exceptions. The real VIPs are the PTI folks and its leader Imran Khan who behaves as though he is above the law. Imagine if Tahirul Qadri tried any of his behavior in Canada!
    Shame that such people think that making a joke of Pakistan is fun. They can’t respect majority rule so they resort to violence. They want a quick fix Dharna since they are afflicted with the Third World belief that things change overnight without hard work within an imperfect system called democracy.Recommend

  • sharjeel

    I beg your pardon. But if that lady, even if she arrived in mehran, had done some constructive work, she will get due recognition. So, it is not the mind set that needs changing it is the the dedication of that MPA towards her work that needs and will be praised if she had done some good work.Recommend