You do not salute to the person, you salute to the rank – and that is exactly why Arsala Saleem saluted Maryam Nawaz

Published: July 10, 2017
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PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

The Panama joint investigation team (JIT) is in town and it is making headlines for all the right reasons. The entire ruling Sharif clan has paid them a visit.

The last person to make an appearance before the JIT was Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of the prime minister. Many are referring to this as her political launch. However, this news was overshadowed by a lady police officer, Miss Arsala Saleem, saluting Maryam.

Miss Saleem accompanied Maryam to the JIT meeting, since all JIT members are male and are somehow deemed unfit to question a woman alone. She saluted Maryam when she arrived to appear before the JIT on Wednesday. This salute drew the ire of numerous individuals. Like always, what ensued was the division of social media into two groups; one condemning her and the other defending her for her actions.

My earlier reaction to the salute controversy was similar to the ones condemning it. I honestly expected a much more dignified reaction from Miss Saleem.

The matter took a serious turn when an Islamabad-based lawyer dispatched a legal notice to Miss Saleem over her salute. Miss Saleem, who may have committed a minor mistake, is just another product of our system. Rather than blaming her, I think we need to delve into the Pakistani mentality of fluffing egos and vacuous protocols to understand the reason behind her salute.

After much deliberation, I arrived at the conclusion that she may have done the right thing. Below is more of a fly on the wall assessment of the episode in question here.

Firstly, my earlier reaction to the incident was based on my personal dislike for Maryam. The irony here is that we long for power but we abhor the powerful. As much as I don’t favour Maryam, it does not change the fact that she has massive public support and people look up to her. Had it been another officer in place of Miss Saleem, they may have done the same out of respect or admiration.

In simpler words, my problem was not with the salute, but to whom she saluted.

Secondly, keeping in mind how narcissistic and egoistic our leaders are, a mere salute is good enough to soothe their overinflated egos, and as the saying goes,

“You do not salute to the person, you salute to the rank.”

The need to salute and please those more powerful than us is unfortunately entrenched in our psyche. Miss Saleem was just a manifestation of this act, there are countless others like her. Condemning her for her actions will not change anything as such.

During Pervez Musharraf’s era, I remember a particular Nazim from Faisalabad. He used to travel with his own private protocol. Governor Khalid Maqbool saw it once, and was left speechless since his own protocol was outnumbered by the Nazim’s. Our history is filled with such instances.

Furthermore, being saluted in our culture represents power more than respect. When a police officer salutes you, it has an even higher intrinsic value mainly because the police itself are a symbol of power. Miss Saleem may have just been emulating her predecessors who may have done the same in the past.

Lastly, it is difficult to swim against the tide, but then again, so is swimming with the sharks. I have great respect for Mohammad Ali Nekokara and many like him, but were they able to change the system? No. Miss Saleem may have only been doing what she thought was part of her duty and what came to her naturally. I don’t think she realised a mere salute would garner so much attention. Let us look beyond trivial actions and focus on the bigger issues – the JIT result.

Our political elite, more or less, are similar. They like the same things and share the same tantrums. Serving with or under them is not an easy task. But if you want to change the system, it is important that you become a part of it. If change does come about, it will come from within. I am by no means favouring the status quo or trying to discourage the few good men who do try to bring about change. If a salute helps you do it, then it is a meager price for a cause that is much bigger and greater.

Our system lacks accountability, especially for the powerful. So until we make our powerful accountable, we have to bear with such trivial things.

Aizzan Malik

Aizzan Malik

The author is a political science graduate from Government College University. He tweets as @AizzanKehtaHay (twitter.com/AizzanKehtaHay)

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