IT is a tragic irony that in a country like Pakistan, whose leaders are seen with a begging bowl in their hands virtually at any international forum or get-together, which holds the promise of doling out aid to a nation in trouble, an influential person could get his loan, worth millions, easily written off. A poor and powerless person would, on the contrary, be mercilessly thrown out, with his family members, lock, stock and barrel, in the street and his house auctioned, at a throw-away price, to recover the unpaid loan of a paltry sum. As the hearing of a suo moto case at the Supreme Court on Friday revealed, a whopping amount of Rs 256 billion stood written off between 1971 and 2009. A shocking aspect of the story is that the beneficiaries are not, nor ever have been, down and out; they have, and had at the time their loans were being waived, running businesses, tidy sums stacked in banks abroad, huge properties or high positions in politics, the bureaucracy, etc. There was a time when, bank managers would tell their friends in private, that the powerful apply for loans and, at the same time, ask for the documents required for having them written off, demonstrating dishonest intentions. This would scotch the impression of some who would plead that, after all, loan-write-off is a standard practice the world over and is a must in the face of ventures going bust. They should realise that quoting examples of other countries where all debtors are judged on an equal footing is self-defeating. It is needless to say that it is such an attitude of the ruling classes that pervades the entire social structure, and has brought us to the brink of ruin where we at present shakily stand. Be it the cases of waiving loans, siphoning off official money to personal accounts, extracting commissions on government contracts, taxing the poor official and letting off the big landlord, holding to account a motorcyclist for a minor traffic infraction and smilingly forgiving a limousine owner for a fault that would cost him the driving licence for life - these and many more such glaring iniquities are the bane of our milieu. And to these, an alarming phenomenon of flouting judiciary's orders has been added by the present rulers, who call themselves democratically elected, thus tarnishing the image of the otherwise best known system of governance called democracy. Setting this house of Pakistan in order in the present circumstances appears to be a Herculean task, but given the will it would turn out to be not so difficult after all. One must, therefore, hope that the judicial crusade against these evils bears fruit; the optimism shown by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that the guilty would not escape the strong arm of the law turns out to be well placed; and those not heeding the warning would be put behind bars.