Explaining the nature and different levels of human motivation, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow propounded his well-known ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ theory in the mid-twentieth century. According to this theory, people possess a set of motivation system necessarily in a hierarchical format. This hierarchy is also most often displayed as a pyramid, with most fundamental needs at the bottom and needs of ‘self-actualisation’ at the top. There are five different levels in this hierarchy; physiological needs, security needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualising needs. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on. Once lower level needs are reasonably satisfied, one tends to achieve the highest level called self-actualisation.

Somehow modifying a bit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, certain individuals have been instrumental in giving rise to a sort of ‘hierarchy of greed’ in Pakistan. Necessarily motivated by greed and avarice, the self-seeking people in this hierarchical system have been busy in advancing their personal selfish interests to the disadvantage of the masses all the time. These individuals generally disregard altogether all moral considerations while pursuing their selfish agenda. Money is the be-all and end-all of their existence. Therefore, they have always been equally determined to get it by hook or by crook.

Forming a sort of ‘pyramid of corruption’ in the country, this hierarchical system essentially consists of many levels or tiers. Each level is best known for employing a unique modus operandi to achieve the common objective. This singularity of the objective is the cohesive force that has kept this pyramid quite intact so far. Persistence, proactivity and performance have been the hall-marks of this pyramid. It is due to the ‘untiring efforts’ of this pyramid that Pakistan once got the unique ‘distinction’ of becoming the second most corrupt country in the world. As a matter of fact, this pyramid lies at the root of most of the underlying problems currently faced by the unfortunate masses of the country.

The lowest or bottom level of the pyramid of corruption is also its largest constituent part. The members of this class can easily be traced in every nook and cranny of the country. They have conveniently gotten the first opportunity to exploit the masses. This level includes the food adulterators, hoarders, black marketer, profiteers, racketeers who never miss an opportunity to fleece their consumers. They also feel no hesitation at all while offering even dead or Haram meat for human consumption. The violent criminals like land grabbers, gangsters, extortionists etc. are also part and parcel of this group. Presently, the city of Karachi is somehow become a microcosm of this level of corruption where all such criminal mafias can be found in abundance. This city has also witnessed a novel land-grabbing technique- the “China cutting.” The law enforcement apparatus of the state has miserably failed to curb the criminal activities of this class of people.

The second level of this pyramid comprises a large number of so-called public servants; from junior to higher ranks. The 22-grade categorisation has also somehow become a standard to judge the capacity of a public official to make money by abusing his/her authority.

Under the law, they are public servants, but in reality, they are the master of people’s destiny now. The phenomenon like ‘Thana culture’, ‘Patwari culture’ and ‘clerk mafia’ are necessarily associated with this level. Similarly, there are also some military officers who have been quite disinclined in resisting their temptation to grab expensive residential plots in the military-administered posh localities.

The next level is being retained by the affluent business class, industrialists, property tycoons and feudal barons in the country. They have always been seeking the opportunities to multiply their assets overnight. Despite possessing enormous monetary resources, their hunger for more wealth is obvious. Tax evasion is their way of life. Therefore, they forcefully resist every endeavour made by the government to bring them in the tax net. The corporate regulators like SECP and CCP can’t touch this mighty class. There are also some textile and sugar mills owners who are known for exploiting the farmers by delaying their payments. After education and health, running a media house has also become a lucrative business in the country.

The politicians and public representatives are another important component of this pyramid. They can only be seen among the people during the elections, and afterwards, they are usually out of the reach of their electors. Politics has become a commercial activity. First they spend millions of rupees on election campaigns then recover this money manifold after coming into power. They readily and promptly enjoy the perks and allowances but often remain absent from the assembly sessions. Like the business class, they also evade taxes and do believe in the very policy of ‘representation without taxation’.

The ruling elite obviously occupies the top level in this so-called pyramid of corruption. Indeed, it has attained self-actualisation. Democracy has been a benevolence for the members of this class. They have readily transformed the country into a ‘family limited company’. Now it is an ‘inherent right’ of them to plunder the national wealth. Misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds is their original practice. Now they have also become capable of making money through commissions and kickbacks. For this purpose, the power, energy and communication sectors have been their favourite manoeuvring areas.

There has also been a person who felt no shame at all in misappropriating even a diamond neckless donated by a foreign dignitary for the rehabilitation of flood victims. Although the members of this class make money from the resources of the country, yet they are equally convinced to shift their plundered wealth outside the country promptly. In fact, they are quite uncertain about the future of this country, and therefore, don’t take risk to lose their ‘hard-earned’ money. Besides the Swiss and other European banks, the real estate sector of London and Dubai are safe haven for their wealth.

All the complimentary levels of the so-called pyramid of corruption can stay together in a harmonised manner. They have actively been preserving and reinforcing each other all the time. They have proactively destroyed all things which may pose an existential threat to them. They have hardly allowed the accountability institutions to flourish in the country. They have never made any deliberate attempt to evolve an independent and efficient judicial system in the country. Now all the important components of criminal justice system are acting to protect the vested interests of this pyramid.

The Egyptian pyramids were built upon the tombs containing the mummified corps of the Pharaohs. But sadly, there lie the alive mummified bodies of the hapless masses of the country beneath the pyramid of corruption. They can see but don’t say anything. They can feel but don’t react. They have to bear the burden of this cumbersome pyramid by all means.