The Panama Papers, that catchy name that seems to imply natty shenanigans on an island by loveable and handsome detectives, has turned out to be rather troublesome for us. We’ve had to witness various sons of the Sharif empire hem and haw and contradict themselves about whether there is or is not money squirreled away, who pays for the flats in London, where does it all come from? It’s probably the first time they have had to take a closer look at the family money—from the look of them they don’t seem the type to sit down with the accountants and point out where the balance sheet seems wonky. Internationally the Papers have given many rich people a pretty big headache, David Cameron being the most prominent headache of all, because he is a proponent of higher taxes and general government austerity (which means cutting back on a lot of social services) and yet he also has been found to have money in offshore accounts.

Cameron has taken this seriously, even though the money is his privately and has nothing to do with the government.

That’s how things generally go down in Places Abroad, where democracy and accountability means something. Here in the backwater Third World, we’re grateful that there’s just about enough money left after the government’s “personal expenditure” that it can pay for the three hours of electricity that we actually do get. I genuinely do not understand the fuss here about the Panama Papers: oh goodness, there is corruption! The people who run the show have money, hidden away, so they don’t have to pay tax! Good heavens. How utterly shocking!

Even my seven year old knows that our politicians are corrupt, that every party that has ever ruled this country has done it for personal gains, that our tax money pays for the five star hotels, the trips abroad, the Savile Row suits, the mansions and Prados. We also know that, unlike Prime Minister Cameron, a lot of the Pakistani offshore money probably does comprise of our tax money and our international aid money. It’s so quaint to me, this literal foreign idea of there being an actual difference between personal and state money. One would think that having your own money would make you a great politician, someone who could really change the world because they weren’t distracted or lured by it, but Pakistan has never encountered anything like that.

What actually puzzles me is why corruption is now such a burning issue that hundreds of people are willing to park themselves outside the parliament again, and chant slogans for the undemocratic removal of a legally elected head of state. Anyone who has read this column, or even the preamble to this paragraph, will know I’m no great supporter of the present government and its policies or politics. But my gripe with this new dharna and this moral outrage is closer to home: where was all of this indignation when we needed it the most? And by ‘the most’, I mean when it came to the Orange Line. When it comes to the mazareen in Okara being arrested, their girls kidnapped, their leaders tortured. The Women’s Protection Bill. There are so many issues that come and go, and no opposition party feels it relevant to raise a voice then. It feels shortsighted and downright naïve to wave the banner of outrage now when so much has happened that needs support like this. It is a waste of time and energy to demand ethics and justice from a government that knows nothing of it. It is unfair and misleading to convince hundreds of well-meaning people to fall in with another harebrained scheme, to an end that has no meaning. You can’t shame someone who is shameless, but you can use your manpower and your influence to at least save what can be saved. Toppling a government is never going to happen, and neither should it. The institutions that govern a democracy must be respected by all, even the people who dislike the outcome of that democracy. But what about Lahore? What about the trees, the environment, the buildings? What about the people who are becoming homeless overnight, the buildings they spent generations living in being razed to the ground in hours?

What about our heritage, our city?

It’s bad to be corrupt. Of course it is. But you have to be, to get by in this country. That’s what we’re told all the time. That there is a ‘system’ you have to follow, even if you don’t like it. But we also pick our issues, and no political party can say that it chooses because it is the right thing to do. This voice against corruption is a ploy to win brownie points on the morality scale: we’re clean. But this is the same party that still hasn’t passed any kind of bill protecting women in KPK because it’s waiting for the green light from the mullahs, and we all know how enthusiastic they are about women’s rights. So how clean are you really? It’s all relative, isn’t it. The current government has ruined Lahore to make money. It has siphoned millions of rupees away from health and education budgets to keep building the Orange Line at the pace it is going. It has flouted the law openly and repeatedly, and it is all to make more money. I don’t really care about money in offshore accounts. I know I can’t cure anyone of greed and dishonesty. So instead of trying to tackle Goliath, can’t we combine our powers and energies towards a goal we can actually achieve? Regardless of political affiliation, there is so much heart and good energy and patriotic spirit in us. So beware of Greeks bearing gifts; “foes’ gifts are no gifts”. It’s time we stopped anyone from turning Trojan on us and using our good intentions to further their own agendas. It’s time we realised that us, civil society, women and men, are the ones who can change anything. Everyone else is just being a politician.