In remarks made during a meeting of the Senate Functional Committee on Devolution, PML-N Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar stated that, in his opinion, the poor are born to serve the rich. When some of his colleagues pointed out the inherently distasteful and discriminatory nature of these words, Sardar Yaqoob simply doubled down on his position, arguing that inequality in society had been created by God (thereby invalidating any human intervention to ameliorate the situation), and that people who simply could not get educated or work hard did not deserve to lead better lives and were entitled to nothing more than lives of grinding poverty and deprivation.

Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar’s Wikipedia entry describes him as, ‘the chief of the Pashtun Nasar tribe… [commanding] strong influence and respect in his native province of Balochistn’ who has been a regular fixture in parliament since winning his first election in 1985. According to a report published by PILDAT in 2007, Sardar Yaqoob was the richest MNA from Balochistan, with assets worth Rs. 177.38 million in 2005-06, up from a mere Rs. 84.92 million in 2004-05. Based on the views he expressed earlier this week, it is probably reasonable to assume that the good Senator believes his fortune and wealth are the result of his natural talents, hard work, and divine favour. Indeed, the fact that his wealth doubled in the space of a year must have entirely been due to his tireless exertions and ceaseless devotion to public service as a member of the National Assembly. That God clearly has a soft spot for Sardar Yaqoob is also demonstrated by how he, as one of the richest members of parliament in Pakistan, only had to pay Rs. 51,678 in tax in 2012-13 (according to figures released by the Federal Board of Revenue).

It should be obvious that Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar has achieved all that he has in life by relying on nothing more than his own skills and determination. He is living proof of how someone can overcome the constraints imposed by tremendous inherited wealth, social status, connections, and privilege to rise to the highest echelons of power in Pakistan. This is in contrast with the feckless, lazy, and ultimately ungrateful people of Loralai, his constituency in Balochistan. According to development statistics published by the UNDP In 2011, 49% of children in the district are underweight, 42% of the population receives inadequate nutrition, the literacy rate is a just 38%, only 5% of the population has access to Lady Health Workers, 37.5% of the population lacks access to clean drinking water, and 42% do not have adequate facilities for sewerage and sanitation. Even without the horrible burden of being born into powerful and wealthy families, the people of Loralai have simply failed to do the hard work necessary to improve their lives. If they were more like Sardar Yaqoob, they would not experience any of these problems.

One might be tempted to argue that poverty is ultimately rooted in the existence of exploitative and deeply unfair institutions and systems that privilege the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the poor. Following this logic, it might be suggested that public policy and political mobilisation might be able to bring about the type of changes in the economy and society that could reduce or even eliminate this inequality through measures ranging from the communist abolition of private property to the implementation of more substantive and meaningful redistributive taxation. However, as Sardar Yaqoob pointed out to his colleagues in the Senate, this can never happen because God wants inequality to exist; if it did not, there would be no one to do menial jobs like cleaning Sardar Yaqoob’s house, driving his car, cooking his food, doing his laundry, and cultivating his fields, thereby giving him the space and time to do the really hard work of attending Senate sessions in oppressively brutal conditions marked by the presence of air-conditioning, catering, and fat expense accounts.

However, if it is indeed the case that God wants inequality to exist, and that this divine system can never be tampered with or changed by mere mortals such as ourselves, might it not be cogent to ask exactly what the point is of legislation and, for that matter, legislators? If Sardar Yaqoob truly believes that he, being just a man, has no power to question God’s will regarding the poor, does that also suggest that he does not see his position in parliament as being one that might provide him with the means through which to improve the lives of his constituents in Loralai? This would certainly explain why that district continues to suffer from extremely low levels of public service provision and development; since those in ‘power’ can do nothing to change anything, legislators like Sardar Yaqoob have no choice but to sit and wait for the people they represent to help themselves.

Of course, this raises other issues. After all, in the same meeting where Sardar Yaqoob declared that the poor were born to serve the rich, he also decried the inequality that existed between MNAs and Senators, as evinced by how the former received ‘development’ funds for their constituencies while the latter did not. Given how Sardar Yaqoob believes in the ultimate futility of any attempts to help the poor, it is not exactly clear why he would have an interest in discretionary ‘development’ funds for his constituency. Again, however, it is not really for the likes of me to question or even attempt to fathom the wisdom of the Senator’s pronouncements. I do not head any tribes, nor can I claim ownership of assets worth tens of millions of rupees. I clearly lack both the intelligence and work ethic of a man like Sardar Yaqoob, and must therefore be content to blindly believe in the wisdom of those who are richer and, therefore, better than myself. Indeed, the fact that providence does not favour me is clearly seen in how, despite making much less money than Sardar Yaqoob, I somehow end up paying more tax than he does. God clearly works in mysterious ways.