Pakistanis Espoused Theory and Theories-in-Use:  A reason for Underdevelopment and Corruption

People complain that democracy does not work in Pakistan nor has corruption been eradicated in Pakistan.  Leaders may be more to blame but common people must share the responsibility as they have never been changed as they should have been over the period of time. Consciously or Unconsciously, knowingly or unwittingly, they patronize corruption by trusting and relying upon the espoused theory than the theories-in-use of a person.  Pakistani psyche is that, which makes people hero or zero on the basis of the espoused theory instead of weighing their theories-in-use. Espoused theory refers to the attitude or assertions that people make in public whereas theories-in-use means actual behavior and deeds.

espoused theory

In Pakistan’s history, people have made the leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah as Quaid-I-Azam, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as Quaid-I-Awam, Liaqat Ali Khan, as Quaid-I-Millet, Benazir Bhutto as Shaheed-e-Millet and Allama Iqbal as Shair-e-Mashriq because of their espoused theory, which suited to the emotions of the masses. People quote their speeches and statements without assessing their real behaiour and actions. Jinnah espoused democracy but never strengthened through his theories-in-use. No one dares to question in Pakistan whether or not his behavior was democratic as President of the All India Muslim League and the first Governor General of Pakistan.  No one bothers to ask as to how leaving thousands of Muslims behind in India fulfilled the concept of the two-nation theory! And, if someone does, he/she will be labeled as unpatriotic or a traitor without considering the fact that she/he might be trying to unfold the reality. Similarly, no one bothers inquire as to why Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto acted as a dictator in the party if he really believed so much in democracy. He is still considered as a great leader without questioning as to why he did not strive to build the state institutions.  People say that the situation of Pakistan would be different if Benzeer Bhutto was alive without pondering as to why she could not put Pakistan on the right path when she was in power. They all were great leaders because they communicated attractive espoused theories. They told people what they wished to hear. They gathered around them true base-coins to be benefited and achieve their personal goals.

The tendency of believing in the espoused theory of the leaders has not stopped yet. Still people blindly believe in people who can communicate assurances that fit to their emotions and sentiments. The followers of Tahir-UL-Qadri  (Shooker Qadri) follows him because he speaks about  Zardari and Nawaz’ corruption but do not dare to ask him as to why he lived on the government social money in Canada. They do not ask him exactly what prompted him to come back to Pakistan in the election’s period.  No one bothered about his theories-in-use but followed him in the protest because his theory-in-use suited to their emotions. Similarly, hardly anyone asks Imran Khan about the criteria to get free treatment in his cancer hospital. A few people, who visited in the hospital with the hope that their relatives would get free treatment got refusals, told the author that the criteria is so humiliating and rigorous that no one could fulfill. Hardly, supporters of Imran Khan asked how KPK Chief Minister managed to get three reserved women seats for his relatives.

Pakistanis like the espoused theory of institutions instead of evaluating their real performance.  They accept army propaganda that they defeated India in 1965 war without considering the fact that the truth was the opposite. They accept the false accusations that the India initiated the wars whereas the truth is that the Pakistani generals started the wars and lost them.  Pakistani people innocently believe that the army is there to protect the borders but the reality is that they are more interested in building the business empire for the army personnal. Similarly, nobody asks the judiciary and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as to why they consider that Zardari and his team are the only corrupt leaders in Pakistan. Is it corruption only in the center and not in the provinces? Is the judiciary not giving leeway to Nawaz Sharif and other Punjabi leaders and ignoring their corruption? No one asks, was the ‘Memogate scandal’ case so important that the judiciary spent millions of rupees on the case without reaching to the final conclusion? Were such letters not written to the US administration in the past? Should it not be better to use the energies and money to decide the common persons’ cases which are pending in the Supreme Court?

espoused theory

Not only the political leaders but it is also the characteristics of Pakistani society that they think that they served the cause by espousing an idea.  Take a few examples of common man religious behaviour. Many people think that they served Islam or become good Muslims by posting the Koranic Verses or Hadith on social media sites. They ignore the teaching of the religion when it impressed upon them to act righteously.  They do not understand that Islam has emphasized more on the theories-in-use than the espoused theory, which can be proved by various examples. Islam stops Muslims to go in the Mosques which spread ‘Fitna’ (disturbance) in the system. Islam does not consider a man is pious by just offering prayers five times a day until she/he speaks truthfully, acts honestly or behaves humbly with other human beings.  Islam does not consider that one has committed a sin until it is performed or executed in a real sense. The message that can be extracted from the above mentioned examples that deeds and actions (theories-in-use) are more important than the simple beliefs and attitudes (espoused theory).

North America, the West-Europe and Australia are developed because they believe in theories-in-use. The credibility of individuals only enhances in these countries if they show the right behavior and not the right espoused theory. One can find a number of examples in those countries when people career finished in their respective fields when they lied or cheated. However, the case is opposite in the countries like Pakistan. A person like Amir Liaqat can be appointed to the senior post and run a religious TV show because he can reproduce the Koranic verses and make faces in the right manner at the right time without considering the facts that he lied about his doctorate degree or misbehaved off the cameras. Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif can be trusted because they can make hue and cry against Zardari’s corruption even though they evade the taxes and use public money to enhance facilities in their residential area at Raiwand.

The crux of the article is that the Pakistani nation has to change, cognitively. They must assess people on the basis of their theories-in-use than the espoused theory. They must bring righteousness in their own theories-in-use if they wish to build a strong nation and change the culture of corruption. Otherwise, all efforts will go in vain without bringing fruitful results.


Nadeem Yousaf

2 February 2013

Read Chris Argyris to learn more about theories-in-use and espoused theory.