Weekly reflections: Black sheep effect in society


By Dr Abdul Saboor


This is a common dilemma of developing countries that they have ‘black sheep’ in their cultural, economic, linguistic, political and social groups. The overtime increase in their strength is a reflection of further deterioration in the society. The presence of a black sheep across a wider range of groups acts as hurdle in the way of development. Some of the black sheep are so hidden and camouflaged that its takes many years to trace their true identity. A time may come in the history of nations when black sheep of various categories join hands and develop a unique kind of consortium advocating the protection of their ‘rights’. These days, some of the public men and political elites are joining hands for ‘common interest’

‘Black Sheepism’ has thus taken the shape of an odd kind of phenomenon which shows the negatively twisting mind set of few persons in a specifically defined group. This group may either be of journalists or advocates; teachers or researchers; bureaucrats or technocrats, business tycoons or bankers, the provinces or the country on an overall basis. When anyone deviates and twists away from the rational philosophy of one’s respective groups, one becomes member of black sheep club. In the very technical sense, there are certain outliers who can be filtered from various departments, groups and organizations. These outliers in the very negative sense are dubbed as black sheep. They are a few playing around us if we can really feel.

Pakistani society is a severe victim of black sheep effect which is ruining almost all the public departments, social organizations, political parties and media groups. Thanks to globalization and social media; public is well aware of such odd kind of people in each organ of the state. One can easily pinpoint a black sheep in any public and state organ from his ‘typical mindset’. This is the natural justice system that a black sheep cannot hide himself from the public sight though for some time, he can throw dust in the eyes of law authorities. The tracing mechanism has thus become quite transparent as when one protects a black sheep, one implicitly declares oneself a part of the same family. Look at the stories of judges and journalist.

In this way, Pakistan is confronting a long list of black sheep ‘grazing’ in various fields of the economy. One can witness some black sheep among politicians who are violently disobeying the Constitution of Pakistan in their actions and deeds. Among a large range of honest politicians, some may chase black money to be a ‘black sheep’. Among civil and government servants, those who are violating the legal and regulatory norms are declared as outliers. Media anchors who are not following moral and ethical values, and that too for the protection of the rights of some vested interest groups, can be figured out to include in the list of black sheep. Getting foreign nationalities and making properties abroad with the motive of degrading patriotic Pakistanis is a shameful phenomenon of black sheepism.

In the comity of bureaucrats and technocrats, some “black sheep” are always looking for their own benefits both by hook or by crook and that too on the basis of favoritism and nepotism. In various departments and public sector organizations, some may be in the process of black sheepism. They are catching different colors in their attitude and way of thinking which may lead them to the family of black sheep. On an overall basis, some black sheep are so dangerous that they even deviate from the fundamental narrative of Pakistan. They either leave the country and write books against Pakistan or stay in the country to produce more black sheep under the auspices of their foreign masters.

When the strength of black sheep is increased beyond the threshold level, which is a classical case of Pakistan, it becomes difficult to identify who is the real black sheep. They have actually been organized by networking and matching the mindset of outliers of various groups and sectors of the economy. The black sheep of one public institution may be seen protecting the black sheep of other public institutions. When a politician turns out to be a black sheep, he is confident enough that his fellows working in other public organs would certainly protect him. Same is the case with all other kinds of black sheep

When in a particular group, one turns to be a black sheep, one’s group fellows develop more serious grudges and more severe anger against him as compared to the black sheep of other groups.  The severity of ‘black sheep effect’ can be realized from the violent behavior of people against the ones who have left their respective group. When one watches many of the black sheep enjoying the perks and privileges of life, one considers it beneficial to be a black sheep. The incentive mechanism in the making of black sheep should be curtailed by strengthening the executive and judicial institutions of the country. A good administrative and governance system may also discourage the people to be black sheep.

What name would we give when one comes out of the flock of black sheep? A black sheep of black sheep! He may be declared as a white sheep who has actually repented and white washed his sins. In this way, the canvas of Amnesty Schemes should be broadened from mere conversion of black money to white money but to forgive all the black sheep if they confess and come on the right track. After all, Allah also forgives those who repent on their sins. Confession is the most important tool to take benefit of proposed Forgiveness Scheme. All the black sheep may become white ones if they confess and commit of what wrong they did against their respective groups and parties; and ultimately to the country.

To get rid of black sheep effect from our society, social media along with the civil society would have to come in the forefront through careful ways and means. It is not always the state organs and government machinery who could play the final role in mitigating black sheepism. Every one of us is important to see around us who is deviating from the national and moral narratives. In the first step, there should be a fear among the potential candidate to be of black sheep that they may be exposed at any stage by anyone. Secondly, all those who are known black sheep, should be given last chance to confess and come in the right direction for the sake of their nation. The country wide movement has already been triggered. We are just to contribute for the best interest of our economy. Iron is fairly hot; let us strike it.


Dr Abdul Saboor is Professor of Economics and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi. He can be reached at drabdul.saboor@uaar.edu.pk