- by Imran Husain

Hate to say this, but it’s where we are. I have forgotten when Afghanistan’s troubles started.

Nor do I remember an occasion when Kashmir was not on the table or a single day when grandparents and parents weren’t thoroughly dissatisfied with the direction in which Pakistan was headed. That generation held an idealistic view built on Mr. Jinnah’s narrative; ours inherited those fears, their genuine disgust multiplied by the events. Our children are following in our stead but with a lamentable difference: they cut the umbilical cords and opened themselves to opting for the challenges of a New World - certainly those who are qualified or can afford to. A severe blow to nationalism!

The million-dollar question is not when, but will any of this ever end? If it doesn’t, rest assured, this country is fated to continue to reel and rove at the behest of its hijackers. My opinion, laugh if you wish, is yes, there is an end. An end because this country has everything! It has an abundance of land, water, minerals, food, grain, every possible natural endowment and hard working people. 

But it requires selflessness, enormous sacrifices, commitment and will. It requires empowerment of the people. It requires delivery. It requires basic respect. It requires acceptance of ground realities. It requires managing emotions, expectations and entitlements. Most of all, it requires education of the masses, both institutional and by a devoted and honest leadership.  

This is the missing ingredient, the cause of discontent and regression. These very basic requirements have neither been met, nor have they ever looked capable of being met.

A nation being ruled by a powerful and secured elite whose slogan is, “Lets beat up the masses” has little chance of progress and prosperity. The powerless can never choose their future; they can only choose themselves. They can only react on issues that do not directly affect their lives because when they do react to those that matter, they are silenced rapidly and brutally. Governments do not want to exert themselves in areas that demand serious engagement or commitment. It is, in the puny minds of the entitled, simply ‘not fun’. Their destiny, grandiose self-serving schemes and elaborate lifestyles, are far more lucrative and much more ‘fun’. There may, perhaps, be some exceptions, but that’s just a drop in the ocean, hardly worth a mention. 

Governance, per se, is ridiculed, redefined as photo-ops and hollow slogans. Functionaries screaming like banshees, dishonest with no intention or plans of delivering on those slogans - devoid of shame. Problems, decades old and endlessly kept alive, are bandied about to divert attention, conveniently blamed on predecessors. No one stops to ask why they haven’t been resolved - because other more important aspects rule the day, such as intrigue, lucrative posts and contracts. Presenting themselves at the beck and call of the ‘masters’, to feed their lust rather than in the constituency, serving the genuine masters.  

Predecessors being blamed! What predecessors I say? For the past fifty plus years, since the 1960s, Pakistan has been led by only three governments. The Army, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs. They are their own predecessors, both the past and the present. Continuity is meant to promote growth and stability, but certainly not in this case - the complete opposite in fact. This model has been disastrous. It has generated two Constitutions that failed the people but empowered and enabled the rulers by fostering a sham democracy that plays with parliament as a mere foot soldier. 

Every now and then, the ruse of a new ‘knight’ is created. He soars optically, and with him, the aspirations and hopes of the masses. Many hours, months, sometimes years, are wasted following the red herring. And just as quickly the phenomena vanishes, and the government of the day gloats. The hapless return to their gloom. So bury expectations and blame the rulers openly and with fervour instead of seeking their patronage. And wait for that real special someone who may be ordained to see the light and change course. 

Until then, among other familiar happenings, we shall accept that operations come and go. These have been around for decades, in different forms with different names but without exception, they are inconclusive. Once upon a time they instilled fear. They would stall the misdemeanors but sadly raise the risk, and hence, the price. Now, thanks to an elaborate electronic and print media, there are more theatrics and more noise, but there is also the mega-negative - that operations and misdemeanors have begun to co-exist. It’s business as usual, or so it appears to be. Perhaps, just perhaps, a slight slowing down in the high-risk, low gains aspects. But murders, target killings, and attacks on security personnel and the unparalleled loot go on. The only sense of fear is among the masses. And with this, skepticism grows.  

The population is kept constantly enthralled by ‘skits’ generated by politics every minute of every day; that tainted byline, “breaking news”. The masses are fed inane material of a low level, low thinking conducted by mental dregs whose thinking does not go beyond how much can be made from roads, streets, drains and culverts in their ‘area’. That is the priority. It’s where life’s urgent needs are met. The Landcruiser, the escorts, the women – add to this, as you will. To bring an end to the end, greed must end. 

Frustration flows from continued ignorance of the ground realities and peoples’ needs leading to gross indiscipline. There is a rapid decline of moral and social values. It begins at the very top and has filtered down right to the bottom. We follow trivia that should actually be filling trashcans to the brim and sadly the country drowns in the putrid fallout. Think clearly, and don't build hatred just for the criminal, but build hatred against the crime. Don't burn the bus and lynch the driver. Build the deterrent. Compel courts to follow the rule of law and convict. 

Inculcate discipline. Why does a powerful man choose to have an illegal number plate on his car? How does it really enhance his prestige other than inflate an already bursting ego? It essentially betrays his complete contempt of the very laws he should be custodian of. It would never happen overseas; he would never do it in Dubai where the key to the cell would be thrown away. Hence the need for the disciplined approach where the complete focus must be on cornering the leadership, forcing it to lead the way. 

We talk continuously of tehzeeb, culture, as our glory, but can’t see any of it. At this point I will move to ask you and myself a ‘good’ question. It is fact that the apathy - perhaps chosen helplessness, on the part of the majority, and definitely the equally shameless silent majority - is the principal stakeholder in the rampaging mess. So the question is where are we, as a nation, on playing a role as defined by the forefathers? The Quaid used the motto “Faith, Unity and Discipline”. Enforce it. 

Politicisation of the law enforcement agencies and gross interference by the politicians has made policing ineffective. There is little or no enforcement. Lawbreakers run amok with impunity, without consequences. In the shorter term, ambiguity in dealing with terrorists and terror groups is building confidence within their ranks; we are witnessing their attacks increasing and getting bolder. It has happened twice in Karachi in recent days. The armed forces have directly been targeted. We perhaps do not have the unlimited installed resources to protect the population, as the French do, and mayhem will reign once they break their leashes. If we do not act now without mercy that, unfortunately, may be the way the end will be the end. 

The first step is to arrive at an agreed national goal post. Agreed is an impossible probability. Especially when we know we cannot even agree to the size of a water glass. The truth is, having ignored the Quaid’s vision for Pakistan and lost it completely in the Objectives Resolution, we’ve floundered and continue to, even after 67 years. Once we finally determine where we want to be, we can begin to embark on an exercise that could possibly define the parameters and strategies required to achieve this. Until then, the marauding jokers we categorise as politicians and ‘leaders’, and who are not compelled to compete against a benchmark, shall continue to lead us to Armageddon. 

For argument’s sake let’s say our agreed goal post is a modern, vibrant Pakistan that serves the people, their cultural values and is a close to perfect fit with the civilised world. I believe the first of many obstacles will be opposition by the political leadership. Those with keys to the country’s strongbox are happy with the status quo. They are already having, eating and licking the ice-cream cone while the Nation looks on in despair, so engaging them would be counter-productive. And yet they are at the helm because we vote them in, repeatedly, so what is the level of responsibility we bear? Completely, I would say. 

Let’s then look at the possible alternatives that can possibly be engaged. Forget non-democratic dispensations. We have had those forever and they are our death.  So if enlightening the masses is essential, basic education is step one towards reaching our goal post.  It literally begins at home. Reality is, there are few schools, a dearth of teachers and even more painful, very few students; again, victims of rampant indiscipline and disarray. So parents must rise to the occasion; home schooling. This has seriously taken off in the developed world. Encourage it here too. 

There is a compelling need to establish benchmarks and target objectives. A coerced disregard of the norms makes it obvious that unstructured (I prefer unstructured to ‘out of the box’. It has a certain freshness about it) thoughts must prevail. A genuinely positive peoples’ movement perhaps; no destruction or violence! Led by normal people with ideas bypassing the inflicted elite, following targets and coherent ideas produced by literate allies. The preparation of an open ended Master Plan identifying and documenting publicly the needs of the Nation, not one prepared in the dungeons of the Planning Commission reflecting political anarchy and bureaucratic submission (with a toffee or two on the side, of course). It is incorrect to do one percent of everything but important to reach consensus on priorities and then ensure those priorities are achieved. 

We are talking “real” performance here. Not figures frothed by media hungry politicians camouflaged by the dark marks on their foreheads yelling piety. It will have to be built inch-by-inch, brick by brick, because today there is no foundation. Just barren land being farmed out to the elite for “chinacuts” and “gothcuts”, words that actually mean mediaeval highway robbery multiplied hundred fold in context to the values at hand. 

Perhaps the first act towards driving the end to an end is a reformation of the government itself; less government and aggrandisement, an increase in the volume and quality of public services and delivery, an urgent reform of public expenditure, ending willful, needless expense, create fiscal space, and horizontal fiscal equalisation to absorb costs of multiple governments. No sooner do we hear that dependency on aid has ended, a new massive bailout is signed. The reason for inadequate investment in education is not a secret. It is because a trained mind thinks consequentially and becomes immediately aware when the ship is on a collision course. Governments hate this. It makes them perform and reduces the clout of bluff.  The impact goes way beyond the end we seek. 

A review and reform of Pakistan’s foreign policy is needed; determine where it actually stands in the global community. Not just common perceptions but assessment of support in real terms. We are unable to even move a resolution on Kashmir because no nation amongst the hundreds in the UN will support. Ground realities must be accepted and leadership engaged in a real discourse with the people. Instead we sway their emotions towards a ‘permanent’ enemy. Do you think irrational emotional response will allow peace, certainty, and much needed economic prosperity within the region? 

Each time the end is near the farther it gets. Politicians will feast together within their corral. If we don’t resist it and reach for the better, we will never see an end to this system. It is handcuffed to a certain type of leadership. Or we are handcuffed to it. Whether they pull it or it pulls them along is not clearly known. Solutions sound extremely idealistic but perhaps not impossible. The answer is in whether one can contract the nation to begin the monumental journey? And who, or what, would spearhead this selfless task? We do not need a lion that just roars and may very quickly find it is tramping containers with only the zookeeper for company. 

There is a need to motivate the nation to recognise merits as the successors of our leadership, not their spawn. Ayub chose ZAB as his successor till palace intrigues got to him. The system ensured he succeeded Ayub but at what cost! BB was not ZAB's chosen successor - it was multiple Acts of God that gave her the mantle. Gen Gilani, in an act of largesse similar to Ayub, nominated an unknown Nawaz Sharif to be his successor. But in the net analysis, they are all the same, driven by the desire to control destiny through forced continuity as they have for fifty years. The Army at least found a couple, but can Nawaz or Zardari look at our sons or daughters, recognise their merit and select them to succeed? The pun on the word “end” is because of the way it’s being painted. 

Our bridges remain broken. Governments have selfishly redefined the mountaintops, perhaps reached some aided by modern technology but the link with reality is broken. There is little oxygen at that "top" and no visible way forward. So unless we want to fall into the bottomless pit, let us, as a nation, unite to build anew the broken bridges and make one major attempt to reach the real mountaintops. For this we need to rise as One Nation; big, small and sundry. And start right now; two years – elections - is not a long time. This must not be the end; there must be an end to this. 


Imran Husain is a businessman, political and economic analyst, former first class cricketer and an international judge at German shepherd dogs shows.