Published in The Nation, December 16, 2012
Pakistan is at its worst today. Our moral, ethical and cultural fabric has been torn apart; there is no justice, no security, rising costs, joblessness, unchecked street killings and abductions for ransom, pitiable governance with corruption at its historical peak and we are close to financial collapse. Karachi, with politically sponsored crimes, is simmering to explode. If the Army pulls out of Balochistan, a hostile takeover is imminent. Khyber still breaths because of Army’s presence. State decision has bound us to the US occupation of Afghanistan – strategic ally of a government that is sponsoring separatism and terrorism in Pakistan! For their benefit we are killing each other. Relations with India are being expanded at the cost of our business community, disregarding that they are fronting for the US in destabilizing us and blocking our only sources of fresh water. Kashmir is a forgotten story. Political parties, which thrive on creating divisions, are at ease with the level of public discontent; their only anxiety is seeking power. The nation has been deliberately divided on every issue and plunged into self pity, hopelessness and despair; there is no messiah on the horizon. Chaos prevails, but there is no sense of alarm. Sane voices are warning of a looming catastrophe at the end of the tunnel.
No one doubts that elections will bring back the same amalgam, perhaps in different proportions, to mint money and gloat over this nation’s misery, guised in sickening lamentations. The only solace is that the Army, the bastion of our security, is intact. Perhaps we are waiting for some miracle to save us. No, these are not the pangs of a growing democratic order, but rather more like spasms of death. We are in the clutches of a leech like organism which is sucking the nation dry. It has to be touched with something hot to remove it. No beneficiary of the system would like anything to change; only the deprived seek change. Whoever comes up in the system thrives on it; its survival becomes their survival. They then become the ramparts of the system, and will go to any length to save it. This system can only be changed from the outside; no meaningful effort is possible once you become part of it.
A fresh entrant, seeking change, recognises the stagnant rigidity of the system only after joining it. He is caught up with a multitude of problems and has limited experience and little time to deliver, since people expect results. His cabinet comprises of professional political elites who have no capacity of handling such complex affairs and play at the hands of a corrupt and manipulative bureaucratic mafia. If you fiddle with them, the entire machinery would come to a standstill. On top of all this there is party interest to be looked after. Now add to it the colour of compelling political compromises and rampant corruption, and the mess will become too much for the blue-eyed leader to handle. He has only two options: either keep fighting with the system in an endeavour to correct it and accomplish nothing, or keep his team happy, do whatever little he can, and cover up the remaining with false proclamations. This is the route taken. And we accept it as a political necessity – the price of democracy.
Should the nation give up the dream of a just order only to save this rot? Are we to serve this system or is this system to serve the people? Makeshift arrangements like patching up different political groupings or making some electoral reforms are neither remedial nor long lasting. Whatever ad hoc arrangements we make, will fall through. Some permanent and viable solution has to be found. The entire system has to be redesigned and a new order created. Copy-paste from abroad will not work; we need to be innovative. We have our own political culture and our own psychosocial dynamics, and we need a Pakistan specific solution. There is a lot of talent in this country; given a chance they will find a way out.
The people seek change, and change will come. If the educated middle class does not rise now to save the nation, then this thrust for change could sink us into a civil war. Perhaps that is what our enemies are seeking. We need to alter the song from ‘save democracy’ to ‘save the nation’; to give an awakening call and to unite the people across the board. Unless people unite and raise their voice for such a transformation, no orderly change can come. Yes, there is no leadership on the horizon; so then this is a time for collective leadership, for all of us to play our roles – to seek change, speak change.
A citizens’ group, something like General Hamid Gul’s Council of Elders, needs to be formed which enjoys the confidence of the public. This Council should then mobilize the masses. When people in sufficient numbers come on the streets seeking a new order, which is their democratic right, the government will be forced to step aside. The Supreme Court should then authorize the Council to constitute an interim government and task experts to draft a new system. It should be debated amongst the intelligentsia and approved through a referendum. This will be the true constitution of the people, by the people, for the people. Elections should then accordingly be held.
The Army should back up this change, without interfering in the process. Given the scars of its history, it cannot now sit idly and see the nation sink. This is the only route to redemption for this sacred institution – give the nation back to its people; let the people shape their own destiny.
“The world is an evil place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing” – Albert Einstein.