Between Hope and Fear [2 of 2]

Somehow, somewhere along the line, we have gone astray. We were such good people when we set out on the road to Pakistan. What happened then? An evil spirit now hangs over Pakistan. The people are too tired, too disappointed, too disillusioned, too often betrayed and too ill-informed to comprehend the issues churning beneath the placid surface of life. Depression, fear, frustration and anger no longer have an outlet in politics. The people have, therefore, turned inward, to religious orthodoxy, to intolerance, the small things in life, to local politics and impotent rage. 
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BETWEEN HOPE AND FEAR

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by Roedad Khan

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Somehow, somewhere along the line, we have gone astray. We were such good people when we set out on the road to Pakistan. What happened then? An evil spirit now hangs over Pakistan. The people are too tired, too disappointed, too disillusioned, too often betrayed and too ill-informed to comprehend the issues churning beneath the placid surface of life. Depression, fear, frustration and anger no longer have an outlet in politics. The people have, therefore, turned inward, to religious orthodoxy, to intolerance, the small things in life, to local politics and impotent rage.

These days, like most Pakistanis, I feel very troubled. It is as if one is constantly boiling inside with helpless indignation, enraged to see such a good country going to hell. People are watching apprehensively as the country goes downhill, its strength gradually sapped by dissension and divisions, by an incomprehensible blindness in foreign, domestic and military policy, by the ineptness of its corrupt leaders, and by a feeling of growing confusion, hopelessness and cynicism among the people. Trust in institutions is at a historic low. It is impossible to be calm and quiet in a country that is going downhill. A country that tolerates a situation, in which people begrimed with corruption rule, is a sick country.

Today Pakistan sits between hope and fear. Hope for a political possibility, albeit fast receding, that would lead to a genuinely free and democratic Pakistan ready to regain its place among the democratic nations of the world. Fear that, Zardari will perpetuate his corrupt rule with disastrous consequences for the country. He is playing with fire. But playing with fire tends to produce explosions.

Today the threat to Pakistan is not external. It is internal. This brings to mind Toynbee’s comment that a civilisation doesn’t die from being invaded from the outside but rather commits suicide. 

A lesson to be drawn from the works of Gibbon is that Rome’s enemies lay not outside her borders but within her bosom, and they paved the way for the empire’s decline and fall – first to relentless barbarian invaders from the north, and then, a thousand years later, to the Turks.

Many early symptoms that heralded the Roman decline may be seen in our own nation today: periodic military intervention in the affairs of state, prolonged military rule, concentration of power with one corrupt ruler without responsibility and accountability, contempt for constitution and political institutions, absence of rule of law, rampant corruption and greed. When the history of Pakistan comes to be written, the verdict of history will almost certainly be that corrupt civilian and military dictatorships, more than anything else, destroyed Pakistan.   Today Zardari is virtually the Atlas on whose shoulders the state of Pakistan rests. People compare him to Pooh-Bah, the Gilbert and Sullivan character who exercised every function of state except that of public executioner. When you centralise power, you alone get stuck with all the responsibility when things go bad. And that is what is happening in Pakistan today.

“What rubbish, we are a nuclear state. How can we be called a failed state?” a former foreign minister responded angrily to a report published in Foreign Policy on a failed states index for the year 2006. Does this administration know nothing of history? Generals may be excused because they “don’t read history. They make history”. But our foreign minister should know better.

Pakistan is not a failed state; it is a case of failed leadership. Talking about leadership, Napoleon once famously said: “An army of rabbits commanded by a lion is better than an army of lions commanded by a rabbit.”

 We have a first class army. Our nation has the heart of a lion. Who is there to give it the roar? When will this tormented country be normal again? Zardari is leading it to a perilous place.

 Unfortunately, his autocratic rule is fast acquiring the mantle of permanence. Unless checked, the country will settle into a form of government with a democratic façade and a hard inner core of authoritarianism – an iron hand with a velvet glove. When that happens, there will be no need for the imposition of martial law. Anyone who thinks Zardari will hold free, fair and impartial elections in 2013, should go home, take a nap, wake up and think again.

Today all the symptoms which one had ever come across in history prior to great changes exist in Pakistan. The country appears to be adrift. Nobody knows where it is headed. We are on the verge of a political and economic collapse. The social contract between the government and the people has collapsed. The dialogue between the two has broken down.

All the philosophers tell the people they are the strongest, and that if they are sent to the slaughterhouse, it is because they have let themselves be led there.

 Autocracy is retreating everywhere except in Pakistan. Why? In other countries there are men and women who love liberty more than they fear persecution. Not in Pakistan. Here the middle class who owe everything to this poor country do not think in terms of Pakistan and her honour but of their families, their job, their business interests etc. Surrender rather than sacrifice is the theme of their thoughts and conversations.

 I am exasperated at those camping comfortably on the raw edge of a volcano and do not see disaster looming ahead. What is tragic is the total failure of the politicians, the intelligentsia, the intellectuals, in fact, the entire civil society to comprehend the threat posed by a powerful corrupt ruler to the country’s survival, and to devise ways and means to thwart it.

I see only one sure path: mobilise the people to take to the streets. The time for drawing-room discussions is over. It pains one to witness a proliferation of excuses for inaction, a grotesque abdication of responsibility. The western-educated elite and the middle-class lice, as Lenin described it, will not coalesce and join the struggle against corrupt rulers just now. They will wait and see.

I still remain hopeful we can rouse ourselves to save our country. But the time is growing short. We are fast approaching the edge of a huge waterfall and are about to plunge over it. Unfortunately, no one seems to realise that it is almost too late to turn things around.

“Amir!” Quaid-e-Azam told Raja Sahib of Mahmudabad in 1948, “You have no idea of the situation here. I am surrounded by traitors.” The situation we face today is much worse. Traitors and foreign agents are roaming the country. Therefore, it is a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to expose the traitors, fight for our core values, resist foreign intervention in our internal affairs and destroy the roots of evil that afflict Pakistan. Let us put our hand on the arc of history, and bend it once more toward the hope of a better Pakistan. 

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk

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1. Some Soul Searching: Pakistani Nationalism and Schooling
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] September 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm Between Hope and Fear [2 of 2] « Wonders of Pakistan […]

  2. Correct assessment.
    Now that it is well within the hope and fear, Pakistan has to choose the option between hope or fear.

  3. Though the article has painted a correct picture of the situation prevailing in Pakistan, yet its author has grossly failed to pinpoint the real reasons which are the root cause of Pakistan’s problems. Since he is an ex bureaucrat, a part of the previous governmental set ups, therefore, he targets the present set up and admires the military, whereas the prime cause lies with the madaris education of the masses and over Islamisation which has led the country to the brink of collapse. Pak ship is terribly over loaded. It’s population has swelled five times and now this population bomb is about to explode.

  4. […] to keep Pakistan Embrace at Arm’s Length [1 of 2] 8. Between Hope and Fear [1 of 2].. 9. Between Hope and Fear [2 of 2] 10. U.S.-Pak relations: Divorce is not […]

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