Published in The Nation newspaper on 18-Nov-2012
On August 28, 1963, Dr Martin Luther King Junior, during a march to Washington for racial equality, made a historical speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which became a defining moment for America and triggered a civil rights movement, that in due course, changed the ‘white dominated’ politics and social structure of America.
In his historical speech, Dr MLK had said, “My friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, that all men are created equal".
“I have a dream that one day even the State of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice”.
But on April 4, 1968, Dr King’s dream abruptly came to an end and paid for his dream with his life. At 6:01 pm, he was assassinated by a sniper's bullet while standing on the balcony in front of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
The 30-caliber rifle bullet entered King's right cheek, traveled through his neck and finally stopped at his shoulder blade. King was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead at 7:05pm.
However, his dream of freedom and social justice for all did not die with him and on November 7, 2012, the American citizens reelected Barack Obama, an Afro-American, as their President for a second 4 year term.
Addressing the jubilant crowd in Chicago after his victory, President Obama said: “I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you live.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, and gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try”.
The American elections, which were telecast and watched by millions all over the world, also showed how an educated and enlightened society behaves during such times. There was no display of firearms, aerial firing, unruly or disorderly behavior and the voters patiently waited in line to cast their votes.
Mr Jinnah, the founder of this nation of the Pak and the Pure, also had a dream and in his speech on 11th Aug 1947, as the first President of Constitutional Assembly, had stated: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any region or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
After the demise of Mr. Jinnah, other leaders have also shared the same dream and vision for Pakistan, but unfortunately, like the good Doctor, they too were assassinated or died before they could see their dream become a reality.
Nelson Mandela is one of the few world leaders who, after spending many years in prison during the repressive reign of the apartheid governments, lived to see his dream of a free South Africa, become a reality and became the first colored president of his country.
Our past leaders, civilian and military, have all betrayed the trust of the people who elect them and at the same time, we, the citizens, can not absolve ourselves, as we have also not played our due role as honest, law abiding and responsible citizens.
Instead of standing up and protest, we allowed the leaders to play havoc with our system of governance, the judiciary and the rule of law and watched the dreams of our Founding Fathers of a free, tolerant and progressive nation, turn into a nightmare.
As Martin Luther King had also said: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
The silence of the ‘good people’ of this country has allowed corrupt, ‘self above all’ and their ‘one law for you and one law for me’ leaders, to mutilate and subvert the Constitution, make a mockery of democracy, our judicial system and the rule of law.
The ‘good people’ watched in silence as our parliamentarians turned our Senate and Assemblies into a fish market, hurling insults and abuse at each other. The ‘good people’ allowed religious and ethnic fanatics and gangsters to destroy our social structure and watched the streets of Karachi become the ‘killing fields’, where innocent men, women and children are slaughtered on a daily basis and yet no one is apprehended or punished.
Today, after sixty-five years of independence, Pakistan is once again drifting towards the Niagara Falls, without a paddle or a rudder. Will the coming elections prevent this unsinkable Titanic, which has survived many storms and choppy seas, from crashing to the rocks below?
Will the next ‘democratically elected leader’, who too will share his dream of transforming this nation into an oasis of freedom and justice, free from corruption, stand up to the fanatics, extremists, bhatta mafias and gangsters, who have turned this city of lights into a city of blood and tears? Will he have the capacity to face the many challenges that this country faces?
And most important of all, will this Great Leader have the ability to dismantle the deep rooted Feudal and VIP culture and make his dream into reality? Or will his dream, like the dreams of Manzoor Wassan, our former Home Minister, famous for his dreams during his tenure, fade away, like the morning mist, with the coming of the dawn?
Pakistan is sitting on a time bomb and running out of options. We cannot afford another ‘failed government’ and if the coming elections do not provide a government that is honest, sincere and ‘Of the people, by the people and for the people’, then we will be in deep trouble.
And whoever takes over the wheel of this limping Titanic with 180 million passengers on board, will be carrying a heavy burden and will have to remember the ominous lines from William Shakespeare's Henry IV, “Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown".–(email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published in The Nation newspaper on 18-Nov-2012