Last week, my old friend, Nargis Rahman, Chairperson, Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace, had organized a seminar on “Saving an Ailing State’ at the Marriot Hotel, Karachi.
The objective of the seminar was to examine and address the issues that lead to conflict, socio economic stagnation and a state of violence and regression. The panel of distinguished speakers had included Mr. Babar Ayaz, a political Analyst and an author of the book, ‘What’s wrong with Pakistan’, Dr. Akhtar Hasan Khan, a former Federal Secretary, Senator Javed Jabbar, Former Federal Minister for Information, Ambassador Najmuddin Shaikh, Former Foreign Secretary and Ghazi Salahuddin, a senior columnist and political analyst.
The learned speakers were asked why Pakistan is an Ailing State and to give solutions on how it can be saved, a subject on which I had written in my last Straight Talk article, “The Men of Straw”.
In his book, Babar has given a no-holds-barred account of a 66-year-old nation that is still searching to find its identity. “What Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah managed to achieve as a separate homeland in August 1947, is today being consumed by religious fanaticism.”
Beginning with this 'genetic defect', Babar highlights, that the numerous problems being faced by Pakistan today, is because the country's foundation is based on religion and the Islamization of Pakistani laws, which are in conflict with the twenty-first century value systems.
The burning question of an ailing or failing state has been a hot topic of discussion on numerous TV Talk Shows and in the comfortable, air conditioned rooms of the chattering class, not realizing or accepting the fact, that they are a part of the problem and not the solution.
For instance, returning from Dubai, just a three hour flight away, one sees the enormous difference as you drive through the noisy Shahreh-e-Faisal, filled with smoke emitting, rickety old buses, trucks, taxis and cars and their unruly drivers and broken roads, with pot-holes, even in the posh Defence area. And the reason for this vast difference is the lack of Good Governance and the total disregard and respect to the Rule of Law.
And this example of good governance is possible, simply because the Rule of Law is strictly enforced in Dubai, despite the fact that you hardly see any traffic police on the roads, as everybody respects and observes the traffic laws, including our usually unruly Pakistani taxi drivers, as they all know that any violation of the law by them and they would be on the next flight to Pakistan.
But the same drivers behave totally different when they return to Pakistan and quickly revert back to their old, undisciplined behavior. This Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde change in personality is immediately apparent the moment you land at the airport and includes the behavior of our educated and privileged chattering class and those in government.
This strange transformation is also reflected in our daily lives and our attitude and behavior towards each other. What causes this sudden transformation is beyond my understanding, but some psychologists are of the opinion that we lack discipline and accountability as a nation and deliberately break the law, because we know that we can get away with it.
And this is the fundamental fault line in our Ailing Nation, as the Chattering Class do not wish to protest, and have a ‘Who Cares’ attitude. We do not wish to ‘rock the boat’ or leave the comforts of our drawing rooms, as it does not concern us directly and leave the ‘dirty work’ to others. Pakistan’s non-voting Chattering Class live in a different world of their own and seem to have distanced themselves from reality and have abdicated their responsibilities to the nation.
We pledge our love and alliance to the Country, but seek safer and greener pastures outside Pakistan and prefer to stay away from our ‘beloved country’ for security and safety reasons, waiting for things to improve before we return.
We flout the Rule of Law with impunity and do all the evils that we blame the government for, but complain the loudest against the erosion of national values, increasing corruption, lack of good governance and the enforcement of the Rule of Law and the desperate need for change. We wish to change the destiny of this nation, but remain mere spectators and cynical, as we feel that we are powerless to change the course of events.
Another reason why we have not been able to improve our system of governance or establish accountability, is because those in government do not wish to be held accountable, including our leaders and politicians or be punished for violating laws. If the Rule of Law was applied across the board and everyone was held accountable, our behavior would change immediately.
If we wish to save this ailing nation, then sacrifices will have to be made, which the ‘chattering class’ is not prepared to do, as we do not have the spine to take a stand and demand change.
Instead of just chattering and complaining, there should be massive demonstrations and protests, with ‘Million Men Marches’, demanding an end to bad governance, corruption, the violence, the killings, power breakdowns, etc., but yet we remain silent.
We have to bring a change in the mindset of those in government and the Chattering Class and take ownership of our Country and demand good governance, the rule of law and accountability of the guilty.
The importance and need for good governance and the enforcement of the rule of law are dramatically emphasized in the two recent events, one in Nigeria, where an Islamic radical, Boko Haram, has kidnapped over 300 young girl students and is threatening to sell them as slaves. And the second in Thailand, where, despite a thriving economy, Thailand’s Constitutional Court has dismissed the PM and nine ministers for abuse of power, something that can never happen in this country.
In Pakistan, we have an explosive cocktail of all the ingredients of Nigeria and yet we watch in silence. Will the return of the Prodigal Son, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri and the re-launching of his last year’s failed Dharna, succeed this time and trigger country wide protests for change or will it fizzle out again like a damp squid? For if it does, then, Khalil Gibran’s poem, ‘Pity the Nation’ will soon become a reality.