The bubble of the scare of a possible Gilani disqualification by the Supreme Court in a contempt case on January 19 and the consequent political turmoil has burst. The so-called threat to democracy by a judicial coup has been averted. The Prime Minister won kudos and instantly turned into a statesman by presenting himself with a cool and dignified demeanour in facing the Supreme Court. Whether the Prime Minister had obeyed the court orders or not, for the defiance of which he was being held, did not matter much anymore. Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan was as quickly relegated to a villain from a hero par excellence that he was till the day before. Not many could register how skilfully had he saved the day!

Most dismiss all this as merely a theatre of power play. But a few are really amazed at the frivolities in which our nation has been entangled and to what further depths will these sink it. Never a dull moment while we wait for the next episode - Mansoor Ijaz of the memo fame or notoriety has yet to descend or not to descend on the scene of Islamabad. Will he ever testify or will the whole affair fade away like numerous other similar sensations? Is the memo retrieved from a dustbin somewhere in the Pentagon, a conspiracy by the army against the President or vice versa, or is it simply the masterstroke of a conman that has played on the gullibility of our nation?

We have existed from times immemorial under conspiracies, treacheries and threats of one variety or the other. If there is none of the real one, we lose no time in inventing one! Our ancestors were wary of the Hindu majority threat that would swamp the Muslim minority in the United India once the British returned to their civilised shores and their protection was withdrawn. So we got a separate State - well done. Our paranoia and obsession with Hindu domination, however, did not end there. We continue to live with it to this day though with good reason and it still haunts our foreign policy. We have not made an inch of progress towards resolution of our outstanding conflicts and issues. India has lost nothing and we have learnt nothing.

We remained engaged in a cold war with our northern neighbour just because its leaders were friends with the communists. We were threatened by communists at our doorsteps. So, we, in accordance with the American wishes, sent young boys from our tribal areas to fight the Russians in Afghanistan without any guidance, training or discipline and later abandoned them. These innocent young men turned into hardened warriors with stacks of Kalashnikovs and other weaponry the retreating Soviets left behind. That, some of them, turned against us. The ginie we nurtured refuses to go back into the bottle.

Our military and our politicians have been at loggerheads with each other, since the first martial law was imposed in 1958. The intermittent civilian regimes have constantly been threatened by the possibility of military take-overs as much as the judiciary, trying to rein in their smooth sailings that they deem wayward at times. All these three pillars seem now to be learning to tolerate each other though still not without elements of mutual hidden distrust. The judiciary, which has traditionally been conciliatory to the army rule, has started flexing its muscles, buoyed by the support of the people, to exercise its independence and establish its fair role for all without fear or favour.

Then we have the threats from within. The stifled environment during the dictatorial regimes boasted of economic progress, but created social backwardness. The decade of the eighties breaded numerous self-styled and self-righteous fundamentalists in the tribal belt with little tolerance even for each other, who enunciated rules for others that did not apply on themselves. They fiercely fight for turfs among each other and keep inventing ‘causes’ that are far removed from the realities of the modern times. Their clashes to secure their little fiefdoms readily turn into militancy in the garb of ideology. There are plenty of deprived children from broken homes or no homes at all, to do their bidding. They excel in oratorical skills and are persuasive. In the settled areas, we have lived under threats of various forms of sectarian violence almost since the inception of our State - until its worst form was introduced in the shape of suicide bombings. There is little doubt that many of these are politically motivated influence peddlers camouflaged under wraps of religious ideologies that serve neither the nation, nor the religion.

Then we have those who have still not come to terms that they belong to a Pakistani State. They resent the settlers, feel deprived and isolated from the mainstream, refuse to merge their identity in a single nationhood and keep exercising their medieval claims to the natural resources of their region. Their dissent simmers as their counterparts in the more affluent and privileged regions do not reach out to them and keep treating them as a security threat. There are others who want to have their own distinct areas of self-governance, as they speak a different language. Neither the political, nor the army leadership, has succeeded in evolving common goals and ideology that could unite our people, while those promoting disintegration under innovating pretexts based on their short-sighted political or financial gains are on the rise. A desperate urge for change is, therefore, in the air. Can it be brought about and how - that only God knows!

The clear and present threat to our nation is the confusion that prevails all around. We own a capitalist system, but consider making money even through legitimate means of business or entrepreneurship, a crime. Many of us want Islamic injunctions, but can neither define them with clarity, nor can agree on their interpretations. Our political parties cry hoarse shouting slogans in favour of democracy that none of them implement within their ranks. Our minds are tuned by our traditional cultural customs, which do not tolerate dissent or independent thinking that are the integral components of democracy.

Our nation is in a dire need of some serious soul-searching and self-appraisal. Do we have the strength and capacity to pick up quarrels with the whole world on convictions built on sand? What do we really stand for? Perhaps, if we could only divert all our energies towards practicing what we preach, speaking the truth and putting in an honest day of work, we could rise as a united nation to be reckoned with.

    The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.