Mian Shahbaz Sharif This is a very critical moment in our history. We have heard many, many times during the last 63 years that Pakistan is passing through a critical phase of its history. If there was ever a moment when this observation would fit in, I think today is the day when there is no doubt this is true. Never more relevant and important than today, this revelation reflects the feelings of every person of this great nation. Over a century ago, Allama Iqbal dreamt of Pakistan and his dream was carried forth and materialised into beautiful reality under the leadership and through the tireless efforts of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Millions of Muslims from all over the subcontinent sacrificed their lives so that Pakistan would live, to get freedom from the British Raj and also from the majority of Hindus. Today, 63 years down the lane, I do not think we have materialised their dream of a truly independent nation. I dont think we have honoured their sacrifices and I dont think we have justified them. To be fair and without mincing words, the foremost responsibility of this failure lies on the shoulders of politicians - and also on the soldiers of those who were meant to safeguard the frontiers of Pakistan. Instead, they indulged in politics, trampled our Constitution under their feet and ruled Pakistan through the brutal force of military dictatorships for 35 years. It must be said, that in the balance sheet of national destruction, the liabilities of politicians are far less than those of our military dictators. It was not politicians who dismembered Pakistan, it was a dictator. It was not a politician, but a dictator who interfered in the industrial progress of our country and brought Pakistan and India to the brink of a nuclear war over Kargil. Politicians did not hand over Siachen to the enemy, but a dictator did. Even so, politicians do have a lot of skeletons in their cupboards, they are not blameless - I would be less than sincere to myself and to all of you, if I tried to say otherwise. Today is the day to recall the great victory of 63 years ago, unprecedented in the history of any country in the world. A new country, a new nation had a free land of its own, through untiring efforts, in which to sow their great hopes and dreams. And look at what we are seeing today. We are today at the mercy of great powers that throw crumbs at us and yet suck our blood, kill our innocent people, bleed our streets and towns and remote areas mercilessly and cruelly and yet we cannot speak. Was this the purpose Pakistan came into being for? Is this our destiny? The souls of those great leaders, their followers and martyrs to the cause, must be turning in their graves at what is now being exhibited in this country for which they laid down their very lives. Millions of people left everything in India, their belongings, their homes, their hard earned money and came to Pakistan with hope shining in their eyes. Today we have to either choose the destination we chose 63 years ago, or decide for our destruction. It is all up to us. It is difficult, so very difficult to achieve freedom, but it is not impossible - and we have done it once before 63 years ago. A lot of water has passed under bridges, we have faced many destructive phases, we have lost our credibility and faith in our politicians, in our rulers. Corruption is rampant, law and order is in bad shape, terrorism is shaking the very foundations of this country, education is available only as a luxury to the high and mighty and wealthy, health services are unaffordable for the masses and justice is a saleable commodity in katcheries while thanas are a den of coercion and corruption. With all these malaises and diseases gnawing away at our country, let me tell you today, with a great sense of conviction that it is still doable. Difficult but doable. The only thing we lack is the will to do it. If we put our heads together and make a solemn pledge before the nation, before our Creator, to learn lessons from the past instead of ignoring it, to move forward with a sense of honour and achievement, making use of our own God-given potentialif we do this, I tell you today, in five to ten years, not only will we have compensated for the losses of the past, but will be at par with a sense of pride in the comity of nations. Today, too, we can create a new land through our hard work, a great Pakistan, a great homeland, a free land. Ours will be a nation of inspiration not just to our own people, but also able to provide leadership to the entire Islamic world, if not to the entire world. But - at the peril of repetition - it is up to us. No one is going to come and help us. Pakistan today is in dire straits and the Punjab government a few days ago took a decision, a conscious decision, that we will deny ourselves that segment of aid which is poisonous, which is compromising our honour - whatever is left of it. It is your judgement, your call to deny the air which compromises our dignity, which throws our honour to the wind, which doesnt allow us to even draw breath freely, which compromises our airspaces, our national integrity. We suffered three dastardly acts in the last three months, starting from Raymond Davis, to Abbottabad and then to our city of lights Karachi. Beyond this is a total destruction, absolute chaos and a complete fiasco if we keep going this way. It is no time for point scoring or playing the blame game. The most honourable course to take is to hold a free and fair introspection, an accountability of all those segments which are responsible for failing the country in their duties, who have carved the course of history in the last 63 years, they all without exception must be held to account fairly and squarely before the people of Pakistan and before Allah Almighty. That is the only way forward, there is not one other option. And I think that time is today. That time is come. We are faced with weak institutions, the only exception being the Supreme Court, whose shoulders are holding up enormous burden. Where they see corruption, they take suo moto notice, be it parliamentary issues, they take suo moto notice, be it the NICL scam or rental power projects, they take suo moto notice. Where is NAB, where is the FIA, where is the Parliament and where are the civil institutions? That is the question that I think we need to answer with total responsibility. If we put further burden on the Supreme Court of Pakistan, then one day they will become the Parliament, they will become our executive, they will become our legislatives and the rest of the institutions will be seen to be drifting rudderless and will no longer hold consequence. People already have or are losing faith very speedily in democracy. Let me share with you, frankly, that democracy is not something which will automatically bring in progress and prosperity and make our fields greener and put in motion the wheels of industry and ensure the judicious distribution of national resources - no. It will not automatically do that. It is a vehicle, and like any vehicle it has to be operated by a smart driver, a smart operator, who will get the vehicle moving and cover more ground successfully, productively and safely. I think in todays Pakistan, the problem is not the vehicle. It is the operators. The drivers of our vehicle are deeply flawed, they are least interested in the operational capacity of the motor or the need for repairs or fuel consumption to the mile, etc. They are sitting and - I have to say this - I am also included in that because I am the head of the government in Punjab. In China there is no democracy. It is a closed, regimental system, but look at the dividends. Having started their journey in 1949, two years after Pakistans independence, their operators, their great leaders in the shape of Mao Tse Tung, Chun Li, Deng Zhao Ping have driven them to an era of todays China, an era of prosperity, a land bubbling with income earned from hard work, a land flowing with self-respect and honour. It is a land, which is a lender, and America is a borrower to the tune of one trillion dollars. It is a land, which has a vast level of industry, it is the largest producer of steel in the world, and it is the largest exporter of toys to Europe and America. Its bilateral trade with America is $485 billion; with India it is $62 billion. China is one of the most reliable and trusted friends of Pakistan. We always call it an all-weather friend; its friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the Arabian Sea. It stood by Pakistan in the 65 war, again in the 71 war. It has stood by us through thick and thin, whether it was the 2005 earthquake, or the 2010 floods. Its contributions amount to billions of dollars, with gifts to Pakistan like the heavy mechanical complex machine tool factory in Karachi, Gwadar Port, Silk Route - and they have never even said to us, Please, thank us. Never. Their trade with India is worth $62 billion - and with us, with our history of friendship and trust - it is a paltry $7.5 billion. Imagine, China stood by us through two wars, rather took upon itself the war of 1965, asked India to return its 800 sheep back to China. China is a country which stuck its neck out to save us and today we are wandering with our begging bowls to those metropolises which deny us any kind of aid and if they give us aid they attach to it conditions, political strings which disgrace us, kill our innocent people. Yes, Al-Qaeda kill innocent people, yes Taliban kill innocent people, but Drones also kill innocent people. Is it not wrong that Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Drones are all killing innocent people and we are accepting this without so much as squeaking? I think this is not the kind of Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam envisioned, that Allama Iqbal dreamt of and this is not the kind of Pakistan you and our forefathers had laid their lives down for. Time is running out fast and we have to stand up today and accept the challenge that faces us. There is no room for being slow or allowing complacency. We do not have to be fearful, we are among the leading producers of rice in the world, we have minerals, coal, beautiful waterfalls, lush green fields, livestock, Pakistan is the fourth largest milk producing country in the world, we have iron ore, steel mills in Karachi, we have brains, we have bright and beautiful and brilliant youths who are the future of Pakistan. We do not have to be frightened, we must instead be inspired by the task ahead. We all clap when people say 'these corrupt politicians, but ask yourself honestly, it takes two to tango, doesnt it? What about our bureaucrats, our military dictators, our judges, our policemen, our tehsildars - while there are exceptions - these form the unholy alliance we must break. And we can do it, you and I can. An example is how our students worked day in and day out in those drowned areas of South Punjab after the floods, helping their brothers and sisters. Today we are proud of having Ashiana Housing for the poor, the first scheme of 3,000 houses meant for ordinary Pakistanis. He could be a tonga man, she could be a widow or an honourable teacher or a blacksmith or anyone with a salary less than Rs 20,000. Through transparent balloting the first batch of 100 names has been picked and even after this, their details will be 100 percent honestly verified by a team, which includes our students and is demonstrative of the kind of trust we place in our youth. Yes, there has been massive corruption and for the last 63 years no one has been taken to task and by God I want to tell you that Pakistan would not have been carrying this begging bowl if we had been reliant on our own resources, had we had accountability, had we not spared corrupt politicians, corrupt judges, generals, policemen and all those who had some role to play in altering the destiny of this country. Unfortunately, it did not happen and it is not happened even today. So please, I implore you to stand up and join us and I will join you. People will join you if you just stand up and say No to wrong today, otherwise I fear it will be too late. As the poet Allama Iqbal said, Hai sadaqat kay liyay jis dil mein merney ki tarap Pehley apnay paikar-e-khaki mein jaan paida kar Aur phoonk daaley yeh zamen-o-aasman mustaar Aur khakaster say aap apna jahan paida kar That time is now. The writer is the Chief Minister of Punjab province and this article is modified from a speech delivered at Government College University, Lahore on May 31, 2011.