As a nation we are fixated on issues, which then govern our daily lives such as corruption, power shortages, fuel shortages and water shortages. We fail to see the bigger picture which is, among others, responsible for our current predicament i.e. breakdown and weakening of all national institutions.

As an example, after Peshawar tragedy we have now become fixated with religious seminaries. The terrorists supporting beards have been assumed to be fundamentalists bred in ‘madarris’. This is a classic case where some people supposedly belonging to a clan, tribe or religion commits a crime, and everybody declares the entire clan or religion as evil. At the global level, this is being done with Islam, and in our country, seminaries are being demonised for the heinous act committed in Peshawar despite the fact that seminaries and religious scholars disown such acts and the people involved in them. Presently, from the picture being painted, it appears that all the ills of Pakistan are due to the existence of seminaries, which supposedly sponsor terrorism.

Terrorism is the biggest existential threat to Pakistan, and armed forces are making sacrifices to overcome the menace. However, military option provides temporary respite, room to maneuver but ultimately civil administration and institutions have to take charge. Even if the military emerges victorious in the ongoing insurgency, do the political leadership and the civil institutions have the willingness and the capability to rise above their petty interests and build on the sacrifices rendered by the armed forces? Seminaries are being used as scapegoats for the failure of the political leadership to address the real issues confronting Pakistan. Political leadership has failed to give a direction to the country, and presently, it is the military leadership, which has taken the lead. One glaring failure of civil government is Swat, where despite passage of time, political government has failed to effectively take over the affairs from the Army.

Over time, national institutions such as bureaucracy, judiciary and police have been weakened through political interference and are being run as personal fiefdoms by our political class. Every one of us wants to rule but not to be held accountable. Had any head rolled on previous terrorist activities, the Peshawar tragedy probably would have never occurred. Governments in Pakistan have remained afflicted with a paralysis that has prevented them from offering long-term economic, social, foreign policies and so on. Even the present government seems to be lumbering from one fiasco to the next, with opposition taking pot shots but not offering any solutions. Perhaps, we are among the few countries in the world where anyone can occupy any public post, irrespective of their suitability for the post. This generally happens when institutions are not allowed to grow and perform their functions with autonomy.

In addition to institutional breakdown, dynastic politics is stunting democracy in the country and is preventing politicians to become capable to tackle national and international issues. While they may be skilled in local politics, they cannot grasp the intricacies and nuances involved in policy-making on various issues. As a result, we see more of populist politicians in our country, and less of people with intellectual and academic qualifications. Thus, populist democrats fail to formulate and articulate the country’s interest at home and abroad.

Political leadership has to be intellectually sound and morally upright if it wants to lead and formulate policies, but desirable intellectual and morality is not visible at the moment. Political leaders issue routine sympathetic statements following tragedies that continuously befall the nation every other day but very conveniently forget that Hazrat Umar (RA) said that if a dog dies on river Euphrates, I would be held responsible for it. A woman confronted Hazrat Umar (RA) with hungry children. Hazrat Umar (RA) said that how could Umer know your condition, and the woman replied that then you not deserve to be our Caliph!

Our national fixation with micro and peripheral issues is very much evident from popular media programmes, where legislatures discuss everything except legislation and policy formulation for which they have been elected to legislative assemblies. To come out of our present morass, national focus should move to discussions on framing and implementing policies on issues currently facing the country, which needs strong, vibrant institutions. Institutional breakdowns have led to societal issues such as lack of social justice, poverty, rampant corruption, unemployment, which are detrimental to the existence of a society. Therefore, if we wish to rid ourselves of our many ills, any holistic response to the challenges facing our country should include enhancement in the capacity and capability of national institutions, awareness of duties and responsibilities among countrymen and implementation of the rule of law for everybody across the country.