Khurshid Akhtar Khan The departing American envoy to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson was quizzed in a lighter vein towards the end of a televised farewell interview: What did you find most disgusting in Pakistan? She responded without a moments hesitation: You people are very hard on each other. Translated simply; we are forever embroiled in recriminations, mutual mistrust, and petty rivalries. We have not been able to perceive and overcome this basic fundamental weakness in our national character in the 63 years of our existence that was astutely identified and singled out by a foreign diplomat after a brief stay in our country. This trait exhibited its worst form during the recent diatribes between the PML-N and MQM leaders, facing television cameras outside and inside Parliament. Frivolous slanders were exchanged against the rival party heads crossing all limits of decency in an exhibition of conduct unbecoming of persons elected to the highest national forum. The assassination of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by his own security guard has added other dimensions to the self-righteousness that has penetrated to the grassroots of our social fabric. Malik Qadris act springs from a loss of faith by ordinary citizens in the capability of the state to impart justice. It reflects the non-seriousness of the authorities in tackling sensitive issues and their incomprehension of the possible grave repercussions when such controversies are allowed to grow to a level that threaten to further polarise various segments of the nation. Apart from the authority, the news media and the Governor himself cannot be absolved of their responsibility for failing to see things in their perspective. We seem to be surrounded by moral degradation, terror, corruption, injustice, exploitation and marginalisation of the have-nots. Our nation does not lack in intellect, resources or competence. We just squander or abandon our talent and keep merit at low priority. Our privileged class feels intimidated by achievers and role models that could inspire the common people to emulate their success and develop potential to challenge their supremacy. We systematically and deviously demolish our heroes, relegating them into oblivion to mask our own deficiencies meant to protect our undeserved positions. Our elite and national leaders that owe their good fortunes to this country launder their capital and invest overseas with impunity in utter disregard to nationalism. We have thus created space for mediocrity over excellence that is the root cause of poor governance and a real leadership vacuum. Unfortunately, history has escaped our nation. The heroes of the independence movement were admonished or sidelined soon after the early demise of the Quaid and Liaquat Ali Khan. The nation was held hostage by opportunists and adventurers from the ranks of the establishment (mostly mid-career officers), supported by a few influential families and religious groups, majority of which had contributed very little or were even opposed to the creation of Pakistan. The basic concepts on which the new state was conceived were hijacked, deformed and thrust on the hapless public and the ideology of the state sunk into confusion. The scions of these large landowners, big business and groups and their associates have since been the common denominator in every form of government. They have transformed politics into the business of promoting personal vested interests at the cost of the welfare of general public that has been kept suppressed and consistently alienated from the affairs of the state. The present regime is dominated by this self-styled ruling class in continuation of the same system. Large cartels, like sugar, cement, oil, fertiliser, transport and energy, exercise monopolies to maximise profits, sheltered by their representatives in the government without making any significant contributions to the exchequer. A strong presence of agriculturists in Parliament has blocked taxation on agricultural income, despite pressures from economists and the faltering economy that is in dire need of additional revenue. The traders, with their street power, have thwarted all attempts to bring them into the general sales tax net, frustrating the International Monetary Fund with whom the government had undertaken to streamline the tax structure and enhance revenue collection. The calls for austerity have fallen on deaf ears of the government, whose functionaries refuse to surrender their pound of flesh, while tales of unprecedented financial corruption and ostentatious living of the rulers have become the subject of international indignation and ridicule. The government is preoccupied with international affairs making deals with foreign powers and playing politics, with little attention to domestic affairs. Other political parties remain constantly embroiled in their own feuds and political power intrigues. The government of the people is oblivious to the plight of the poor masses overburdened with over 30 percent inflation, rising energy costs, unemployment, delayed and costly justice, as they have no lobby in the corridors of power. This apathy to public interest and political immaturity is alienating the politicians from the public that is beginning to doubt the efficacy of the parliamentary form of democracy. We owe our survival to the resilience of the 170 million intelligent and industrious people of this country that have repeatedly proved their capacity to absorb the worst crises. The entire nation supported the lawyers movement in the year long non-violent campaign for the restoration of the Chief Justice and an independent judiciary that became the catalyst for the return to democracy and the 2008 general elections, without which the country would still have been ruled by the military dictator. The people have overcome the earthquake and flood disasters, and are steadfastly and patiently suffering the militancy and the suicide attacks with very little help from the government. The country has developed a sizeable infrastructure, despite numerous political upheavals, international hostility and the incompetence of our successive regimes, and is by all means a sustainable state. We as a nation and our leaders in particular, will have to change our attitude and adopt ethics, integrity, responsibility, discipline, respect for law and regulations, self-reliance and nationalism in order to transform the nation into a progressive society with a substantive system of governance. Only then can we preserve and utilise our abundant potential to develop a foreign policy commensurate with our national interests, an economy independent of the exploitation of the advanced economies and the vagrancies of the superpowers that have engulfed us in inconsequential wars. The status quo is wrecking our country that is only serving the greed of a few. The leadership vacuum that has never been as glaring as the present, which must be filled by some among the teaming millions of Pakistani people that can unite the entire nation. The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur. Email: