I have just been told that another friend of ours has been granted immigration status to a western land and we would soon be wishing him bon voyage. Their departure would not have caused me so much concern, but for the fact that cases of Pakistanis moving abroad or seriously thinking about doing so have assumed the proportions of an exodus.

Readers may remember our former Prime Minister, who when questioned on the same issue by an international journalist displayed his utter inadequacy to hold office by stating that those, who wanted to leave the country were welcome to do so.

In my discussion, with social scientists the world over, I have often debated the reasons for people breaking ties with their birthplace, memories and family to resettle in an alien environment. Our discussions have always boiled down to the fact that such movements take place because of the prevailing environment and panic generated by fears of economic, social and physical insecurity that almost borders anarchy.

I come across many people, who, like the proverbial ostrich, have their heads buried deep in the sand, not wishing to face the heartbreaking truth that the ‘land of the pure’ is showing symptoms of failure and the only remedy to stop this process is with us - the people of Pakistan.

We are soon to be offered a window that may well be a final opportunity to stem our plunge to oblivion. There is, therefore, no option for the ‘living dead’ or the hitherto-fore silent majority, but to ‘step out and vote’ and for those that succumb to the cancers of ethnicity, kinship and tribal affinity every five years, to understand that by choosing representatives in the aforesaid manner, they would be committing nothing less than suicide.

I have recently returned from the capital of Punjab, where I attended a few weddings and had the misfortune of hobnobbing with political bigwigs. I found myself in the company of intellectually handicapped individuals, who appeared to have detached themselves from the real threats that face Pakistan. Their only interest lay in how they could remain in power by shifting or manipulating their political affiliations. I shudder to think that it is these very individuals, who may be imposed upon us once more, as atonement for our sins.

How can the state law function effectively when the very people sworn to enforce that law become violators? I was driving in the usually tense manner that any Islamabad resident automatically adopts when negotiating the chaotic Lahore traffic, when two grey clad figures ran out in front of my car forcing me to brake hard.

This pair of jokers was minus their caps and belts. One of them was even minus his boots, which had been replaced by ‘chappals’. I rolled down my window, flung up my hands in exasperation and told them what I thought of them. The two figures stopped and then one of them made an indescribable gesture that prompted me to make a quick exit and a silent prayer for the elite Traffic Wardens of Lahore.

A close relative and her daughter-in-law are currently trapped in a vicious circle of bureaucratic and judicial apathy related to a minor legal procedure such as obtaining a succession certificate. Their ordeal is now entering its fourth week and has involved multiple visits to the local court in Islamabad and concerned offices, sitting for hours on a bench and then returning empty-handed.

Another friend, who owns a foreign food franchise in Lahore, is toying with the idea of selling out and finding a better evocation. His condition is due to the fact that he shuns illegal gratification, wants to voluntarily pay his taxes and cannot ‘butter up’ to ‘inspector this and inspector that’. The end result is an entrepreneur, who is hounded by delays, inflated bills and veiled threats.

Another young man, who worked for a foreign accounts training facility in Karachi, was deprived of cash and given a beating at an Automatic Teller Machine. The same thing happened to him again at the same spot after two days. This cruel comedy continued, when he was severely injured and robbed a third time and believe it or not at the very same spot. Having decided that thrice was enough; he requested his company for a transfer to UK and is now permanently settled there with his wife and children.

I once asked a top female executive of a multinational as to why she was shifting her family to one of the Gulf States. Her response was straightforward and simple - “to live without fear.” For some citizens, this fear represents uncertainty about where their next meal would come from, while for others it stems from not knowing if they or their loved ones would return home safely from work or from school. If provision of security and a fear free environment is not state responsibility, what is? If failure to do so is not a failure of a state function, what is?

It is unfortunate that successive military takeovers and corrupt political governments have pushed Pakistan across the line, where we are now being labelled by many as a ‘failed state’. If we are not (a failed state), then we seriously need to introspect and seek answers to some questions without any more delay - are we a failed nation? How much viability do we have left in us to imbibe hope in our citizens?

The writer is a freelance columnist.