It was the 1940s and the Indian Subcontinent was riling in political agitation and frenzy.  One of the core components of this activity was the public meeting or ‘Jalsa’. Thousands of people from both sides of the divide converged upon venues to get a glimpse of their respective leaders and listen to what they had to say. These people often walked miles from surrounding areas motivated only by the prospect of independence and change. In our context, when this change did come, it was accompanied by a blood bath that defied description. Millions left their homes to seek safety and build new lives in what was to be a great new country where every citizen, irrespective of color, caste or creed could live and prosper. Stripped of resources through a master conspiracy, but fired up with a passion to overcome all odds, the fledgling administration sat and worked from upturned packing cases pinning together memos with anything they could lay their hands on. Their motivation stemmed from our Founding Father Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Then tragedy struck the newly created State. With the demise of this great man, our political culture underwent a change for the worst. Politicians became corrupt and inept, resulting in successive democratic dispensations being interrupted by military takeovers. Ironically, these periods of undemocratic governance (barring the one set in motion by General Zia ul Haq) proved to be the most beneficial for the State urging an eminent foreign diplomat to comment that Pakistan was an enigma, where democracy functioned as a dictatorship and vice versa.

In the 68 years following Jinnah’s death, the nation was rapidly enslaved by an apathy that spelled doom, while our corrupt and often criminal politics became increasingly dynastic. Our plunge into the abyss came to the point where law abiding citizens began to lose hope for a change; only a small minority clung to the prophecy and notion of a second resurgence known as ‘Nishet-e-Saania.’

The change, when it came, was initially so subtle that it was barely noticeable; and then it burst upon us like a storm. It came with the awakening of the ‘silent majority’, which was referred to by politicians derisively as the ‘Mummy-Daddy-Burger-Crowd.’ This derision appears to have now changed to panic as the ‘change’ appears to have unstoppably come. The first manifestation of this metamorphosis was in the elections, when a huge section of society that had never exercised their right of franchise turned out to vote for a Pakistan that was a fulfilment of Jinnah’s dream. The second indicator that a change was coming was the phenomenon of the ‘silent majority’ turning out happily on its own in ever increasing numbers to attend ‘jalsas’ in stark contrast to past practice, where political parties ‘transported’ people to fill up their public meetings often with the promise of some easy money and a meal.

Then began a series of incidents, leaving little doubt that change was indeed here. Who could have thought that ordinary passengers on an Islamabad bound national airline flight would offload one political VIP and make another one scamper for safety? Who could have ever imagined that a sitting Head of the Executive’s family would be refused the order to upgrade a maid from her economy class ticket to a higher status? And who in our lifetime would have witnessed the heartwarming spectacle of Shias and Sunnis performing the Eid Prayers together behind a single Imam?

Yes sir, change is definitely here and it is generating waves of panic amongst politicians that have ruled the roost in dynastic ‘rollovers’ feeding the Pakistani Nation with nothing but empty slogans.

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.