Our socio-political-economic landscape is full of paradoxes, contradictions, double speak and double standards. Perhaps this is the darker side of our national characteristics that has gradually compounded in an environment where nearly all our leaders, civil or military irrespective of their political ideologies, have consistently set aside pledges to serve the people, blatantly violated their trust and went on a spree to accumulate personal wealth and settle scores against opposition political rivals at their expense. The state institutions particularly those of accountability and justice willingly collaborated and condoned the extra-constitutional and high handed tactics of the high and mighty and reaped mutual dividends in the plunder. Even the promised trickles of the national wealth failed to reach the general public that is still denied access to bare necessities of life and protection of their fundamental rights. The recent disclosures of financial corruption and conspiracies, aired on news channels by retired intelligence officials, have further discredited politicians, civil and military government functionaries in the eyes of the people. The distinction between right and wrong seems to have evaporated from our society. A coterie of so-called elite class (with occasional intruders) that constitutes no more than 5 percent of our population has taken turns to rule the country in a pretentious and hypocritical manner for most of its 62 years of existence, the main players constantly rotating either in civil or military garb. Six decades have passed and we are still groping in the dark perpetually meandering in different directions to settle on a system of governance, provincial autonomy or to establish a national identity. We are a Muslim nation unequivocally endorsed as such in our constitution. Almost two thirds of our people are uneducated for whom the government finds no resources. They depend on the local mosque for the basic religious education of their children. Countless such mosques are spread throughout the country up to the remotest areas, generally constructed and maintained by contributions from the local population. Although there is no scarcity of Aalims and religious scholars, most mosques are run by semi-literate Maulvis in the absence of any effective control or a clear policy framed and implemented by the government. They are free to propagate their own rigid half-baked versions of Islamic teachings that most often cause factional frictions in the society. There is a second tier of over 11,200 well organised registered religious seminaries run by charity organisations that house, feed and impart Quranic education to mostly homeless and destitute children. Unofficial sources claim that between 1 to 3 million students study in seminaries that may number up to 30,000. From 1977 onwards, there was a mushroom growth in madarassahs. Subsequently, funds started pouring in from various Muslim countries belonging to different sects in a race to gain influence that provided the seminaries financial independence and political clout. In 1992, ISI equipped its students with arms and ammunition and allowed them to cross the border into Afghanistan to fight against the Najibullah regime. Then again in 1996, their students assisted Afghan Taliban to capture Kabul with the blessing and support of the ISI. Foreign students from Afghanistan and Afghan refugee camps, South East Asia, Central Asian states mainly Uzbekistan, Xinjiang region of China, Africa and from Muslim communities settled in Western Europe and North America have flocked to these seminaries over the years. Some remnants of the Afghan war and foreign students acquired military training, settled near the Afghan borders and got involved in militant ideological battles within and outside Pakistan. Mosques and seminaries have existed in the subcontinent for hundreds of years and remained engaged exclusively in religious education and produced some notable scholars. Political exploitation, patronage, loose government control since 1977 and the Afghan Jihad in the eighties induced some of these noble institutions to turn into vehicles of extremism and a law unto themselves that have now grown to be powerful enough to challenge the writ of the state. A number of seminaries have been accused of functioning as training camps controlled by resourceful militants that indoctrinate young minds into unquestioned obedience for carrying out armed operations and suicide bombings. They are equipped with latest sophisticated weapons generally available to armed forces, communication equipment, transport and supplies and are organised like mini mobile empires with sizable budget and sources of income. They create their own enemies in order to keep their empires solvent and threatening. The belated army operations in Malakand and agencies have made considerable progress to force a tactical withdrawal by the militants. This menacing monster is not exclusive to the frontier regions but has networks spread over the entire country and is now destroying the peace, culture and economy of its own country? Unfortunately, it is us that have been instrumental in defaming Islamic religious education and institutions and making them a laughing stock of the world? Is there no one that can be held accountable for transforming the Pakistani Muslims into international pariahs that are subjected to personal humiliation and ridicule wherever they go and are left with little self-esteem? The Muslim minority of the Indian subcontinent had scrupulously retained its religious identity during centuries of co-existence with other religions by developing a culture that was a mixture of Arab, Turkish, Persian and Indian traditions but distinct from the rituals practiced by the Hindu majority and by refraining from integrating socially with them. Urdu language was evolved during the Mughal dynasty to communicate with the commoners that was closer to Hindi in phonetics but written in the Arabic text, while the nobility spoke Persian. Later, All India Muslim League shared a common platform with Congress in the struggle for the freedom of United India from the British but never faltered in their demand for due rights for the Muslims. However, soon it became apparent that the Hindus desired an Akhand Bharat and saw this as an opportunity to make history by creating a Hindu united India for the first time ever, where the Muslims will be relegated to an inferior status fully dominated by the Hindu majority. All proposals of Muslim power sharing were turned down mainly by Nehru and Patel of Congress party, as has been endorsed by Jaswant Singh in his latest book. The plight of Muslims witnessed in the so-called secular liberal modern India of today and the memories of the atrocities committed by Sikhs and Hindus against Muslims just after partition of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947 subscribes to the deep animosity between the two nations that has refused to go away. India has been hostile towards us on all counts ever since, has fought three wars and intervened militarily to help East Pakistanis to separate. It is ironical that now we are in awe of Indian supremacy and are prepared to unconditionally surrender our right of first strike. We are continuously begging for better relations despite repeated rude responses from their politicians. We have willingly submitted to the Indian cultural invasion through its powerful medium of movies. Our wedding functions are celebrated with dancing moves learnt from the Indian film videos on Indian songs and our ladies imitate Indian fashions in jewellery and costumes from Indian soap operas and magazines. Urdu language, literature, prose and poetry are fast becoming extinct for lack of promotion. At the same time, 67 percent of our public is fiercely against the Americans, who have been our allies since the fifties. Our economic survival has been dependent upon the American financial support, access to its export markets, defence purchases, advanced education and training that they have been providing to us. Our extremist elements want to defeat America that is the world's largest military power that spends $700 billion each year on its defence and is practically inaccessible for conventional attacks. None of Afghanistan governments have ever been friendly with Pakistan. Yet our religious zealots misguide and motivate simple young men to join the Afghan militants in fighting against the US and NATO forces and allow our territory to become sanctuaries for the wanted criminals. It is time we revisit and rationalise our values. It is time our leaders join to give an unambiguous direction and lead us to where we truly belong. The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur E-mail: k.a.k786@hotmail.com