Some years ago, I was beset with a dark depressive mood as I watched our political elite indulging themselves in what politicians in dispensations such as ours usually do – take their voters for a ride, fill their coffers and let good governance be damned. It was in that frame of mind that I happened to visit a childhood friend, who has been gifted with common sense, political vision and the courage to tell people what he thinks of them. Our discussions had always side tracked religion since we considered ourselves inadequately equipped to broach the subject. On this occasion however, my host surprised me by spontaneously blurting, “I am now convinced that divine forces have already arrived to help us”. Before I could respond to this statement, he held up his hand with the words, “let us talk of something else”.

I returned home and in spite of numerous other things that were on my ‘to do’ list, could not forget the episode. It is today that the full import of what was said, appears to be unfolding before our eyes, in the last few years. First we were blest with a man in boots, who won the hearts of every Pakistani with his courage, savviness and forthright approach to issues that directly and indirectly affected the country’s security. We also saw how an inept and corrupt provincial government was exposed during a crisis, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children because of starvation. This was followed by disclosures by some arrested individuals, who took names and then came the big one, not from any source within the country, but from across the Atlantic.

The Panama Papers has ‘exposed’ ruling political families and morally indicted them for many shades of white collar crimes. In our own ‘Land of the Pure’, release of facts by the ICIJ generated two distinct effects far removed from morally correct reactions that should have focused on accountability and penance. For the ruling family it has become a matter of political and financial survival at all costs, while for those across the political aisle, it is a question of how to ensure maximum leverage out of the situation while keeping at bay, the possibility of their own accountability. Watching this drama is a nation with sharply divided political loyalties and groups, whose profitability depends on who stays in power. There is a third segment of society that is no more silent. This category has today become very relevant to Pakistani politics because it consists of educated people, who have the ability to look at issues from a real perspective. These are the voters that want a change from the ‘merry go round’ that has plagued the country since many decades. It is these people, who are most capable of initiating a change.

The critical factor in all that is happening and all that is likely to happen to uphold moral responsibility is time – a luxury that we do not possess. In our orgy of corruption and acquisition of wealth, we may already have crossed the threshold, a U-turn from which may warrant draconian measures. These measures will require iron will and the unflinching ability to sacrifice individual interests for the attainment of collective ones. I pray that this is done employing constitutional means and without damage to our corrupted form of ‘democracy’. I am however not hopeful that this will happen.The failure to fulfill their moral political obligation, may even mobilise the most potent catalyst of change – public opinion. This can be manifested through ballot or through street power. The latter is undesirable in its extreme form and can be avoided by honest and judicious decision making. The question is whether such decision making will be resorted to, by those mandated to do so. It is my fervent prayer that we do not face such a situation, but as I said before – we do not have the luxury of time.