Trust us to miss the forest for the trees. The Supreme Court decision on the Asghar Khan case and the ensuing statements from the army and judicial chiefs have unleashed a firestorm in the country and ignited a debate without end. But it has also displayed something more alarming: a collective tunnel vision.

The generals in the dock, once hard to target are now kosher soft targets and are being used for some serious target shooting. Many among us are taking vicarious pleasure in clobbering those who are more used to clobbering themselves than being clobbered.

It is quite a sight when sacred cows are slaughtered like helpless sheep.

But when lashings are transformed into a spectator sport – as they once were in this country – something somewhere is seriously going wrong. A strange hysteria has descended upon us. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the public lynching and then raise bloodied hands in triumph. In the hissing and snarling mode, very few realise that the body being torn to bits – limb by limb – is our own.

Here’s why: as a political entity, we are undergoing convulsions. Powerful institutions headed by powerful men are colliding with each other like tectonic plates and rearranging continental-sized political alignments. The whiplash of a troubled past is tearing flesh and splintering bone, as an agonising orgy of egotistical bloodletting ensues in a brightly illuminated arena.

This makes for a good spectacle – and who doesn’t like a good spectacle – but like most spectacles, this blood sport does little more than appeal to baser instincts.

Nothing appeals to such instincts more than to grab powerful people by the scruffs of their necks and shake them till their teeth rattle. Generals, whose word was once law, are realising this at great personal expense. Everyone, it appears, wants a piece of them. Teeth gnashing, nostrils flaring, Pakistanis are pouncing at them with savage relish. Rage reigns. Rationality does not.

But hang on a minute. Take a deep breath and stand back. Can we afford such a mob mentality right now? Do we really want to cut our nose to spite our face?

Look at the mess we are in. Look around you and smell the stench of a failed leadership. See the piled up ashes of the dream called Pakistan. Watch men of power fight over the spoils of a rotten state, while citizens of Pakistan beg for safety, shelter, education, justice and a decent future for their children. Scan this barren landscape and notice the little girl with no shoes, no school and no future. She too has the same claim over the spoils of the state as the President, Chief Justice and the Army Chief.

Or had you forgotten this silly little fact?

Who needs our attention more? This little girl or Gen (retd) Aslam Beg? This little girl or Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani? This little girl or the two “Chiefs”?

No, this is not some silly liberal rant. It is a grotesque reality grounded within the framework of raw power politics. But politics aimed at empowering not an individual, or a community, or an institution, but the state itself.

Quite a leap. But not really. See, at our core, we are all tribal. We think tribal, we scheme tribal, we fight tribal. So we have the Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes; we have the Mehsud and Wazir tribes; we have the Arain and Gujjar tribes; then we have the PPP, PML-N tribes and the judiciary tribe and the army tribe. They all hunt in packs. They all blindly follow their tribal chiefs. And they all protect their tribal interests at the expense of other tribes. In this tribal culture, compromise is seen as a sign of weakness; an individual grievance is considered a collective insult.

In this tribal landscape, the little girl with no shoes will always remain a little girl with no shoes, no school and no future because she and others like her exist to make the tribal chiefs appear bigger, taller and grander. A Mercedes always looks more impressive when parked next to a beat-up Suzuki FX.

The little girl stands in the way of the grand ambitions of the powerful chiefs. The chief president may dream of controlling Parliament, but the little girl reminds him that his electoral castle is built on sand. The chief jurist may dream of headline-making judgements, but the little girl reminds him that common Pakistanis can only dream of swift and affordable justice. The chief warrior may dream of what a nuclear-armed, 600,000 strong standing army and a fearsome intelligence outfit can achieve, but the little girl reminds him that an impoverished, illiterate and suppressed populace cannot shoulder a fearsome force of men and missiles.

If the chiefs want to fulfil their grandiose ambitions, they will have to transform this little girl with no shoes, no school and no future into a big girl with nice shoes, a great school and a bright, shining future right here in Pakistan.

But they won’t do it on their own accord. That’s not how tribal chief think. The little girl will have to jump on their laps, pulls their ears and noses, and shout like only a little girl can: “Hey big chiefs, I am Pakistan, not you. I own this land, not you. Make me strong and I will make this country strong. Not you, not this other chief guy and not that stuffy, constipated man sitting there on his exalted chair. No, none of you, but me.”

Yes, we must dream big dreams - little girls, and big men – and nations. All must dream. But to transform dreams into reality will first require acknowledging the requirements of reality. The reality is that we need an aggressive and independent judiciary, but one that is driven by justice for all, not just for newsmakers. The reality is we need political parties that can think beyond electoral math. And we need armed forces that are strong, professional, and ready to defend an empowered, educated and productive population.

What we are seeing now is a struggle between powerful people and powerful institutions for individual and institutional honour. By focusing on such a fight, and pretending it is a fight for the greater glory of Pakistan, we are fooling ourselves.

And worst, we are fooling the little girl with no shoes, no school and no future.

The writer is the host of “Tonight with Fahd” on Waqt News.


Twitter: @fahdhusain