Agent Provocateur The floods continue to cause unprecedented damage to our landscape, roads, bridges, livestock, buildings and people. The scale of the disaster leaves one agog and it is difficult to assimilate or estimate the damage in financial terms. The damage to self-esteem, mindsets and psyche is immeasurable. None of our provinces have been spared. It is as if, the Gods that be, are themselves wanting to wash our slate clean, literally. The promise that was Pakistan has not been fulfilled. The 63-year old report card shows that merit was never considered essential while doling out positions of authority and that, fellow citizens, is the one primary reason of why we find ourselves where we do today. It is the same story everywhere. The right man for the right job has been a very rare exception. And whenever some quirk of fate has placed one somewhere, the whole system has collaborated to make a mincemeat and example of him, lest it happens again. As the foundations of the country were not nurtured properly, it faces multi-pronged attacks from so many quarters. Natural calamities happen in other countries too. How is it that they get their act together in record time? The example of the earthquake in China, just before the Beijing Olympics, comes to mind. It is because their leadership immediately gets their best brains together to focus on and come up with solutions. While international aid in cash and kind is rushed to wherever there is a calamity, other countries do not solely look towards it as our leaders are wont to do. The naked eye does not catch belts that are visibly tightened in Pakistan. Our planning is found sorely lacking whenever any emergency arises. On top of that there is no cohesion among the different departments. As we look at our submerged landscape, we are reminded of August 1947 when the problems seemed even more insurmountable. Despite that, we had the resolve, the heady sense of achievement at creating a new country and we had Quaid-i-Azam. Currently, the resolve seems missing entirely from the governance, there is a huge trust deficit and there is no leader with the unbigoted and unblemished leadership qualities of Mr Jinnah. Our basic human resource was fine then as it is now. The citizens want to help each other with the same jazba that they displayed in the 2005 earthquake and before, but they do not know where to give their money. It is a telling fact that in this calamity most people are giving to charities rather than official flood relief funds. The crushing inflation has taken its toll this time around as well. People are having lots of problems making their own ends meet and are unsure how the future unfolds for them with the immediate bulk of crops destroyed. This Independence Day there is only despair and sadness all around. This will only lift, as it has to, when the country will be seen to be governed properly. When caring for the people takes precedence over pomp and show of the ruling elite. When every office is staffed by men or women who deserve to be there and who are not nominees and trusted confidantes of important people. When all decisions are taken in the light of long-term common good, instead of short-term benefit of a few. When meaningful, charismatic and new leadership emerges out of the educated middle class with no famous last names. The resilience of the Pakistani people will see this storm through but what stands exposed in terms of policies and planning will require an altogether new approach after the waters recede. It is never going to be quite as cushy again for those who make politics their profession. Postscript: I was surfing the TV channels in the afternoon on the first of Ramadan when I got suddenly lucky. A programme recorded at an event at Yousaf Sallahuddins amazing haveli was on air. Most of us have visited the haveli at one time or another because it became a city highlight, particularly during the basant celebration of yore. Yousaf Salli shares his family abode willingly and generously and it is very often the venue for beautiful cultural events. Anyway, to come back to the present, there it was, in all its glory - the haveli angaan with its foliage and fountains. It seemed so pretty and picturesque that one could almost smell the flowers and the raat ki rani through the television screen. A gentle breeze seemed to be blowing too and the select audience was being treated to a sufi evening of music. A very beautiful young lady was singing live and effortlessly. Her repertoire consisted mostly of sufi kalaam and works of poets like Iqbal and Ghalib. But the truly magical and mesmerising moment for me was when she sang the naat from Mughal-e-Azam written by Shakil Badayuni: Chaee hai museebat ki ghata gaisuon waley Lilla meri doobti kashti ko bacha lai Toofan kai aasar hain dushwar hai jeena Gardish mai hai taqdeer Bhanwar mai hai safeena Bekas pai karam keejiye, sarkar e madina The hauntingly beautiful voice just seemed to be summing up our national situation. There was not a dry eye in the audience. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: