There is almost a national consensus by now that the present PPP-led federal government is the most corrupt one in Pakistans history and, to add icing to the cake, perhaps the most incompetent. There are daily tales of corruption involving those at the helm of affairs, virtually in all spheres of the national life. The Supreme Court has taken note of some of them while there are many still waiting to be fully investigated thanks to the resistance by different organs of the federal government. Leading figures of the federal government have let loose a campaign of loot and plunder of the nations resources as if there is no tomorrow. President Zardari and his spineless Prime Minister have collected some of the most corrupt politicians of the country, who only believe in grabbing power to enrich themselves through foul means, in the government. Thus the policy of national reconciliation, which had been enunciated by late Benazir Bhutto to promote the nations progress and welfare through principle-based politics instead of political vendettas, has been unabashedly misused by Zardari to collect the most corrupt and notorious politicians in the federal cabinet. Little wonder that state institutions like the Pakistan Railways, which used to be the preferred means of transport of the poor, are grinding to a halt. PIA and PSM are in a deplorable condition. The Supreme Court is in the process of unearthing the corruption which went into the scandal of rental power plants. The federal government, therefore, increasingly looks like the alliance of the corrupt, by the corrupt and for the corrupt. While there is little doubt about the massive corruption on the part of the present political leadership of the country, this unfortunately is not the end of the story. A deeper look at the history of the nation reveals that its resources have been plundered by a cabal of corrupt politicians, generals and senior bureaucrats. At different times in our history, different combinations of these three groups have played the lead role in robbing the nation of its resources. Since ambitious generals have ruled this nation for more than half of its history, they have taken the lions share of the loot and plunder to which this nation has been subjected, sometimes through blatant corruption and sometimes through legalized corruption, that is, by changing laws and rules to suit their vested interests. The stories of the massive corruption of which the senior army generals were guilty during the Musharraf era like the NLC case are slowly trickling out. The practice of allotment of agricultural lands and residential and commercial plots to senior armed forces officers in DHAs at throwaway prices constitutes a glaring example of legalized corruption. Another example was the order issued by General Zia-ul-Haq permitting all four-star generals to import one car of their choice duty free, thus, allowing them to pocket the amount of import duty, which ran into millions of rupees, instead of depositing it in the government treasury. While this order was later withdrawn during the civilian rule, other perks and privileges that senior armed forces officers enjoy and the standard of living to which they have become accustomed are simply disgusting for a poor country like Pakistan where most of the people find it difficult to make both ends meet. Senior civil servants belonging to different cadres and groups have not lagged behind in the race for plundering the nations resources. Allotment of residential plots in different government schemes and agricultural lands again at throwaway prices has been a favourite practice with them also. Senior civil servants like their military counterparts have also secured post-retirement perks and privileges which are totally unjustifiable considering the low per capita income of the country. Many of the senior bureaucrats have been hand in glove with their political bosses in the latters corrupt practices. It is difficult to see how any minister could get away with corruption without the collusion of the senior civil servants serving under them. Of course, there are always some honourable exceptions among the civil servants as there are among the senior military officers. But such exceptions are few and far between. By and large, a high proportion of senior government servants both on the military and civil sides is deeply involved in corrupt practices. This cabal of corrupt military officers, bureaucrats and politicians has established a highly exploitative (and repressive) system of governance, which thrives on impoverishing further the already poor sections of the people and enriching further the rich. The resultant combustible mix of the extreme poor and the extreme rich could be the harbinger of a bloody revolution unless our ruling classes living in posh housing societies and enjoying luxurious lives wake up and take necessary remedial measures. Our chattering classes keep on worrying about the future of the country and hoping for a messiah in their drawing room discussions and newspaper commentaries with little realization that they themselves and their luxurious life style are part of the problem. The country needs a radical change in the system of governance to end the exploitation of the poor and the repression of the weak. This will require redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. This will require provision of justice to the weak at their doorsteps through rule of law and observance of the principle of merit. This will need active participation of the people in the running of their affairs at the federal, provincial and district levels. The principle of accountability will have to be enforced indiscriminately to end corruption. We will also have to change our mindset from that of a security state to a welfare state. Above all, we will have to learn to live within our resources, which in turn will require austerity on the part of the elite, if we wish to prosper economically and live as a dignified nation internationally. The question is whether as a nation we, especially our ruling classes, are ready for such a radical change. Imran Khan has attracted a lot of attention lately because of his well-attended and successful public meeting in Lahore. He vows to end corruption and to bring about a change in the system of governance to redress the grievances of the people. Unfortunately, however, he has failed so far to expand his views beyond slogans to detailed policy measures in political, economic, administrative, security and foreign affairs to achieve the goals that he and PTI have set for themselves. One also does not see any visible change in his life style in line with the policy of austerity and self reliance that our country needs. It is, therefore, premature to pass a judgment on his future prospects. He must understand that mere slogans will not produce the desired results. inally, Imran Khan claims that he wants to change the status quo for the betterment of the people. It appears, however, from the people gathering around him that he is increasingly relying for support on the forces which are the mainstay of the status quo or tainted with corruption. There is also the allegation (admittedly unsubstantiated so far) that he is being propped up by the military, which represents the status quo, to divide and rule the political forces. One wonders, therefore, how in such a scenario he alone will be able to bring about the revolutionary changes that the country needs. For him to have any chance of success in the realization of his stated goals, he will have to align sooner or later with like-minded political forces. A solo flight by him will be a sure recipe for failure. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: