Rameeza Majid Nizami For those who haven't seen the film that starred Tom Hanks, it goes like this. Apollo 13 blasts off as a routine mission and after three days of normal functioning, experiences an unpredictable, sudden, complete technical failure, while orbiting the moon. The astronauts inside are in a tin can in a vacuum, suspended in space, isolated from civilisation, so there's no help for miles around. Anything they evict from the vehicle, including garbage and waste, will act as a propellant in the void and steer them further off the very narrow trajectory that is their only guarantee of a safe entry back into the Earth's breathable atmosphere. As the air inside the ship stagnates, illness, paranoia and suspicions start to surface. Was it one crew member's inexperience that led to this? Is Mission Control deliberately sabotaging Apollo 13? Are we cursed because it's Friday, the 13th? Guidance systems, engines, all have to be shut down and there they are in freezing conditions, because they can't afford to keep burning fuel to create warmth. Meanwhile, back on Earth, "failure is not an option," says Mission Control. It's a pretty useful analogy for where Pakistan finds itself today. It started off as a country with such promise, full of hope; followed by several years of average, unremarkable, slow and steady progress. Then a sudden collapse of all systems due to an unpredictable failure of one of the hundreds of installed parts, after which the rest followed like dominos. And here we are today, surprised because we are isolated from the world, with no help possible from outside and nothing we can safely evict without resulting in us drifting off into the abyss. Our breathable air, which in this case would be our economy, our aspirations, our expectation of enjoying basic liberties and our quality of life are stagnating. Doubt, paranoia and suspicion of motives, sometimes justified, at other times not, are rampant. We're shutting down for two days of the week, instead of one because of our crippling energy crisis. We have to literally cut our losses - if we make a loss every day we work, then working fewer days means less of a loss. With our nuclear capability and the gargantuan size of our ever-increasing population, "failure is not an option" for Pakistan, either. Pakistan is Apollo 13, abandoned and friendless and on its own drifting aimlessly, trying to get back to earth, before everyone inside it suffocates. Our tin can has the same basic problem as Apollo 13: A square peg (our hopes, our dreams, our ideologies and our aims) that doesn't fit into a round hole (the system we are being governed by, our work ethic, our logic - or lack thereof - for achieving our aims). So, how do we get out of it? Well, the way Apollo 13 did, I suppose. Ultimately, they had to make use of a combination of sophisticated machinery, junk, duct tape and perseverance to fix their spaceship. One thing is for sure, we can't throw anything out and we're too far away from everyone else to get any real help, beyond advice. So the spare pipes, the parts we think are important and the parts we've ignored, the junk, the sophisticated machinery, all of it is going to have to be looked at. The connection between the square peg and the round hole has to be designed with whatever we have in our tin can. We'll have to do it in the freezing cold, in an atmosphere that is stagnating and in much-less-than-ideal conditions - because failure is just not an option. The writer is deputy managing director and managing editor of the Nawa-i-Waqt Group. Email: rnizami@nawaiwaqt.com.pk