When we look at what is wrong in Pakistan today, we see multiple manifestations of failure - symptoms of a failing or failed state: insurgency and military conflict, unchecked terrorist attacks, killings and abductions of civilians, unemployment, hopelessness, desperation, suicides, and a shocking absence of the writ of government.  The list is longer still.  But the point is made.

Yet, despite the multitude of distressing symptoms, the disease is relatively simple to diagnose.  This is the problem:  In all successful democratic states the best, most competent, and most sincere of their citizens compete in politics.  And it is these people - in some sense the cream of their citizenry - who then are elected and become their parliamentarians and shapers of their destiny.

In Pakistan, the exact opposite is true.  Generally speaking, the worst, most incompetent, most corrupt, most morally bankrupt, and most insincere of our people compete in our political arena.  These people - who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as the cream of our society - are elected to our assemblies and shape our destiny.  Why then should anyone of us be surprised that Pakistan is slowly crumbling?  And, let’s be clear: if this set of people continues to come back in power time and again - as they have done during the democratic phases of our history - then Pakistan will not survive

Things will not change until decent, competent, sincere, educated and honest Pakistanis decide that politics is their business.  This segment of our population has been unwilling or unable to participate in politics.  Their absence has created a political vacuum that is happily filled by the traditional lot.  And this has inevitably - as night follows day - brought us to our present perilous situation.

But history does not stand still.  The structure of politics in Pakistan is changing. The feudals have been weakened over time. Their landholdings have been fragmented by inheritance. Urbanization has brought rural youth to the cities and opened their eyes. The footprint of satellite and cable TV extends now to the remotest of villages. People are awake. Change is at the doorstep. What we - all of us - need to do now is to convince Pakistanis that they have it in their power to shape their destiny.

I am writing to you - ladies and gentlemen of the media - to tell you that you have a crucial role to play.  And to tell you that what you are doing today is not enough.

The media broadcasts hours and hours of output featuring the ‘usual culprits’: our corrupt and incompetent politicians.  Your smug anchors find gratification in having these already challenged people utter inanities and spew venom on their equally inane rivals.  

And what service do you render the people of Pakistan in broadcasting these programs hour after hour, evening after evening, day after day?  Have you enlightened them?  Have you informed them?  Have you given them hope?

You are obliged by your license agreements to dedicate ten minutes of every broadcast hour to social service messages. Not one of the hundred plus channels does this. Why do you not use this time to educate people about the need for children to take polio drops, about driving safety, about good civic behaviour, and about so much else that responsible citizens must know?

Ladies and gentlemen you have to rise above all of this.  Time is running out for Pakistan.  Too much is at stake.  You cannot continue to behave like this.  There are people, here, today, now, working to change things.  They are in government, in the private sector and in obscure political parties.

You need to identify them and then present them to your readers and viewers. You need to bring intelligence, sensible debate and rationality to your output.  You need to show Pakistanis that there is hope.  And that there are still people who, sometimes at risk to their safety, are working day and night to make Pakistan’s future brighter than its past. These people need to be heard.  And you - ladies and gentlemen of the media - are uniquely placed to make this possible.

“Rome” is burning.  You can continue to fiddle.  Or you join those of us who know that more must be done.

The writer is Chairman of Mustaqbil Pakistan