Demotivated nations have no future. According to Comrade Lee Kuan Yew, the builder of modern Singapore, the primary task of political leadership and the bureaucracy is to motivate the nation to perform. The success of the island nation rests on these two pillars; honest and able political leadership combined with an efficient and performing administrative machinery. At the end of the day, it is the nation that delivers. In the last about forty years there has been a constant decline. It has taken me a while to understand the reasons for this fall. As the first-born free generation of Pakistan we had to endure this tragedy in our lifetime. My father the Tehreek-e-Pakistan gold medallist always fought back; growing up under his tutelage was tough as I had to go around various offices to lodge complaints or deliver his letters but little did I understand the importance of his efforts at that time. It was because of fighters like him that the country remained on track but once they were gone, darkness engulfed the nation. Four martial laws combined with Muslim leagues like PML-N and PML-Q took away the little hope that was built by the first elected government of Bhutto (1971 to 77).

Since July 5, 1977 here has been an organised attempt to demotivate the nation. Most civilian institutions came under attack. Pakistan Railways and WAPDA which were once the pride of the nation are in total disarray today. At the time of partition, the Railway Mughalpura workshop was the only technical facility in the new land. The entire 1948 war effort was supported by this outfit. An outstanding Mechanical Engineer by the name of Hamid Ghani was the Chief Engineer at that time. In the early fifties he was appointed Project Manager of Pakistan Ordinance Factory in Wah, after which he headed the team to build the Karachi Shipyard from where he retired and then settled in Karachi. He was not alone there; several star performers and role models for the growing generation. Every morning on the way to school on the Mall Road, I crossed a Sherlock Holmes type character dressed in an overcoat and hat. Later on I came to know that he was Dr Rafi Chaudhry, professor of Physics at Government College Lahore (GC) where he built the first high tension physics laboratory of Asia. Shakir Ali, the great artist of his times was the principal of National College of Arts, Anna Molka Ahmed headed the Fine Arts Department of Punjab University, Dr Imdad Hussain was heading MAO College, Islamia College was run by Professor Hamid Ahmed Khan while the legendary Dr Nazir Ahmed was the principal of one of the oldest seat of learning, GCU Lahore.

Unlike Singapore, the federal and four provincial governments, instead of facilitating the public, harass and exploit them. A visit to any office is the most demotivating exercise ever as nothing gets done. Staff is either absent or totally disinterested. A few honest and conscientious souls that still exist are either cornered or rendered helpless. Public welfare or nation building is on no one’s agenda. The political leadership is interested in either making money or expanding their influence to ensure re-election. It is a perfect example of blind leading the blind to spread darkness and gloom. Today, after a long time I went to check on one of my bank accounts, I was told that it had become dormant since May 2020. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) expected all account holders to wear protective gear and operate their accounts defying the pandemic and lockdown. Such blatant citizen bashing is mind boggling. I urge the Governor of SBP to issue orders to remove the dormancy on all accounts till the virus is controlled.

A few years back, Col. Imtiaz Najam, a son of Lahore, narrated his personal life experience with me. At the time of partition, he was a student at the Central Model School. Their Haveli was close by in Moori Darwaza. After school he stopped at a bicycle shop across the road to pump air in the cycle tyres. As he started to pump the shop owner rushed to stop him, he then ordered one of his employees to help out saying, “These students have to run the country in the future we must facilitate them”. This was the spirit and the motivation in the early days of Pakistan. Col Najam fought two wars for his country; his son Dr Adil Najam is a prominent educationist who also served as Vice Chancellor of LUMS. The power grab that took place after the murder of the first Prime Minister in 1951 then continued till October 1958 when Ayub Khan took control of the country. The focus of the colonial state shifted from nation to empire building. People bashing became the norm. We the students revolted against the government of the elite for the elite.

My father’s generation was motivated by Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal. They were able and honest individuals who not only won freedom but also struggled to consolidate it for the coming generations. The imperial colonial establishment leftovers struck back with vengeance as freedom was not part of their agenda. The elections in 1970 brought back people’s power. This time we were inspired by Quaid-e-Awam. With his education and experience Bhutto was able to deliver change. Initially in his team there were people of commitment and courage who were able and willing to fight for change. As the firstborn free generation, we were raised with a value system to serve, not exploit. We took on the forces of status-quo with resolve and motivation. Then came the Zia dark ages, another period of people bashing and de-motivation started. He got rid of the professionals to bring back the colonial era bureaucracy to run civilian institutions for which they were neither educated nor trained. On the political front, a third-rate leadership was imposed on the nation which now threatens the state itself.

The youth today was inspired by the long political struggle of their Kaptaan. The dilemma is that both the leader and the followers have not been able to effectively deal with the forces of status-quo as Bhutto did in the decade of the seventies. This shortcoming has resulted in de-motivation and disillusionment. It is a double whammy as they say, on one hand the status-quo is much more entrenched over the years while on the other the youth are ill-prepared to fight them. Kaptaan’s task is not easy. Bhutto had a free hand for at least a few years before he surrounded himself with the so called electables; unfortunately, PTI was infested much earlier. Another tragedy to befall the nation has been the large scale demise of merit. Despite his best efforts the Prime Minister has not succeeded in ensuring this fundamental requirement mainly because most people at the helm today have not taken the meritorious route to success. When we were growing the situation was totally different, merit was predominant. From admissions to passing exams to seeking employment, talent was sought which was a major source of motivation for our generation. From Quaid-e-Azam to Quaid-e-Awam to Kaptaan, a lot of water has flown under the bridge, since July 1977 it has been mostly dirty. This dirt has to be filtered out. Our rivers are contaminated and our environment polluted with pollutants sitting in important positions of authority. Kaptaan has taken on himself to lead this crusade but the charge has to be speeded up like the famous ‘Light Brigade’ which rode into the valley of death with courage and conviction to create history for the world to remember and revere. Only motivated nations rise under able and honest leadership rest perish.