The dilemma being faced in Pakistan is not unique by any means. Politicians, by and large, tend to be unscrupulous and corrupt the world over, nowhere more so than in Italy. Politically, it remains one of the most unstable countries in the world, having changed governments almost as many times in the past sixty years. Yet, it continues to prosper. It was the same with France in the years following World War II when governments played musical chairs on yearly basis or less. What made the difference in their case is that the civil administration and judiciary act independently. The day-to-day working of the country remains unaffected and continues to run smoothly and efficiently regardless of who is in power. If there is a crisis, its impact and magnitude is limited and contained, giving no opportunity to any Bonaparte to assume power in the name of saving the nation. It was more or less the same in Pakistan until the civil service and judiciary were politicised and rendered subservient to those in power. Standards in the services declined and corruption and nepotism became rampant. In the absence of any organised and effective protest or opposition, things went from bad to worse. The limit of highhandedness was reached when a thoroughly unscrupulous dictator made deals with indicted criminals and put the highest judges in jail. This is when the lawyers took the lead and decided to act. A lot more needs to be done not simply at the political level. Much of the responsibility rests with the people themselves. It is a moot point, if the failure in Pakistan is not as much on the part of the individuals as it is of the men who rule them. It may be due to the lack of familiarity with the democratic process and tradition, made worse by subservience born out of life under centuries of autocratic rule. There are many, if not most, issues that lie predominantly within the pale of the people and not the politicians. Others that do not can also be directly or indirectly influenced by the people provided they are willing to assume responsibility and exercise their civic rights. If, only a few years ago, the farmers had been active in the same way as the lawyers, we would not be facing the growing food shortage that threatens to become endemic. They were well aware of the decreasing water supplies, as a result of silting in the existing reservoirs that was adversely affecting agricultural production. Yet, they failed to organise protests to bring about awareness and force the people in Islamabad to respond to the impending crisis in time. Perhaps, the most worrying spectre that threatens our future is the unsustainable growth of population. It can only be controlled through awareness, especially among the mostly illiterate women. The task is by no means easy considering the cultural taboos such as we have. There are strict limits to what any government can do under the circumstances. However, the more enlightened women can be very effective in advising and assisting their less fortunate sisters in matters related to family planning. There is legitimate concern about corruption in government. The fact that the latter has failed to curb it, should not mean that we have to live with it forever. The people who take bribes do not come from some alien planet. It will make a world of difference if we, as individuals, make a point of disapproving, disowning and reporting on such people. One reason why our politicians are corrupt and ineffective is because we give them free rein once they get elected. There is little accountability or penalty involved. It is utterly naive to expect these people to police themselves. The responsibility of the individual does not end with the casting of the vote. The voters need to form committees to subsequently monitor the activities of their representatives - their conduct, attendance in the assembly, how they vote, what they achieve for the constituents, etc. The lack of literacy and poor quality of education in our schools and colleges, such as we have, is another serious issue. In the ultimate analysis, whatever happens is linked to it in some way. If each literate person were to teach an illiterate one for a year, it is possible to virtually eliminate illiteracy in five or six years. Similarly, small groups of volunteers could easily keep an eye on the schools and colleges in their localities to provide any needed help and ensure that these are functioning properly. The vast Smithsonian Museum in Washington was built and donated by a private individual. Andrew Carnegie, a steel magnate, built and stocked 2,600 public libraries in the US. It must be within the capability of many in Pakistan to donate at least one such facility. We owe it to the country that gave us everything. Nations are made great not by their governments but by people like Andrew Carnegie. True, we have our own inimitable Abdul Sattar Edhi and Imran Khan but many more can emulate their fine examples to ensure a better future for all of us. For a country to prosper economically, it needs investment. It is a sad and regrettable fact that the people with disposable capital in Pakistan prefer to invest and create jobs outside the country, making her poorer and politically and socially vulnerable in the process. It reflects a lamentable lack of commitment as well as poor judgement. Investing in countries where one is never fully accepted nor respected, while taking away jobs and promoting instability at home, is hardly an act of foresight or wisdom. These are just a few examples of what can be done. There is no lack of realisation nor are the spirit and capability lacking. All it requires is some initiative, organisation and planning. We saw these at work after the earthquake in Kashmir and the Northern Areas when Pakistanis set an example for the world, manifesting Iqbal's contention, zara num ho to yeh mitti bahut zarkhez hai saqi. We need to work on the same footing if we are to continue to survive and prosper as a nation with a future. Criticism for the sake of criticism, frivolous sermons and gratuitous advice, served out to people who have repeatedly demonstrated their inability to deliver, is an exercise in futility. It is time we assumed responsibility for ourselves and seized the initiative to act for the good of all. The writer is the author of the book 'Muslims and the West: A Muslim Perspective'.