I returned from China after two weeks and was alarmed to find how dramatically Pakistan's situation had changed - for the better if you are a Taliban supporter, for the worse if you are not. "Don't come today," I was told. "Islamabad is on high alert - red-hot alert." Days earlier a bomb had killed seven near my house. I found the killing place wreathed in flowers. All else was 'normal'. I turned 60 last Monday and became a senior citizen. Now I can ride free on London tubes and buses and pay half price for cinema tickets. People like me cannot retire. If we did we would be dead at 61. Unlike my parents and grandparents who were born British subjects, I am a child of independence, born two years after Pakistan. Now I wonder whether I am really independent or not. I have a lot to be grateful for though. Despite what we have made of Pakistan, I am still much better off than what I would have been had Pakistan not been made. God has bestowed on me more than my needs and given me everything any man could wish for in material, spiritual and intellectual terms while still keeping the quest for inquiry and exploration alive. I am most grateful that I was not only born a Muslim but that the nature of my life has been such that it has given me the ability to differentiate between Faith and religion. My life has been intense and exciting - very intense and very exciting - as have the lives of most of my generation. We have seen countries being born and countries die, much like the dance of the galaxies, stars, solar systems, planets, moons and everything that is constantly being created and destroyed in the universe. It is the dance of the life cycle. This is the way of the world. It is called societal evolution, a part of man's evolution. How delicious it feels to be humbled by the realisation that how little we know. Why, we understand only about 10 percent of the human brain, forget the universe. The sad thing is that while I have thrived the majority of my compatriots have suffered. The nooks and crannies of Pakistan, its streets and byways, its fields and factories, its rivers and seas are littered with shattered dreams. Yet even the worst hit are better off than what they would have been in India - just look at the condition of Indian Muslims or even the poor Hindus, all slumdogs who become millionaires only in films. The few instances of glimmer came from the glitter of the sword, false hope, mirages that vanished as soon as we got near something good. Today, Pakistan is in more trouble than it has ever been. The conventional wisdom is that it is a failing state and the belief is growing that it will soon fail completely and fall apart. People talk in terms of months, not years. Faced with multifarious crises, it has a westernised elite in denial, its leadership's attention focused on irrelevance, no government, hundreds of nuclear weapons, a huge populace laced with sophisticated arms and religious extremists gaining ground so fast that it is sending jitters around the world. No wonder President Obama calls our tribal region "the most dangerous place in the world" and Pakistan a country suffering from the all-consuming cancer of rampant terrorism. All three branches of government are non-functional. The only significant action of Parliament that has attracted global attention is the alacrity with which it approved the Taliban's Nizam-i-Adl (System of Justice) and the even greater alacrity with which the president and the provincial government of the Frontier signed it into law against much American pressure. It signifies the failure of the 60-year experiment of fashioning the state after the British model and is an indictment of a judiciary unable to dispense justice justly and in reasonable time. It highlights the State's total and utter failure of delivery to the people. What else can a people do when a case filed by a man is finally decided in the life of his grandson? They will opt for rough and ready justice without expensive lawyers who drag out their cases to get more fees what with absences and leaves, injunctions and stay orders. The axiom: "Justice delayed is justice denied" has gone out of the window. When the Taliban took over Swat and Malakand and started committing atrocities, people accused the army of failure and even complicity, forgetting that we have pristine democracy now and the army can only act on the orders of the civilian government duly elected. If the army moves on its own it will be accused of overstepping its jurisdiction and making a mockery of democracy. Now, instead of launching a massive operation in Swat and Malakand that would have killed many more innocents and displaced thousands (as happened in Bajaur and the army was again accused of killing and displacing its own people) the government decided to negotiate with the Taliban and struck a peace deal so that the wanton killing of innocents would stop in return for allowing them to impose Nizam-i-Adl there. Immediately the cry went up again: "surrender"; "caving in to terrorists." What do they want? When a government does not use force to liberate a place, it is criticised. When it does use force to liberate it, it is criticised. When another government that we have ourselves elected collectively successfully negotiates peace, it is criticised. It is this confusion born of hypocrisy and duality that has created a vacuum into which the extremists are walking in. The Taliban's opponents can only beat them with ideas, not guns, ideas that fire the imagination of the people and take their support away from them. Neither can they be beaten through political negotiations held from a position of weakness or by supporting the unworkable strategies of failed foreigners whom our people distrust anyway. All this begs the most crucial question: "What do you want, O' people of Pakistan? You are not satisfied with anything. Are you expecting to wake up one morning to find that Pakistan has become Britain or America overnight? You will not become anything until you liberate your enslaved minds." This, the biggest primary cancer, has been consuming us since 1947 and has caused all our secondary cancers, like hypocrisy that prevented us from achieving nationhood and ripped Pakistan apart in 1971 and our increasing inability to tell between right and wrong. It is only after mental liberation that we will arrive at a consensus on how we wish to live our lives and then strive for it together with a tunnel vision. But if we keep waiting for a messiah to deliver us, we will get nowhere. Then only false messiahs made of clay will fool and exploit us, as many have. Yet we still love them like a slave loves his captor, cage and chains. We elect them again and yet again, but every time start bellyaching immediately for their banishment in favour of another old captor. We have to be the messiah ourselves for there is a messiah in each one of us. We duck blame by blaming others. America forces us to do things against our national interest, we say. Sure they do, for they are working only in their own national interest, not ours. If some good comes our way it is collateral benefit. The real question is: why do we listen to them? For the few pieces of silver they throw our way without which we don't think we can live? We can always say "No". Try it once and see how good it feels. All we have to do is live within our means. That's common sense that deserted us long ago. In any case, they will only keep us alive to do their dirty work for them by giving us drips without nutrition so that we don't become strong, healthy and independent. What is $1.5 billion a year? It's less than the peanuts thrown to monkeys in zoos. At the end of the day it is our own fault because the buck stops with us. The writer is a senior political analyst. E-mail: humayun.gauhar@gmail.com