My paternal grandmother, who passed away suddenly at the ripe old age of ninety six in 1964 was a repository of historical events that shaped the Subcontinent in the pre Independence era. Born in 1868, she told us the story of how her husband’s wedding procession had to travel from Delhi to Hyderabad and return with the bride on the same route. Those were the days, when roads were hunting grounds for tigers and highwaymen. The procession was therefore escorted by one hundred armed horsemen. She often said that the most dangerous threat during the journey came from Sultana ‘Dakoo’, but this was perhaps a memory lapse as the timelines of her wedding and activities of undivided India’s legendary Robin Hood, were not the same.
Nonetheless this venerable old lady often said that every individual on the globe was surrounded by an aura and these auras collectively created an invisible all encompassing ‘atmosphere’ of happiness, sadness or even doom. In modern parlance this is termed as ‘mood’ or even morale. The current mood can be best be described as the condition of someone cast into a dark well, suddenly discovering that his prison has a way out into freedom and sunlight. This mood swing has its own disadvantage - it raises expectations that may defy logic and reason, oblivious of the fact that decades of rot cannot be magically healed in five years. This is the scenario that Pakistan’s twenty second Prime Minister has stepped into, and because of this he will have to wisely and committedly surmount difficulties, beginning with getting the nation to face in the right direction. He will be treading a path filled with tough and even unpopular decisions, but he will have to resolutely take them in the larger national interest. In other words, he will have to become ‘Hercules and clean up the Augean Stables’. The bright side of the situation is that if anyone in Pakistan can do it, it is Imran Khan, who like Napoleon does not appear to have the word ‘impossible’ in his dictionary. We also saw Pakistan’s First Lady for the first time on television and her dignified charisma was something palpable as was her spontaneous interaction with other female guests at the ceremony in the Presidency.
I have heard eyewitness accounts of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s oath taking as Governor General in Karachi and have a treasure trove of film clips covering the occasion and the spontaneous applause that followed. I then saw a long line of Prime Ministers taking oath, but the simplicity and dignity of the event on Saturday radiated a different aura, much like the one that occurred more than seven decades ago. There was no artificiality in the man of the moment. He raised his ‘sherwani’ and fumbled in his ‘kurta’ pocket for his reading glasses (while others before him had an Aide to perform this simple act) and he fumbled again with words, while reading and repeating the oath, smiling and apologizing without any inhibition. His body language reflected someone, with the cognizance of the heavy responsibility that he now carries. It was however the pervasive mood and the applause that made my day.
As far as PML N is concerned, they appear disoriented and disorganized. Their body language is sulky and increasingly despondent in sharp contrast to the PPP, which appears to have rallied well behind Bilawal. This young man has inherited the Bhutto charisma and if PTI cannot be a friend to PPP, it would be well for Imran Khan not to have a hostile relationship with that party. This will require astute politicking in view of the fact that Asif Zardari is now facing investigation on the issue of massive money laundering.
All in all, the mood amongst the Pakistani nation is upbeat and responsive. It now remains for the new Prime Minister and his colleagues to maintain it, through honest delivery and good governance. This would be ‘easier said than done’, but the ‘ask’ is not impossible.
n The writer is a historian.