Mowahid Hussain Shah Lahore during this January was mired in fog, which crippled air, rail and road movement. These woes were compounded by unusually biting cold, along with gas and electricity shortages, further reinforced by the fog of political confusion and uncertainty. Despite the shortage of energy, there has been no shortage of the energy required to indulge in political manoeuvring. Central to political movements are differing conspiracy theories. It almost is becoming a cultural habit to ascribe happenings to plots, schemes and ruses. While people may be mired in the fog of conspiracy theories, the single greatest conspiracy passes unnoticed and does not attract sufficient attention. It is the conspiracy to make a lot of money quickly. Many politicos describe themselves as brave but, if they were really brave, they would eschew the naked pursuit of pelf. At the root of the national conundrum is the insatiable greed for accumulating riches. Those who are steeped in this rat race do get occasional rewards, but at the national expense. Many of the problems related to this are foreseeable and preventable. Under the display of democracy, mini-Mughal style dynasties are flourishing. At the same time, the burning issues of governance are lying unaddressed. At home, these include, but are not limited to, healthcare, education, police reforms, law and order, crushing inflation, and joblessness. Their cumulative impact is low national morale and a despairing and frustrated youth. Opportunity is entrenched as a privilege for the select few, rather than an equal and legitimate expectation for the many. Abroad, consider Kashmir. Kashmirs case has been squandered by poor articulation, preparation, and presentation. Seldom have the envoys sent abroad missed an opportunity to embarrass themselves and mess-up the message. The results are obvious. The cultural fixation with social faade and showy piety conceals the lack of substance. The rulers follow either personal or foreign agendas. Meanwhile, the national agenda gets hit for a six. The motivator remains illicit money. Those who have tried to bring change in this mindset flounder at the finishing line, especially so, when their efforts collide with personal gains. The failure to develop community spirit through the instilling of core Islamic values of hygiene, comradeship, amity, empathy, and fairness has derailed the quest to inculcate a nation-building ethos. The me-centric mindset is prone to misuses of power, privileges, affluence and even faith-related matters. This is evident when it comes to daily dealings and interactions. The key test for society is to re-evaluate its current direction and ask whether it is compatible with national dignity, security and prosperity. If it is, the set-up needs to be further empowered. If not, then the set-up, along with its management, needs to be changed. Hazrat Ali once advised: Knowledge is better than wealth. Knowledge protects you, while you protect wealth. Wealth is diminished by spending, while knowledge grows by use. Those who accumulate wealth have perished even though they are alive, while those with knowledge last as long as time. To begin with, the first step to take is to thwart the culture and conspiracy of seeking absolute wealth in the shortest possible timeframe. In that could be the key to national salvation. The writer is a barrister and a senior political analyst.