I could not capture the Pakistani imagination, so I captured the Pakistani State. And I love it.

See, here I can have my cake and eat it too. If I don’t get the cake, the cake-maker gets to eat a knuckle sandwich. And trust me, that doesn’t taste too good.

I own this place. I run this place. How? Because I’m better than the rest. I’m richer, I’m more powerful, often I’m more educated and I make the rules that others follow. In fact, oftentimes, I am the State.

Who am I? I am what I symbolise. I am what I represent. I am what I own. And I am what I am because I can do for others what the State is supposed to do for others. The light of the State shines through me so that others can bask in my reflected glory.

And I never die.

Yes, I am immortal. I am so, because I am not an individual. I am a state of mind that has spawned a culture of elitism. My ephemeral nature has seeped into the deepest bowels of this society, moulding minds and shaping aspirations of even those who have nothing to hold on to except their dreams. Some do not even have this.

So they all want to be me.

That is what power does. It attracts people. It makes them want to bend rules, twist laws and violate morality. So if everyone wants to be me, I can’t really be that bad now, can I?

I am here, there, and everywhere through the ages. Yes, I bribed the politicians to steal an election. Why, you ask? Well, because I damn well could. I captured the nation four times in uniform, because I could. I won elections and made money so I can win the elections again, because I could. I slapped a poor teacher in a polling station because I could.

Yes, I milk State resources, because I can. Yes, I appropriate your money and funnel it to my loyalists, because I can. Yes, I give State jobs even when there are none, because I can.

I do all this because I am a hard-nosed realist, not a dreamy- eyed bleeding heart. I live in a hard society and I know how to navigate through it successfully. This is Pakistan, my friend, and Pakistanis respect strength. They like the feel of a cold, hard, sharp steel across their throats. I hold that steel.

So let’s stop being hypocrites. I did not acquire political success by playing straight in a twisted system. Ever tried hammering square pegs in round holes? I win because I tell my voters and my loyalists I will do things for them. Then I do them, right or wrong. If I play by the rules, I lose. Oh sure, turn all sanctimonious on me, but come down to the grassroots level and then try preaching do-gooder morality. You will be laughed out of the constituency.

To do things for my people, I need the power and the resources. State power and State resources. Yes, I would love to follow merit, but here’s my problem: merit often means my voters and my loyalists - the very people who enabled me to capture State power and State resources – may not get what I have promised them. What do I do? Be meritorious and a loser in the next elections, or a scoundrel but a winning scoundrel? No, the choice is not as easy as it sounds.

Whenever my conscience troubles me, I remind myself this is Pakistan. And here people respect the man who can get things done. Who doesn’t want respect? I sure as hell do. Respect gets me votes.

This guy worked day and night for me in my campaign. He’s my key loyalist. His son can’t get into college on merit. What do I do? Follow merit? How will I look him in the eye? Get it?

And this gentleman here, he’s the local tough. He puts the fear of God - and fear of me - in the hearts of men. He just killed a man. Should I let him hang? Are you nuts?

You think I don’t know all this is wrong? I’ve seen how nations with rule of law work. I have been to countries where no one is above the law. I like these societies. I respect these societies. But I don’t live in these societies. And neither do my voters.

Yes, I too want a Pakistan where the will of men bends to the will of law. I too want a Pakistan where merit prevails and the best rise to the top. I too, my friend, want a Pakistan where justice is blind and where voters vote with their conscience, not with their greed birthed by depravity.

But I know I do not have this Pakistan. So I can dream such dreams when I’m asleep, but when I’m awake I deal with what is, not what should be. Does that make me a bad person?

I wish I could give jobs to all Pakistanis. But I can’t. So I do the second best thing: I give jobs to friends, family and loyalists. I wish I could have all Pakistanis make good money. But I can’t. So I do the second best thing…

No I don’t have a nine-to-five job. But I gotta make money. What choice do I have? Not only do I have to feed my family, I have to cover the expenses I bear on the endless stream of constituents. So sometimes I acquire State contracts, sometimes I get permits to open a petrol station or build a plaza or have the contractor I appointed take me on as a silent partner to share funds, which I allocated in the first place.

Conflict of interest? Corruption? What would you have me do? Join a bank?

Yes, I travel with an armed escort. Yes, I ride a humungous jeep, which costs more than the total electricity bill of my village – for a year. Yes, I love police hooters filled with obnoxious guards. Why? Because this earns me respect, and awe. Why blame me? In Pakistan, everyone needs foot soldiers for protection, and power projection. The generals have their troops, politicians have their burly guards (ask the bakery guy), sardars have their tribesmen, landlords have their village toughs.

And judges have the lawyers.

No force of logic here is stronger than knowing that I can incur serious bodily harm on you. Works like a charm. Everytime.

Why is it so hard for you to understand that we are a tribal society with a tribal mentality. You mess with me, and my men and I will mess with you. Simple. And when I have State power, then my police will mess with you. It’s the extension of the same logic, my friend. You ignore it at your peril.

This is, after all, Pakistan. Here, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

And I know practically everybody. Because I am the Elite, and I have captured the State.

God, I love it.

The writer is the host of “Tonight with Fahd” on Waqt News. Email: fahd.husain1@gmail.com Twitter: @fahdhusain