MIR ADNAN AZIZ The rich have become richer, the poor have become poorer and the vessel of state is driven between anarchy and despotism (Percy Shelley). In medieval folklore vampires, the fiends of the underworld, were fabled creatures of the night. They rose from the graves and roamed the earth feeding on the lifeblood of innocent victims. Today we are afflicted with modern 'vampires', the musical chair political leadership that simply refuses to fade away. Be it night or day, they have honed and perfected their craft to levels of the most devious sophistication and efficacy. This new breed does not seek out blood; instead, they suck away the monetary and financial life of those ruled. In its pernicious form addiction and denial are sure signs of its presence. No longer content to seek out individual victims, they now prey upon the entire nation. In a feeding frenzy, their greed and covetousness dominates their souls; the craving a fetter that poisons the heart and deludes their minds. The insatiable lust for wealth begets an excessive greed for power. How can one escape these denizens of the lower regions? Neither 'reconciliation' nor compassion is an appropriate response to these predators lest it has been defeated and contained. Having no respect for compassion it will only use its destructive power again and again. If given an inch, it will take a mile. We must recognise it, protect ourselves from its devastation, and ultimately deprive it of its murderous energy. The world, at large, has moved on into the 21st century with new values and internationally accepted standards of civility and governance. Tragically our own political landscape remains dominated by primitive greed, hatred and acrimony while the citizenry is stricken by fear and hunger. The government has gone for a toss while the nation, in all respects, is sinking. We have become a nation in which ordinary people see little hope of advancement. They see political involvement as pointless because to them in the end it is only the interests of the corrupt elite that get served. At the national level corruption has been rampant in the executive, administrative and bureaucratic institutions. The contributing factors have been non-existent accountability and absolute politicisation of institutions. On the societal level, as a trickle down effect, it has seeped into the very fabric of our lives with the stark realisation that only money makes the job get done. This problem began as the public office gradually ceased to be a platform for rendering selfless service to the people and morphed into a shortcut for financial empowerment. Since then, brigands of public officers have looted the nation blind with utmost impunity. Done that, they have 'retired' into abundance and incredible plenty; without any fear of anyone ever prying into the ill-gotten wealth they flaunt with utmost abandon. In our political scene this elite controls and holds the political and economic jugular of the nation in its chokehold. We are getting the sort of politicians who succeed in the political context which we have created. Principled, honest and wise people, who would best serve us as leaders, do not enter politics or else are unable to compete there. Why do we set the bar so low for our politicians and public office holders? Could it be that we no longer value these attributes highly and as a result such individuals are no longer produced in our society? Our bloated ministries and bureaucracies are packed with cronies who reek of graft, venality and inefficiency. The 'government' has become the arena of self-enrichment with everybody who wants to be rich vying for the same. When confronted with the fact, they engage in self-serving jurisprudence to defend their despicable conduct. Does anybody stand a chance within this narrow lane of framework in our political order? What could be more ironic that the president hunkered in his presidential bunker is seen to be doing so for the immunity it offers him from legal prosecution. His served time as the symbol of the federation seems to be one devoid of any empathy, his indifference in the face of human suffering a denial of the very humanity of those that suffer. This whole NRO shame-show benefited thousands of criminals and plunderers. Unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats and individuals sold their souls and yet were inducted in the hall of shame, billed as saviours. The saving grace for some, now, is the national flag lapel pins that adorn their hearts; their heartbeats vying for all else but a vibrant Pakistan. Let us hope and pray this current crisis definitely evolves a new generation of untainted leaders from within minus the NRO and SRO baggage. It is only when the leadership is honest and inspiring can it mobilise a critical mass of people towards an agenda of real change. It is only when the people themselves take on the burden of reshaping the nation can they move it to greater heights. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:miradnanaziz@gmail.com