S. Tariq We are sick Very sick, indeed It would not have mattered if our disease was in our physical self, but regretfully we, as a nation, suffer from multiple illnesses of the mind. To make matters worse, we refuse to acknowledge that we have become compulsive liars and megalomaniacs. We display inflated egos with a veneer of humility that disappears at the drop of a hat. We love to display our 'mug shots' on banners, posters and hoardings in a shameless display of narcissism and sycophancy. We have lost the ability to face our demons with courage and speak the truth, even if it means our fall from grace and power. We have run short of patience, forbearance, courtesy and last but not the least, we have lost the single most important quality that makes nations great - conscience. The key answer that epidemiologists seek in the event of an outbreak is to determine the source of the disease. We do not have to look far to discover the origin of our condition; it is right here in the form of those that have run this country and its institutions for the past six decades and continue to do so even now. It is their role modelling and more often than not approval, which has incubated and sustained the malady that has maimed us as a nation. But wait Do I detect faint undercurrents of panic among these people? Are we on the brink of discovering a cure that will return our sanity? Are we on the threshold of a momentous change? The harbinger of this change has made a covenant with the people and repeatedly reiterated it - to restore Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Pakistan to the nation. Let him be warned that the same youth that may one day put him at the helm of national affairs or in the least bestow upon him the power to 'check and balance', will not tolerate the breaking of this commitment. I have watched this man on the 'pitch and have seen him create two great facilities to bring succour to those who carry the deadly curse of malignancy and others who yearned for knowledge, but could not afford it. His singularity of purpose has amazed me, but can he maintain the same grit and focus in returning something that we appear to have lost in our headlong rush to the precipice - freedom from uncertainty and fear, national dignity and pride. Speaking of national dignity and pride - these are the virtues that we have thrown out of the window. We have somehow come to believe that wealth, power and politics is a licence for lack of dignified behaviour. From talk shows on television to public meetings, political celebrities speak and act in a manner that puts viewers to shame. Our national image has warped itself to the extent that our passport elicits surreptitious nods and looks by foreign immigration officers, followed by 'diligence' that says in not so many words: "We do not welcome the likes of you here." We also consider it 'macho' to break the law and feel good about it. I used to pride myself on the fact that Islamabad was a city where you could not break a traffic law and get away with it. I am embarrassed to admit that the capital is well on its way to competing with Lahore and other cities in this regard. There is an outside chance that this column is read by those who run the affairs of Islamabad Traffic Police and we see respect for the law being enforced once again. Many years ago, my passion for gardening took me to a small shop in Amsterdam that sold indoor plants. It turned out that the old lady behind the counter was planning a vacation in India and Indonesia with her husband. Unable to resist the opportunity of repaying a miniscule part of my debt to the 'Land of the Pure', I went into a mini-presentation and suggested that she visit Pakistan, instead of India. She looked at me intently and then said in a quiet manner, "but how can we visit a place where there is unhealthy drinking water and no sanitation, and where tourists get robbed and murdered." It took me a good part of the following hour to explain to her that what she had said was not true. I left the shop after eliciting a promise from her that she would come and visit me as my guest in Islamabad. It has now been more than a decade since the episode and I am still waiting for my guests to arrive, fully in the knowledge that they will never come. The writer is a freelance columnist.