The Pakistani nation amazes me no end because of its lack of individual and collective wisdom, blind and often naïve loyalty and pursuit of personal gain in utter disregard for collective good. We confer the title of Shaheed to anyone in contradiction of who, is actually worthy of the title and under what circumstances. We eulogize political celebrities in their passing, even if they are under investigation for moral turpitude or have a criminal record. In other words, we shrink from the truth and in doing so carve a path that leads only in one direction – the edge of the precipice.

I had a very ‘enlightening’ experience the other day while meeting a ruling party candidate for the local body elections. I asked him as to why he was going around in a motorcade flying the party flag, when privately he had expressed support for the other side. He looked at me as if I was a sub-intelligent creature and then said, “How else do you expect me to get funds to do the work in my area.” Almost, but not totally floored by his logic, I persevered in the larger interest of journalism and fired my second salvo. “What happened to your lectures on the need for change, fighting corruption and adhering to the truth?” He completed the demolition with the words, “You don’t know politics, but I do”.

The imposition of a tax on every bank transaction generated a violent reaction from none other than PML-N’s confirmed vote bank – the traders. I was of the opinion that the party had made a blooper that would create a dent in the party voter list, but I was proved in error the very next day, when I accompanied my daughter to a shop in Islamabad to buy some groceries. Since we were the shop owner’s regular clientele and a pleasant chat with him always provided me with ‘grist for the mill’, I asked him about the controversial tax. I was not surprised at the man’s angry reaction, which began with a tirade against the Finance Minister and ended at the complacency of the Prime Minister in setting things right. “Then this means that you will not vote for the Party in any future election”, I enquired. “Who says, I won’t. I will always vote for the Babbar Sher”, came the response. What more can I say about a nation that refuses to see the truth and decide who should govern them based on the ability to deliver.

There is an old lady, who works for my family and who we all refer to reverently as ‘Amma’. This gem of a woman recently disappeared for a day, generating concern about her whereabouts and safety. It was late evening when she reentered the house, much to our relief. It transpired that ‘Amma’ had gone to her native village (along with other members of her family) to vote and had cast her ballot for a particular party because her clan had done so. Although I was aware of this trend, I was curious to understand why people exercised (or perhaps abused) their right of adult franchise disregarding whether the candidate they were voting for could deliver or otherwise. An on the spot interview revealed that it was a combination of multiple factors that forced people to vote for a particular somebody – these factors were fear (reprisals in many forms by the powerful candidate), need and deprivation (buying and selling of votes), peer pressure (security in going along with the rest of the clan and concern of being ostracized) and narrow mindsets (resistance to change).

I have often said that if we want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the First World, we must not look for short cuts – for we will have to eradicate what ails us through deliberately managed evolution. We must, no matter what the cost, raise our next generation on the values that our Founding Father held most dear. It will be a long and slow process and many amongst us will not be around to see the fruits of what we have sown, but there will certainly be a harvest – a harvest that will lead the nation out of the viscous loop it has got itself into.