Politics is hardly ever free from shades of grey. In Pakistan, it is downright dirty. The verbal assaults, character assassinations, mutual disrespect, loot and plunder and violence have come to be considered by the public as norm rather than exception. The competition is who can shout louder and who can steal more without leaving a trace.

For a short while, Imran Khan appeared as a knight in shining armour for the public desperately looking for a real change. A mainly voluntary gathering of an enthusiastic and charged mammoth crowd in Lahore had instantaneously raised him to the mantle of a serious contender in the national politics. He seemed single-minded and determined to replace the tried, old, corrupt and dynastic politicians and revolutionalise our politics by introducing educated and competent youth with fresh faces and carrying no baggage.

That hope faded away as fast as his ‘tsunami’ of public rallies was matched by a sea of similar rallies by other political parties. The meteoric rise attracted opportunists and advocates of pragmatism like a magnet offering their own recipes of how to win the elections that now seemed distinctly possible. He was talked into coming to terms with the beaten track of ‘sure seats and ground realities’, synonyms for the status quo - precisely what Imran Khan was supposed to be up against.

Following the traditional route of electoral compromises, he commenced wooing and inducting old faces with less than illustrious past disregarding their history of changing sides at the throw of a coin. Most of them had fallen out or were discarded by their previous comrades and were waiting in the wings for an appropriate time, seeking to grab another opportunity with the best odds to back a winning horse. His demonstrated policies that had brought him to the zenith of his 17-year career as a politician were put in the reverse gear. His party is now no different to the other squabbling colleagues who identify the problems, but offer no solutions nor inspire much confidence. Meanwhile, the untapped and unclaimed talent that drew inspiration from his straight talk and past glamour has been elbowed out from the front rows. The glimmer of hope that promised a new identity to the mutilated face of our nation is dwindling. Back to square one!

Our nation today is faced with unprecedented economic, political and social challenges. Successive rulers have experimented with various half-baked systems of governance during the last six decades. Each one of them had some merit and could be made to work, but each failed to steer our destiny in the right direction as the people at the helm and their political philosophies remained stagnant. Our politicians may possess abundant political skills and personal charisma to manipulate emotional crowds, but have lacked the administrative and technical capabilities that are needed to run the country. The present dispensation that is a galaxy of the star politicians have run the country to the ground, as they have refused to change with times. They cherish igniting meaningless controversies and entangling into legislation that has no impact on the well being of the people or the progress of the nation.

Extraordinary situations need to be addressed by extraordinary measures. The political class must change course from the daily dramas of political manipulation and jugglery to focus single-mindedly on building the nation and developing the economy. That would require transforming the political parties into professional organisations. The politicians should restrict themselves to act on the advice of their think tanks and to prepare public opinion to sell those ideas and policies. Each ministry must develop teams of technocrats, engineers and management experts for the planning and implementation of the schemes.

Only those people that have problem-solving, entrepreneurial and production skills can put this nation back to the path of progress. There should be zero tolerance for rhetoric without substance, empty promises and impractical ideologies that should be left for public meetings. How can scores of ministers sitting around a table in Cabinet meetings, many of whom have never done an honest day’s work in their life and have no other expertise, except oratory and pedigree to their credit, possibly contribute anything in nation building? China has maintained a consistent growth over decades following this policy that should not hurt us to replicate.

The symbolic half-a-minute detention sentence and conviction awarded to the Prime Minister by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court cut no ice with the ruling bunch that rallied around the Prime Minister. Since they command the majority in Parliament, a vote of confidence was a piece of cake just as the latest ruling of the Speaker that has further reinforced the principle of rule by the mob, setting aside the rule of law or decency. Democracy will be victorious only when the will of the majority is exercised with responsibility, the court verdicts are respected and sensibilities are not offended. This form of democracy has protected and promoted the rulers, but has failed to serve the people, the nation and the country.

Whether the Prime Minister should resign or not has triggered a debate on morality that may prove as inconclusive as most other such debates. Our nation stands divided today more than ever before. Morality can be applied where the people share beliefs, principles or ideologies that regulate their lives leading to a universally accepted behaviour within the community - not where we place personal loyalty and self-interest above fairness, care and sacrifice for national causes. Nor where we apply the principle of an action to be right or wrong for others and not the same upon ourselves and where our intentions, decisions and actions are all at variance with each other. How does the Prime Minister plan to address these issues?

n    The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.

    Email: k.a.k786@hotmail.com