I have just finished rereading the fascinating memoirs of Lieutenant General (retired) Gul Hassan Khan. I knew this unique man on a personal level and was particularly keen to re-imbibe the chapter that covers his tenure as Aide de Camp to Pakistan’s Founding Father Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Regretfully enough, the Pakistani Nation chose to discard the principles that Jinnah held so close to his heart and in doing so, committed a blunder, the consequences of which, are apparent in all our woes.

Another great leader Mao Tse Tung, once said that ‘a fish rots from the head’. Whether taken metaphorically or in the literal sense, the statement has stood its ground, especially, when we look around at what is happening in our ‘Land of the Pure’.

We have to live with the tragic fact that our Founding Father left us prematurely at a time when the newly born state needed his presence. Conspiracy theorists have long smelled a rat at the events that hallmarked his last journey from the Airport to the Governor General’s Residence and I am not inclined to stir the hornet’s nest. The assassination of our first Prime Minister following on the heels of Jinnah’s demise was however a conspiracy that set a pattern for how we sweep stuff under the carpet. With the two strong willed leaders gone, the field was left open for politicians to play their ‘games’ blissfully averting their eyes from good governance.

It is divinely ordained that “nations get the leaders they deserve” and so it has come to pass that we have been ruled (barring our first Governor General and the first Prime Minister) by individuals - dictatorial or democratic, who have methodically shredded Jinnah’s vision of how the state of Pakistan should have prospered amongst the comity of nations.

There is however one anomaly that baffles me no end. This anomaly centers around the fact that signs of Pakistan moving on the right track were only apparent, not during a democratic political dispensation, but when two dictators i.e. Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf were calling the shots. Sadly, their success was short lived as they gradually succumbed to the coterie of politicians, who surrounded them and went astray.

Before any accusations are hurled at me for being a ‘dictator lover’, let me state unequivocally that I am a passionate supporter of democracy. The spanner in the works is thrown, not by me, but by some political Ivy League university gurus, who state that a democratic system successfully works only in the presence of three main indicators i.e. a high literacy rate, a high level of urbanisation and massive industrialisation. It is the spin offs from these indicators that raise per capita income, provide employment, lower poverty and develop political awareness to choose the right leadership.

My interaction with academicians and people with conventional wisdom at home and abroad has produced one conclusion. We suffer because our ‘head’ has been rotting for the past many decades. When the Chief Executive, the President or a political group in power supersedes national interest in favour of personal gain, then the rot begins to spread down the length of the fish. First it is the ministers and their ministries that are effected. The infection then spreads to public departments, where apathy and corruption becomes the cornerstone of poor governance.

In the rot that engulfs us, there are a few healthy patches of dedication and moral courage. One of these is a young lady who is making headlines by becoming the nemesis for those restaurant owners in Punjab, who are guilty of feeding unhygienic trash to their customers. Then there someone in the Islamabad Traffic Police, who has instilled the fear of God (through the medium of CCTV cameras) in how the driving test for issue of license is conducted. I would raise my hat (if I was wearing one) to these individuals in the sad knowledge that their endeavour will come to naught in the larger picture, unless the infection afflicting the ‘head of the fish’ is treated.

n The writer is a freelance columnist.