In Punjabi a proverb is widely used “Anni Pai Hui Ay” where as the closest Urdu version is “Andhair Nagri”. The blind pursuit of self-interests is spreading blindness in the nation. Institutions, SOPs, rules, regulations and laws can be over ruled to please the influential and the powerful. Merit has lost its meaning in the land of the pure.

I remember my first train journey to Karachi in October 1958. Iskander Mirza was the President when we boarded the train in Lahore while Ayub Khan had taken over by the time we arrived at Karachi. According to the General and later Field Marshal Politicians had “Anni Pai Hui” which needed to be replaced by light and stability. He decided to engage in his own “Andhair Nagri”. From imposing his own constitution all the way to plots and permits he had it covered. When his “Anni” became unbearable we the students decided to challenge his autocratic misrule.

Ayub was replaced by another General who promised to put an end to his “Anni” and replace it with a democratic order. Elections on the basis of one man one vote raised a lot of hopes. Once the power of the people is unleashed there is no going back, “Andhair Nagri” then becomes un-sustainable. After the electoral exercise when power was not transferred to the elected representatives civil war started in the Eastern Wing. Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) came into power of what was left behind.

ZAB started off well. An interim constitution was promulgated in 1972 followed by the unanimous and permanent version in 1973. The democratic order reached, its peak in 1975 at that juncture ZAB opted for “Andhair Nagri”. There was Military action in Balochistan and the two opposition led governments (Balochistan, Frontier) were dismissed with the arrest of their leaders. Abdul Wali Khan President of National Awami Party (NAP) and leader of opposition in the National Assembly (NA) was detained and tried for sedation by a special tribunal set up in Hyderabad.

It was now General Zia’s turn for “Anni Panna” (Blind autocratic rule). His first attack was the constitution and the democratic gains of the seventies. He even brought religion into the equation. No one stood up to him not even his Khaki peers who had brought him into power. Article 25-A of the constitution had declared education as a right to be provided by the state in ten years. In his “Anni” he removed the time deadline replacing it with, ‘within reasonable time’, which meant never. I once asked General Jillani who was a close associate of the dictator, why was Zia not prosecuted for his anti-state acts? He had no answer.

After Zia, was blown in mid air, the era of political “Anni Masters” started. Zia introduced a new concept of manipulated democracy that has continued till today. He called it “Positive Results”. In other words after the debacle of the first free and fair elections of 1970, it was decided to play with the ballot box to produce the desired results thereby denting the sanctity of the entire electoral process. It is called “Democratic Anni” where people stand in lines to exercise their right to vote but the outcome of this effort is decided at the “Kutchery”.

Nations are developed by collective efforts for common good which is missing in our approach since October 1958 when “Anni Panna” started by a third rate soldier who had a very poor record of service and was super seeded by the father of the nation himself. Same holds true for Zia and Musharraf the third and fourth usurpers who should have gone home much earlier. Legacy of their “Andhair Nagri” continues till today through the political contaminants they have left behind that is why “Anni Pai Hui Ay”.

Is there a way out of this “Anni”, the answer is certainly yes. For the will of the people to prevail the sanctity of the ballot has to be restored followed by adherence to the constitution and rule of law. For the common good to prevail vested, self-interests have to be curtailed and regulated. Manipulated ballots produce “Anni Masters” in the garb of democracy. Accountability is a continuous process that has long-term effects like the Chinese Herbal Medicine. There are no short-term solutions to decades of “Ani” but the procedural corrections have to be introduced and their application ensured through surviving state institutions.

The sacrifices of our parents in the freedom struggle and then institution building should not go in vain. Those who are responsible for “Anni Pai” should be exposed and cornered for nation building to start again. The process has been stalled since long. We are like a ship that will either sink or float with all of us on board, if it goes down everyone on the upper and lower decks will drown together. There will be no “Apni Apni” bouncy. This “Andhair Nagri” is spreading darkness which is always the beginning of the end unless it is replaced with light. The heat generated by “Anni Pai Hui” has the potential to melt the entire edifice of the nation which must be reversed for the sake of our coming generations.