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Thoughts before polls


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MY wife and I react differently to television coverage of killings by bombs and guns, and to devastation caused by intolerance and greed of a few over a large number of people.

Tears roll down her soft face. My face hardens in anger. My sight is focused on what should never have happened. It shows on the deeply creased face of an old woman, a little child’s cry from hunger and the young woman’s frustration on not being able to eke out even a drop of milk from her shrunken breasts.

Both of us gaze unbelievingly at the horrendous mauling of innocent citizens, including women and children and their bodies wrapped in white cloth. We are shocked and numbed by the inertia of the law enforcement agencies. We are told that some of the bodies underneath the white sheets have had their heads chopped off and had been stuffed in gunny bags before being thrown into a nullah from where they were eventually retrieved.

The bombs and bullets have caused trauma and tribulation not just this year, but year after year. We bemoan the poor and the homeless whose abodes are now a pile of bricks and mortar while their inhabitants are victims of intolerance, greed or both.

The violence inherent in human beings will continue to grow until the political leadership decides to put a stop to it. Even if we have not yet reached the point of total despair the citizens have begun to wonder whether our rulers have it in them to carry out the correction.

We emerged shattered from a series of military dictatorships when the rule of law and will of the people ceased to exist. We had hoped that power of the Pakistani people would now prevail. But soon we found ourselves in a worse predicament. In this ostensibly democratic system, the looting, the burning, the murders, the brutal butcheries, the use of deadly arms has a pattern of continuing anti-people policies.

All political personalities are ring-leaders of the same military-feudal-tribal-bureaucratic system. The will of the people never counted in the past and does not do so in the present. What of the future, we wonder?

A healthy functioning of the political system is not possible unless care is taken to encourage a variety of concepts and disciplines which give cognisance to the plurality of political and cultural values, linguistic and regional aspirations; a system that is sensitive to a lively consensus on policymaking and implementation to nurture a genuine national culture. But soon this policy recedes with the destruction of institutions, the rise of personality cults and the opportunist’s play of factions.

Analogous to this dismal political situation is the passion of our rich elite seeking a higher and more affluent status. One has no quarrel with rewarding genuine entrepreneurship, but political leverage to corner the country’s wealth and twisting the norms of governance to suit corrupt and partisan practices is not acceptable.

Enterprise and development measures have to be matched by institutional commitment to a fair distribution of resources and a just economic policy. The opulence of the rich alongside the abject poverty of the masses is the picture Pakistani society today presents to the world.

As for the appalling law and order situation, we know our police is corrupt and would go to the extent of conceding what the 19th-century English novelist wrote, “The terrorist and the policeman both come from the same basket.”

But, for heaven’s sake, which institution in this ‘land of the pure’ is not so? Therefore the solution does not lie in replacing one wrong with another, more grievous, wrong. In actuality we are permitting paralysed, unthinking, self-centred and immature governance to treat our problems when we need men and women who can comprehend the challenges before us.

The transition from one ruling culture to another cannot be anything but messy and chaotic; but it would be less so if the task is vested in a well-informed and honest people mobilised at every level to lift the fog of confusion. Here are a few questions that we need to address to ourselves:

— Why do we allow lawlessness to perpetuate and thrive and people to be killed and mauled as a kind of political expediency? Are there no other means of winning people’s hearts — and votes?— Why do we allow religious places to be attacked and innocent worshippers killed just because another extremist group attacked the people of their sect — and take no action in either case?

— Why are political assassinations from Liaquat Ali Khan to Murtaza Bhutto, Zia-ul-Haq to Benazir Bhutto and numerous others never solved and their reports made public?

— If assassins named in the first information report are captured why do we take a U-turn and the real culprits make good their escape or take refuge behind legal hocus-pocus?

— Why are alleged killers bumped off in encounters? Because they did the deed or knew who did it which may embarrass the powerful.

Pakistan has the potential both for prosperity and self-destruction. For some inexplicable reason we have chosen the second option.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (4) Closed

khanm Apr 16, 2013 07:02am
Pakistan has the potential both for prosperity and self-destruction. For some inexplicable reason we have chosen the second option. If the writer would have invested more time to find the cause and solution than the article would have been more interesting. We all know what the disease is. we need to find cure before it spreads out of proportion. I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
mustafa Apr 16, 2013 07:25am
Who will decide what is right or wrong if perhaps I know it what is the guarantee that its right in other`s view. Many Pakistanis today know the real issues of Pakistan but many are unaware of them and live in an imaginative world in which violence against the innocent is justified for the evils prevailing in our society. The main issue is that these have no access to the outer world and live in a cocoon of their own. In what way could a commoner in urban society stop prevalence of intolerance if his vote is not enough for that. Any practical suggestions?
Bharat Apr 16, 2013 10:05am
The burning question is ... Why did you choose the second option?
Khan of Kalabagh Apr 16, 2013 06:36pm
nobody can force the second option on us till the time we accept it ourself, we as a nation needs self analysis for everything bad happening in the land.