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Requiem for the living

August 18, 2013

When Zardari replaced Musharraf, it was a double whammy for the 180 million Pakistanis. Instead of leading the country, the two were better suited for starring in a new TV series called Mad Men that the talented playwright Haseena Moin could rustle up. The lady knows what makes for a great comedy. More power to her pen.

The two presidents have scarred the country to a point where in the words of the poet Alexander Pope ‘only fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. Under their rule, terrorism, corruption and load-shedding spawned.

Unfortunately, our wobbly establishment has failed to shake off the 14-year wreckage left behind by the two.

So, when everything else fails, what then is the option for survival? When our establishment gets a licking by the ragtag band of thugs known as Taliban, who deserves a membership to the exclusive ‘Mensa Smarts’ society that only allows entry to folks with a high IQ. Read on and be enlightened or enraged. You have the right to agree or disagree. Democracy gives you that prerogative.

Undoubtedly, the most powerful tool going today is the brain. That most will agree. It is a precious rescuer from death and destruction; or the reverse in the case of Taliban. Well, whatever … but for the brain to be effective, one of the main prerequisites is health, energy, vigour and dynamism.

Who among the current crop of leaders can we call brainy? This is not a trick question. If most of us draw a blank, then, without much ado, let’s move on to the topic of the day. Terrorism.

“Give them Vyvanse,” says a psychiatrist to a group of Pakistanis gathered for an Eid powwow at a private home in New Jersey. What! Shouts the host. How do you pronounce this word, he asks.

“It’s Vi-Van.”

The leadership appears to be suffering from “attention deficit disorder”, the psychiatrist, whom we’ll call ‘Dr P’ says. “Some of the top power wielders appear confused," he says. “Not by prayers; nor by handwringing by the 180 million citizens can their country be saved. Since they have tolerated men with low IQs, the only hope now is to seek medical treatment,” concludes Dr P.

Well, psychiatrists think they know best. Nor do they shy away from making such sweeping statements. Still what Dr P says does carry weight. His specialty is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The best treatment for this chronic condition, that shows up in different ways at different times in different people, is a drug called Vyvanse.

The trigger that has launched the living room, until now a chatterbox of tittle-tattle, into a psychiatry ward is the haunting photo of two blood-soaked boys — one dying and the other helplessly looking at the lifeless body lying in his lap with one arm dangling. Printed in the New York Times, the page with the photo lies on the coffee table. It catches the eye of the guests gathered around. Pakistan has become a slaughterhouse of the poor, wretched, faceless thousands, agree all in one voice. “In a civilised country, the heads of government, military, judiciary and intelligence would have resigned for their failure to provide security to their citizens. These chiefs in their oath of office swore on the Holy Quran to protect the lives of all citizens irrespective of sect, class or belief,” says the host.

“But in Pakistan heavens only fall if a politician uses the word ‘shameless’ against the judiciary; heavens don’t fall if hundred innocents are done to death daily.”

Ask our leaders what they can do for us and not for themselves, their sons/daughters and their personal bank accounts. Ask every single one of them — Nawaz Sharif, his cabinet, the top bureaucracy to chief ministers and their ministers and law enforcing authorities; Gen Kayani, the ISI generals and all other generals down to the lowest; the chief justice and all his Supreme Court and high courts judges — in sum everyone in the executive, legislative and judiciary. “Ask them why have they let the country down?” is the repeated chorus heard in the room, generating enough heat for the hosts to turn up their air conditioning a notch higher.

As emotions, anger and hopelessness encircles the room, outside in the sun-soaked garden under a clear blue sky play children, lost in their innocent bliss. “See the two boys in the picture,” a woman who is watching her young boys playing “these two innocents are writhing in pain … how can the leaders back home sleep at night with an easy conscience. All they do is to pass inane statements condemning the incident. That’s not good enough.”

Soon, a voice cuts through the cross talk by now out of control. “How can you expect adults suffering from ADHD to feel guilty when they need help themselves?” Asks Dr P. How can you expect them to fight the Taliban when these decision-makers are easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another? How true. See their photos — sometimes in suits, full uniforms, other times in shalwar/kamiz with their enlarged frames covering the gilded chairs under garish chandeliers and equally bizarre crystal covered in nuts before them.

Silence. Everyone agrees. Tell us more, they urge. Dr P is the man of the moment. After all, he’s the only expert in the room who can tell us why our leaders are what they are. His advice is free. Normally he’d charge big dollars if you were his patient and he’d just send you off with a prescription without any therapy while watching the clock — time is money for the brain doctors. Gone are the days when you lay on a shrink’s couch, legs spread out, trailing into la la land while the doctor frantically scribbled your crazy talk, attempting all the while, to make sense of your zany drift.

Whipping out his Tablet, Dr P, who never leaves home without his ‘baby’ quickly scrolls down to the symptoms and starts reading from the list affecting ADHD sufferers. Slowly and surely he reads each symptom of the disorder. The sufferers:

• Find it difficult to concentrate on one task; become bored with a task after only a few minutes

• Have difficulty focusing attention on organising and completing a task or learning something new

• Have trouble completing the task in hand

• Not seem to listen when spoken to

• Daydream, become easily confused, and then move slowly

• Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others

• Dislike discussions that call for in-depth review

• Often avoid, dislike, or are reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as reading research papers and reports)

• Difficulty starting tasks

These decades-old symptoms, germinating in men at the helm from the time of independence, have today fully invaded, multiplied and found permanent hosts among the inmates at all the seats of power across the board.

The disorder straddles Punjab, KP, Sindh and Balochistan and their assembly men, policemen and saab log occupying top seats. As for KP where nothing has changed except the name of the Frontier province — the only piece of ‘statesmanship’ under Zardari government, the latest gem came from its IG police who jokingly told the media after 400 militants along with prisoners escaped from the DI Khan jail: this is not a 20/20. This is a test match where the Taliban bat and we bowl and at other times we bat and the Taliban bowl.

The more honourable thing for our leaders — civilian and military is to resign when innocents are butchered daily.