A TYPICAL Pakistani can be described in several ways. However, everyone would probably agree that by his very nature, a Pakistani is passionate, emotional, and extremely spirited.
This set of characteristics has been put to the test consistently throughout our history. For example, when the 2005 earthquake struck Pakistan, the public rose to the challenge and helped their troubled brethren by donating blood, food, clothing, as well as by volunteering at relief camps.
During the lawyers’ movement, many rose above their personal differences to stand for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. And when the horrendous Peshawar school attack took place, the nation stood up in outrage and demanded justice.
Band-aid measures are not the answer to festering problems.
However, all that glitters is not gold, and in the words of Donald Calne, “the essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions”.
Although Pakistanis from all walks of life got up and assisted earthquake victims in piecing together their lives, the immediate need to do something resulted in greater focus on temporary short-term measures than permanent long-term solutions. Hence, although the government did create the National Disaster Management Authority for the purposes of managing natural disasters and their fallout, lack of political support and focus on institutional mechanisms resulted in the creation of an orphaned and under-resourced authority, and under it, subordinate disaster management bodies that were even less able to deliver.
Similarly, although the lawyers’ movement was immensely successful in achieving the immediate goal of restoring the deposed judges, there consistently remained an absence of popular will to embark upon any institutional reforms which would have transformed a judiciary largely perceived as corruption-prone into something boasting of credibility and self-worth.
In fact, the movement has undoubtedly failed to put into place any noteworthy mechanism to realise its objectives, which is perhaps one of the reasons for the ever-increasing barrage of criticism being faced by the superior judiciary nowadays.
The same trend has also been noticed in the collective reaction to the ghastly Peshawar Army Public School massacre. Because of popular sentiment, the government has been compelled to create military courts rather than remedy faults in the existing judicial set-up. It is banning terror-linked organisations but not stopping them from resurfacing with different names, and killing alleged terrorists in encounters rather than tackling them through the letter of the law.
Furthermore, this government has extended the closure of educational institutions for winter vacations rather than provide them with adequate security, promised to shut down hate-spewing madressahs whilst being unwilling to arrest clerics against whom arrest warrants have been issued, and it detains the likes of Lakhvi on flimsy grounds rather than diligently prosecuting him for his alleged involvement in grievous crimes.
The behaviour of the government and its people, today and in the past, maintains commonalities: a desire to apply a band-aid to a laceration requiring stitches, and contentment in popping a Panadol to cure cancer.
The behaviour is not malicious, ill-intended, or vile. It is simply indicative of a people who appear myopic in vision, preferring to do small and predicable things today, which have immediate currency, rather than chalk out a long-term strategy for years to come. This unwillingness to think ahead, on the face of it, appears in part to stem from a belief that long-term strategies are dependent upon unascertainable factors incapable of assessment in the present, and therefore the success of any such plan would be dubious to say the least.
Coupled with this, the public appears unable to develop the stomach to offer sacrifices in the immediate present in order to secure itself from losses in the future. If anything, when a traumatic event takes place, the public desires immediate relief from the effects of the tragedy, not a plan of action which may prolong their agony with fleeting promises of a better tomorrow.
In light of their aversion to plans inevitably contingent upon unforeseeable future events, short-term measures appear more attractive to the public, offering easy and simple solutions to complicated scenarios.
However, as can be seen from the above, the problem with such measures is that they are seldom enduring. In fact, sooner or later, metaphorically speaking, the band-aid must come off, and the Panadol put aside, with the victims left to realise that the solution to Pakistan’s problems lies not in seeking to allay the tribulations that one faces today, but in ensuring that future generations are not forced to make the same sacrifices tomorrow.
The writer is a Karachi-based attorney-at-law.
Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2015