AS flags flutter and the melody of patriotic songs pervades the air on Independence Day, Pakistan faces colossal challenges in the domestic and foreign policy realms. These challenges need a response commensurate with the gravity of the crisis.

The redeeming feature in the all-pervading gloom is the continuity of the democratic process — despite its fragility. The people responsible for this frailty are precisely those whose job it is to lend stability and respectability to the state and give hope to the people.

Regrettably, both the government and the opposition have shown a shocking proclivity for recklessness, as reflected in the political idiom they use in and out of parliament, without realising that this only adds to the electors’ contempt for the elected.

A year of rule by the government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan has seen intermittent additions to the number of advisers, besides a reshuffling of the cabinet, but one is hard put to find evidence of worthwhile progress towards implementing the countless promises the PTI chief made during the election campaign. Fiascos and U-turns have been many, the dam fund was a fiscal joke with the nation, the accountability process stands tainted, and the economy is in the doldrums.

The opposition, of course, has gloated over the governance chaos, but politically, it has proved itself equally dilettantish as seen recently in the Senate no-confidence vote. The reason is obvious: this motley group of leaders lacks a coherent strategy to make itself relevant because its fat cats have little in common, except for their hostility towards the government. Besides, the corruption mud has stuck. No wonder that with politics reduced to an epithet-laden theatre of the absurd, the chafing rise in prices and a steady decline in the quality of life have added to the people’s despondency. All this at a time when Indian perfidy in held Kashmir and the Afghan peace talks demand a stable Pakistan headed by a mature leadership that is capable of navigating the nation’s ship.

It is, of course, a ritual on Aug 14 to call for unity, but the latter is an abstract concept unless it is translated into a national asset as a cohesive force. This element of power can be actualised only when our leaders show an unswerving commitment to the rule of law.

Pakistan was achieved through a constitutional struggle, and that was one reason why the Quaid repeatedly exhorted the nation in the little time he had to uphold democratic values. Also, Jinnah never stooped low while criticising his detractors. The nation thus expects its representatives to stop being hecklers, and, instead, conduct themselves with a sangfroid that evokes the voters’ admiration and lends sanctity to parliament.

As flags flutter and melodies fill the air, let those who claim to be our leaders rededicate themselves to the values Jinnah bequeathed to his people.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2019

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