A better day can dawn

Published October 10, 2021
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

FROM the ‘same page’ bliss to a right royal mess is quite a spectacular journey in such a short span of time and one that is definitely not in the gift of lesser mortals like you and I; it takes the chosen few with their hands on our destiny tiller to create a crisis like the one we are not supposed to have noticed.

Notwithstanding professional, political, personal or spiritual compulsions, or a mix of these, for the decision and the differing points of view on it, what cannot be explained away is the rather sorry breakdown in the communication between those at the helm of the Islamic Republic.

In any case, nothing’s been burned to the ground. Not yet at least. But, given the past experience of similar situations, a fuse may have been lit, a chain reaction triggered that could potentially draw blood sometimes over the next 12 months.

The economy is in dire straits, Pakistan’s foreign policy options seem to be narrowing down to too few and, as a consequence, the national security challenges are on the rise, and this is how those in charge of the executive and key state institutions respond.

Those who rather cleverly undermined popular will also made a bed in which they must lie now.

But then nobody guaranteed unbroken hybrid harmony. Not with the sort of egos and ambitions we know are, and have been, in the fray. Hardly any principle is at play here. You can go ahead and accuse me of being selective in harping on the civilian supremacy mantra. But am I?

Hand on heart, tell me if you believe that what we have in place today is the result of a level playing field, a manifestation of popular will? Also, if the state of the media, which is no more than a broken shadow of its past, is the result of civilian supremacy having been upheld over the past three years?

It most definitely is not. Neither is tying your fate to one state employee being in a particular position and believing your longevity in office hinges on that individual rather than the will of the millions you say put you in office. Tragically, the contradictions don’t end there.

Those who rather cleverly undermined popular will and produced a piece of marvellous political engineering also made a bed that they must lie in now. The only tragedy is the shirtless multitudes who are left holding nothing but an empty bowl and for whom tomorrow holds no better.

What happened this week may have been shocking for some but fitted a pattern so well that it could have been predicted with a high degree of certainty. Where various hybrids combine it is for mutual benefit as had been evidenced. The consequences on the wider canvas is a different story.

But when interests or priorities are not aligned between hybrid elements, with the added twist of poor communications, the spectacle is sorry and sad. Just as the one being witnessed mostly in silence as these lines are being written.

The one place where news, views and, yes, kite flying too is abundant is on social media platforms, which those at the helm understandably wish to muzzle, after the media, because they fear the sort of exposure their faux pas have received in recent weeks.

Had it not been for social media many of us would have been relaxed, with little to remind us of the crumbling edifice that was so masterfully put in place that it would put to shame the best of Machiavellian disciples and practitioners.

The beauty of it was it left nothing to chance. Principles were not the motivation for orchestrating the many moves that were initiated. These were taken to their conclusion with the precision and brutality that is the hallmark of only one entity in the country. And a harmonious system was born.

However, harmony rooted in gratitude and expediency was always going to run its course. It always does. Power goes to the head. Everybody who has tasted it would testify to that. It would take a saint, a dervish to resist but then where have you heard in history of a dervish seeking office.

Regardless of how much of it is real or perceived, if power is going to your head and propelling you down an authoritarian path and if the culture around you is so bereft of integrity that nobody is counselling you against it you are doomed.

Sooner or later your power high, your vanity will pull you under. That is a given; only the time frame isn’t. Another unknown is what or who else you are taking down with you. To me this principle is universally applicable ie vertically and horizontally.

But don’t despair. This is not an attempt at painting a doomsday scenario. Every crisis brings within it an opportunity. You are well within your rights to ask if your columnist is delusional because any talk of opportunities amidst what appears to be a dismal situation has to be.

Not sure if the situation moves in that direction by design or by the force of circumstances and contrived events that were triggered half a decade ago but, I suspect, things will move to a reset. I may be an optimist but I try and temper my view with a healthy amount of realism.

When the ‘now’ is not viable and can’t be sustained, it is incumbent on all those who claim to shape our destiny to do their obvious duty: set aside their own ambitions/egos, uphold the Constitution and return to seek the people’s opinion.

Let the process be above board or the reset will be back to acrimony and divisions. No point in repeating the follies of the past. If we have Pakistan’s future and prosperity at the top of our priority list, a better tomorrow can be built.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2021


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