AS a young judge in the provincial judiciary, I presided over the referendum that was held in Swabi on July 6, 1947, to decide the future of my home province. The result was a foregone conclusion.

The province was in the grip of wild excitement.

An atmosphere of mystic frenzy prevailed everywhere. Students and teachers, young and old, men and women, poured their idealistic zeal into the emotionalism of Pakistan. We perceived Pakistan as a bright dream, a passionate goal; the vision of paradise on Earth. Now 75 years later, there is national humiliation, economic disaster and political division. Tragedy aplenty: no drinking water, no electricity, no gas, no jobs, no cash, no end to corruption, and no hope.

The country has a rotten socio-political system in an advanced stage of decay and decomposition; its political leadership is corrupt, despotic, authoritarian, unresponsive to the basic needs of the people, accountable to none. The nation is breaking down. It has become ungovernable. At a time when leadership is desperately needed to cope with multiple crises and matters of vital importance, the country needs the kind of leadership that would put it on the right path.

Surveying the past, Pakistan looks somewhat wistfully and longingly at the progress made by some other countries in our part of the world. It is not inconceivable that if fate had been less malignant and our political leaders less corrupt and greedy, today Pakistan might have been not only more secure and stable, but more prosperous and advanced in all that makes life worth living.

The country is trembling with anxiety. This is a moment of deep anguish for all Pakistanis. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s unworthy successors have pushed us to despair. They have infused our life with corruption, terror, death, poverty and hyperinflation. The nation has lived so long in the embrace of death that violence has become more normal than calm.

Like dinosaurs, disaster and frustration roam the country’s political landscape. Talk today is of a vanished dignity, of a nation diminished in ways not previously imaginable. It is almost as if no one wants to acknowledge a sad end to what once seemed a beautiful dream.

We are in a period of moral lassitude that has brought the profession of politics into disrepute. Pakistan has turned cynical and has jettisoned the last vestiges of idealism on which the people had hoped the nation’s polity would be based. It is in deep, deep trouble, is going down the tube and nobody cares.

How have we played our part since independence? My generation has nothing to be proud of. We are leaving behind a splintered, impoverished country, plagued by political, ethnic and sectarian divisions.

The political leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they have been on for a while now leads downhill. It appears as if we are on a phantom train that is fast gathering momentum and we cannot get off. “What the end will be”, wrote Thomas Carlyle, “is known to no mortal; that the end is near, all mortals may know”. It is that bleak.

Roedad Khan
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2022

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