WITH Pakistan Day being celebrated in the country today, we would do well to wonder for a while if the day is being ‘celebrated’ or merely ‘observed’. Away from the official pressers about the customary ‘zeal’ and ‘fervour’ marking the day, the stark reality of instability and uncertainty is hard to ignore. The country that is being handed down to the young generation is far from the country that the forefathers had talked and worked for.

How bleak is the state of affairs of the state of Pakistan can be seen from the country’s position on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) where it is ranked 99th out of 121 countries. Those below us happen to be all African countries with the exception of Afghanistan and Yemen. But rather than feeling ashamed of our placement, many of us have a reason to rejoice; India is ranked 107th. That should mean we have nothing to worry about, right?

This attitude of complacency and lack of urgency towards addressing the pressing issue of hunger and mal-nutrition in the country are disappoin-ting and disheartening. The fact is that our GHI ranking is a grim reminder of the deep-rooted food crises and grossly unequal distribution of resources plaguing the land.

The insidious grip of economic inequa- lity, coupled with the vested interest of the ruling elite, has left the masses to wither away in a vicious state of perpetual hunger and misery.

The suffering of the impoverished masses, who are forced to sleep hungry and consider it a stroke of luck to receive more than one meal per day, is a lasting mark on our national conscious- ness, if such a consciousness even exists. Their potential to contribute to the development of the country remains untapped and wasted, as their physical and mental growth are stunted by the scourge of malnutrition. The heart-wrenching reality of this situation is simply too much to bear, and it is high time we addressed this humanitarian crisis with the urgency and empathy it deserves.

The citizens are well aware of the rhetoric of their heartless leaders. The constant blame-game and finger-pointing within the ruling class have only served to exacerbate the problem, leaving the most vulnerable members of society to bear the brunt of the lingering, never-ending crisis.

Now is the time for the leaders to show some ‘zeal’ and ‘fervour’ by brushing aside their political-cum-personal differences, and working together towards finding a united response, and ultimately a way out of the impasse. The lives and wellbeing of millions of citizens are at stake, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that no one goes hungry to the bed in the land of pure. It is high time our politicians recognised the gravity of the situation and took concrete steps to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable segments of society.

It is important for the political leaders to take responsibility and act responsibly. Instead of hiding behind excuses or passing the buck around, the politicians should target the wellbeing of their fellow citizens.

It is crucial for our political leaders to understand the ground reality of the lives of the people they claim to serve, and that can only be achieved by experiencing those realities first-hand instead of simply talking about them. Politicians must step out of their comfort zones and spend time in the commu-nities they represent, listening to the voices of hurt and latent anger, and understanding their basic needs and struggles.

It is only by experiencing the harsh realities themselves that the politicians can even imagine taking the decisions that are needed to be taken. ‘Zeal’ and ‘fervour’ are fine, but a bit of understanding also helps if one aspires to be a true leader. It is disconcerting to see scripted speeches on national days.

Rakhshanda Abbas
Gilgit

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2023

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