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What — if anything?

July 30, 2011

WITH increasing frequency, there fall into my email inbox messages from young people, students, some studying abroad, others not so lucky back home — but none as unfortunate as the doomed eight youths of Sialkot, desperate to get out and away, who were found dead in the latter half of July in a container bound for Greece.

So desperate were those young Pakistanis for half a chance to live a better life than can be lived here that they scraped together their meagre savings and were willing to take any route as long as it took them elsewhere. Such is the state of mind prevailing in this republic.

The young e-mailers have generally been schooled in Pakistan at our better private schools, but all they appear to have assimilated is disillusion with their homeland and a wish to leave it. They ask what they can do for their country — if anything.

The same question is asked by those studying abroad whose parents urge them to stay where they are when qualified, find a job and make a life for themselves. Their quandary is that they are unable to decide whether to follow that advice or return to the homeland and try to make a difference.

They are all, whether here or there, deeply distressed by what they see as Pakistan today, a country that has evolved into an ungoverned morass. All are aware of what ails the country.

They point out that there is no governance because those who have been put where they are with an aim to govern have neither the will nor the intent, that their prime motivation is the lining of their pockets and the fleeting joys that accompany power. They have read and heard why and how, from president downwards, the main powerbrokers carry on their broad shoulders heavy baggage from yesteryear.

They know that democracy, as practised in Pakistan as a weapon of revenge, is but a joke perpetrated upon a mainly ignorant populace. They know that the government is not manned by a cluster of men and women but that it is manipulated by one man who calls the shots and is the supreme ruler, having successfully hijacked both ruling party and the presidency. They know how he is renowned for all the wrong reasons.

(But as one youth remarked, credit must be given to him for being oblivious to all criticism, for his ability to not react in the slightest, for his not having victimised — to the best of anyone’s knowledge — any of his opponents. A plus point indeed.)

They know how a once viable country has been overtaken by religious extremism which, combined with the spirit of jihad as encouraged by the military that claims to be the ideological guardian of the nation, has spread a poison that has seeped into the national mindset. They realise the inherent dangers of the false pride that boasts of the possession of nuclear assets without giving one minuscule thought to the implications of such possession.

They know how violence has swept the land — coupled with gross intolerance — from its northern borders down to the seashore where Karachi has become a vast playground for a selection of political parties and their affiliated mafias which have spawned the new breed known as target killers.

They see the dirt involved in politics as played in their country, where defectors are rewarded, where appointments are made devoid of any consideration of merit, purely on personal whims and fancies. They are worried by the fact that corruption and degeneracy are considered as assets, that honesty and integrity are taken as crass stupidities.

They know that law and order have fled, long ago, and that the few laws that operate also kill. They have seen this year how a governor of a province and a federal minister were gunned down because a succession of governments have either not wished to or have not had the guts to take on and override the forces of darkness.

They know much more, in fact they seem to know it all. What they do not know is how they wish to use their lives. So what does one tell them when they ask how they can help, or should they simply go?

Well, without a solid government which can dispense governance, the country as a whole cannot progress in any manner. Yes, there are pockets of goodness provided by the generosity of the good of the private sector, but they are but drops in a sea of wickedness. So, the answer no longer lies in joining the army with the aim to one day be head of state and sole wielder of power — that has not worked. Therefore, we must turn to democracy and seek out competence, honesty, intent of purpose and the will to do right by this overpopulated nation.

New brooms sweep clean — and that is what is needed to get rid of the rot that has permeated all facets of life, even the national mindset. New brooms must come in and wipe away, firstly, the old guard of politicians who date back to the dismal 1980s and 1990s, to weed out the grime from the administration that props them up through dishonesty and fear. The election process has to be cleaned and revamped and disqualification rules and regulations strictly adhered to. Democracy is not static, it moves with the times and its purpose is to progress not regress.

And religion as preached and practised in the land has to be brought back to its proper place in the scheme of things — strictly a matter between a man and his God. The words of the maker of the country, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, must be respected and applied — religion is not the business of the state.