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Calling all cynics

Published Dec 13, 2011 06:52am


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Cynicism is the last refuge of the disillusioned idealist. Jilted by unmet expectations and jaded by dashed hopes; the disillusioned idealist eventually resigns himself to reality and finds some semblance of peace in cynicism.

The multitudes of problems that have beset Pakistan over the last decade have swelled the ranks of the cynics. This is a grave danger to the future of Pakistan because cynicism induces inertia. It creates an environment where people give up even before trying. It can push society so far into the depths of despair that it starts exhibiting Learned Helplessness: a condition where people behave helplessly to the extent that when an opportunity is provided to escape the oppression to which they have been subjected, they fail to seize it.

The root cause of cynicism in Pakistan has been the inability of people to take their destiny in their own hands. For most of Pakistan’s history, the reins of power have alternated between military rulers and two political clans. These players are still looming large on the horizon and to call them a juggernaut would not be an overstatement. Such entrenched power structures are notorious for being tough to dislodge.

Case in point: The US of A.

In 1961, US President Eisenhower warned his countrymen to beware the “military industrial complex”. His warning fell on deaf ears and today America lies securely in the stranglehold of this behemoth, with next to no hope of breaking free.

According to US Presidential candidate Ron Paul, the “military industrial complex” has effectively reduced the US political spectrum to a 1-party system. Much like Pakistani political bouts, American political rivalries are also Noora Kushti; only better choreographed. Devoid of any hope, the cynical American peers across the horizon, but all he sees is pitch darkness. Owing to the circumstances he finds himself in, his cynicism is incurable.

With the emergence of Imran Khan as a viable national leader, the prognosis for the Pakistani cynic is much better. Imran Khan has openly challenged the powers-that-be. He has not shied away from confronting the political clans that have presided over Pakistan’s descent into despair and neither has he towed the army line.

Accusations of being in cahoots with the military establishment have been levelled against him, but his policy positions on many issues belie those accusations. His long-standing opposition to military operations in the tribal areas, his conciliatory approach to quelling the Balochistan insurgency and above all his proposed guarantee of preventing any militants from slipping into Indian-occupied Kashmir put him diametrically opposed to perceived military policy on all these issues . What’s more, he has vowed to bring the army under civilian control and has said that he would resign if he failed to do so. He has gone as far as to say that if he comes to power he will be General Kayani’s boss.

I stated this before, but it warrants repetition that dislodging well-entrenched power structures is no cake walk. Imran Khan has set out to do exactly that and with the wind in his sails, he actually has a shot at success. If you are a cynic peering across the horizon in search of a twinkling light, squint your eyes and you may just spot a flicker of hope streaking across the sky. Hope is the only anti-dote to cynicism, and in the shape of Imran Khan we have just that.

Cynicism can be fun. It furnishes many enjoyable “I-told-you-so” moments to revel and gloat in. But cynicism can not be an end in of itself. There comes a point when you have to look at things through the eyes of a wide-eyed freshman and risk being proven wrong. A positive and constructive attitude demands that we dig deep within ourselves and find the courage to overcome the inertia that has plagued us for ages. We need to take stock of realities as they stand and act not on the basis of what has been, but on the basis of what can be. We also need to latch on to any straws of hope that present themselves, and that’s where Imran Khan comes in.

In all likelihood, you didn’t become a cynic just for the fun of it. If things take a turn for the better and it is within your power to right the wrong that triggered your cynicism, then you are duty-bound to take action. So come forth! If it works out, you will have been part of something great; something for which the word ‘revolution’ is an under-statement.

If it doesn’t, you can shrink back into your shell in the cynics’ colony. I’ll be there waiting for you.


Irfan Waheed is an engineer working in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Irfan Waheed is an engineer working in Austin, Texas.

He can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (33) Closed

ZAFAR KHAN Dec 13, 2011 12:28pm
What a master piece by Irfan Waheed.Thank you Irfan for such a nice article.
aqabdulaziz Dec 13, 2011 12:37pm
Ground reality dictates that Imran or any political leader will have no majority. It will be a coalition govt and the leader will be pulled from all directions. Progress, if any, will be painfully slow. If any Pakistani is expecting a quick fix from Imran, it is likely that Imran will join other Pakistani heros who quickly became zeros in the minds and hearts of Pakistanis.
Ahmed Dec 13, 2011 12:56pm
Good article…. The message is quite simple if you are not supporting Imran Khan means you don’t want change. PTI – Pakistan Tsunami – e – Insaf
zalme Dec 13, 2011 01:00pm
@aqabdulaziz It is again cynicism. which the writer has already pointed out.
Junaid Khan Dec 13, 2011 02:10pm
A very well written article. In short it meant, just give a little bit of chance to The last hope. You can always comeback to your current state of hopelessness and fear if you choose to do so :)
Hussain Dec 13, 2011 03:15pm
Easy to say when your living the good life mostly in America and I am sure the great masses would agree to be less cynical if they had the same opportunity ....somewhere over the rainbow is where you reside Irfan.... pretty much like those on this blog swooning over your article
Tahir PhD Dec 13, 2011 03:17pm
"Cynicism can be fun". Yes the public is too far carried out away in believing what is discussed in meaningless Jerry Springer type chat shows and listening to the equally fatalistic tele-evangilists spewing out hatred. I agree with you that a positive and constructive attitude demands that we dig deep within ourselves and find the courage to overcome the shackles that have plagued us for past 60+ years or so. The only way out is good education based on a path of tolerance, rational deliberation and moderation. Imran Khan alone will not be able to sort it for us.
Usman Dec 13, 2011 04:02pm
zabardast piece..
Nadir Dec 13, 2011 05:40pm
I am sorry but, we live in a "democracy" so we are told. Criticism of his policies is not cynicism, and lets give him a chance argument would fail the democratic process. Rather than masking PTIs policy critique it should be encouraging more debate and discussion.
Aadil Aijaz Dec 13, 2011 05:56pm
So your point is, if one lives abroad, he/she can't have an opinion? Wow.
raika45 Dec 13, 2011 06:14pm
Till the 70's Pakistan was doing well.Then came Zia and your nation's despair.Till today your happiness,financial success and well being has been abused,debased and raped by following governments. May be Imran can be the cure. So for once put aside your cynicism aside and take a chance. What have you to loose? I am not a Pakistani, but I believe you all deserve a better life. You are hard working people. In other countries given this situation the country would have collapsed into chaos.
Naveed Dec 13, 2011 07:12pm
That's the right attitude! We need more of this, especially in the mainstream media.
Adbdul Mubeen Dec 13, 2011 08:45pm
A nice article and 100% agreed that give your hope a chance, love your country not political parties,,, in this disparate time Imran Khan is the only option,,, please love your country and try every positive chance..
Syed from USA Dec 13, 2011 09:10pm
Beg to disagree Aadil. Hussain is only saying where the writer's opinion might be coming from. Does he have the right to disagree?
Babar Khan Dec 13, 2011 09:34pm
Another huge drawback of cynicism is that it becomes the lazy person's crutch. If you tell yourself you cannot do anything, then you will not do anything. Its a self-fulfilling prophecy! Some cynicism can help one select the right plan of action, but anything beyond that is very destructive. Since one is not born cynical, but it is a acquired trait, my hope is with the young people.
Nasah (USA) Dec 13, 2011 10:05pm
The taller the claims get the taller the cynicism grows. Case in point Imran Khan's claims on a corruption free Pakistan -- uniting the Pushtoons and Mohajirs -- military subservience to the the civilians, ISI reporting directly to Khan. Sounds more like a Great Khannate than a grassroots political partying - hence the cynicism.
Sindhi.Pakistani Dec 13, 2011 11:00pm
The article seems to written a PTI supporter/member My friend you forget that Cynicism is not the same as Criticism!
Yasir Jamali Dec 13, 2011 11:31pm
"Imran Khan alone will not be able to sort it for US", No one can sort it for you, you have to sort your country and yourself! Pakistan is going in the way in which it is going now is just because of this thought " sort it for us "
Raheela Dec 13, 2011 11:48pm
What is wrong with taking a leap of faith? The cynincs in this regard are wanting to separate themselves out as the elite group who does not subscribe to the mass hysteria. There are too many of you out there to maintain this exclusivity.Why not join in and at least be a part of something that may very well be larger than the sum of us all.What are you fearful of losing ?The chance that your worst fears may not come true????
Malik Dec 14, 2011 02:41am
I am sorry but the beauty of democracy is openness and not giving chances. Let people decide who they want to vote for and let politician expalin their point of view. Criticism is one critical factor in politics. One needs to be able to criticise policies and try to infringe upon improvement from criticism. In American politics, critcism is rampant and that brings the beauty of true leader that he rises above criticism after showing a solid policies that can really bring change. In the last election we saw in Obama's election and now we are seeing in republican debate. So going point to your point, lets have open debate and then rise above the criticism. But the question remains; if Imran can do it. If he can't take criticism then he should not point fingers on others either.
Haroon Bux Dec 14, 2011 04:13am
This article is a waste of time, trying to promote defestist(work within the system) mentality which already exists in Pakistan. Imran Khan(PTI) does not brings anything new to the table. Also if revolution could come through the elections then elections would've been banned years ago.
aaa Dec 14, 2011 08:56am
your two lines carry more sense than the whole article. Wait a minute, Give him a chance....... is it a job opening or what?
ZAFAR KHAN Dec 14, 2011 10:34am
@Tahir phD:One man at the top can bring changes.Look at history,you will find that it was one man every where who has changed destinies of his nation..When Makkah was attacked by Abraha the makkhans fled to hills but later on when the prophet Mohammad (pbuh) took the charge the same Arabs invaded all countries around them.Similarly every nation was raised by one person alone.So It depends only and only on leaders.
Sheraz Siddiqui Dec 14, 2011 10:59am
@ Mr. Hussain's comment is evidence of how deep rooted this cynicism has become. Rather than agreeing or disagreeing with the author's opnion he takes a personal jab at him and in the process almost begs to be put on the other side of the rainbow. I mean I wish there was a way through which we could provide all desparate Pakistanis their choice of passports so that the ones we are left it will actually work towards its betterment rather than drag other people down with them. Someone gave me an example of what wrongs with Pakistanis and at the time I hated him but as I grow older I find it so true. A non-Pakistani sees someone drive past him in a ferrari and goes 'now what do I need to do to get myself a car like that? How hard would I need to work etc.?" . Given the same situation a Pakistani would say "Now what do I need to do so that I can make sure that guy loses his damn car!!!" But there is always hope The problem with the cynics or the loyalist today is that they are grilling IK for all that he has to offer which would be very fair if he had any real competition. But given the current options in the Pakistani political and military structure I would rather go with 'give a chance theory' then give another chance theory. Pakistan Paindabad
khany Dec 14, 2011 11:51am
thank you for writing this waheed. the simple but lasting gratification of 'i-told-you-so' can be too strong to resist for many cynics.
Zesh Dec 15, 2011 08:29pm
Irfan could you expand a bit on the probability of Imran Khan's affiliation with the Rothchild family in respect to their bid to establish NWO. His children reside in the house of Goldsmith, an old associate of the illuminati-based Rothschild family.Even Imran Khan himself pays annual visits to Goldsmith, even though he and Jemima are now divorced. Could he be involved with them for catalysing the establishment of a south Asian-coalition presided by the Illuminati? Please comment...
Irfan Dec 15, 2011 10:52pm
Seems a little far-fetched to me
sja Dec 18, 2011 03:49am
When tornadoes hit in US sirens are put on for all for safety. Imrans calls for flood sweeping all and the political Tsunami is parallel to pending warning for safety. Who has assued Imran Khan that the on coming Tsunami in Pakistan will spare him-- in heavenly disasters the good doers and the evil doers are all treated alike. Can he bring something better than a flood or a Tsunami for the already submerged with flood and bankruptcy of institutions of Pakistan ---- I wish he could survive the onslaught of the disasters that made headlines of his speeches warning poor and already distressed Pakistanis.
M. Shahjahan Bhatti Dec 18, 2011 08:28am
hamza Dec 19, 2011 12:03am
great article. Its easy to sit home home and criticize and be judgemental on other people. Its easy to play a match sitting in the pavilion than to actually play the match in the center of the pitch. Instead of criticising, people should come forward and be a part of PTI's psunami for a better pakistan
Shahzad Kazi Dec 20, 2011 12:47am
It is not about being for or against Imran Khan. The big issue is about the rhetoric. Imran and PTI have not put forward any clear manifesto and have just thrown out a number of "motherhood and apple pie" statements without defining how will all this be achieved.
roquefort Dec 20, 2011 05:34am
The Pakistanis living abroad can't vote.Irfan probably is an American citizen and has to give up his Pakistani passport.
ZAFAR KHAN Dec 20, 2011 11:16am
A case is being filed in supreme court for giving them the right of vote.Don't worry dude.They will get the right.