Rising from the ashes | Pakistan Today

Rising from the ashes

Candid Corner

  • Let’s get our freedom back – and the option to choose our friends

“Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.”

– Maya Angelou

My, oh, my, what travesties are visiting this land, what trifling crumbs are fed to imagination to believe things false and fabricated! The scourge keeps coming down like a remorseless torrent of visitations by the prophets of perfidy, stretched like pestilence breathing around us.

Strange times have engulfed us, strange indeed, when espousing the truth draws flak and abuse and courting deceit is hailed as daring and courage, when preaching equity would be construed as fiction and distortion acclaimed as heroic.

Such is the boundless stockpile of these perversions that one is reminded of the claim of Prime Minister Modi abrogating articles 370 and 35A in the name of improving the lot of the Kashmiri people whom he has had on a lockdown for more than two weeks now, or the disciples of convict Nawaz Sharif claiming that he agitated the cause of the captive people of the Valley by appointing that vile merchant of religion, Fazalur Rehman, as head of the Kashmir Committee, or the followers of that don of dons, Asif Ali Zardari, professing allegiance to the core interests of the state in supersession of their personal indulgences in the hubris of corruption and grave misdemeanours.

A lot has gone wrong with Pakistan in the last 70 years. Much of it has kept piling up under succeeding governments headed by either military dictators, or their lieutenants masquerading as ‘elected’ leaders. They are guilty of having inflicted deep wounds on the democratic polity. Their ascent to power was through the laps of their masters whom they swore to be serving ever so obsequiously, but were actually biding for time for their turn at the helm. This has been a ceaseless indulgence for personal aggrandisement mostly at the cost of the state, with looting and plundering its assets and compromising its writ being the principal occupations. For most of the time, they went unchecked in their gruesome inflictions as they rendered the state institutions dysfunctional by appointing criminally disposed cronies as their heads, whose only motivation was to further advance the abominable agendas of their masters and keep their corruption hidden from the public eye.

It is like we are glued in time. Will the shock of being deserted lead to an objective appraisal of our limitations and adopting a more pragmatic course? Or, must we remain stuck in this pit that has neither an outlet to freedom, nor a provision for hope to salvation?

It, therefore, is little wonder that, at this critical juncture in its history when Kashmir has been rendered captive in the tentacles of the Modi-led junta and its Hindutva-driven militarisation, Pakistan desperately seeks friendly voices. The edifice built over decades, at times to our utter peril, appears to be crumbling down. In the aftermath of the Modi act, only a handful of countries have come out openly in support of its contention that Kashmir remains a disputed territory as per multiple UN resolutions. The states that Pakistan thought were its natural allies appear to be more concerned about their economic stakes in India which offers a much larger market to be exploited.

That reminds me of the cardinal blunder that Pakistan made right after its very inception: that of plucking itself away from its immediate South-Asian neighbourhood and shaking hands on the basis of affinity by religion. In the process, Khuda became Allah, but our policy-makers forgot that religion has never been a binding force, and never will be. Instead, it has always divided and pitted states against others, even when these were inhabited by the followers of the same faith.

A cursory glance at the situation in the Middle East would bear testament to this claim. The manner in which the interests of the Palestinian people have been sold out, the way some countries are engaged in the task of destroying other so-called brother states, the wars which have been unleashed resulting in untold human tragedy and suffering, the partnerships which have been hoisted on the skeletons of captive people– this and so much else are apt reminders of the fickleness of religion playing the unity card.

At the very beginning of its journey as an independent country, Pakistan opted to wear the apparel of religion as an integral component of its policy paradigm. That sucked in other aberrations which it has been hard-pressed to cope with, but which have rendered it weak and vulnerable. That process has neither slowed down, nor is there any likelihood of this happening in the foreseeable future. Pakistan remains uncompromisingly wedded to the regimentation of religion as the driver propelling the state to transact its business.

That has muddled things up as the centrality of religion has defanged Pakistan of many policy options that could have promoted and strengthened its regional and strategic position. But, our fickle affiliation with the cause of friendship with countries bound in the wrappings of faith has deprived us of our choices and kept us captive to be manipulated by others who hold us in disdain as is evidenced by the treatment meted out to millions of Pakistanis working in the Gulf countries. Their sordid stories tell a tale of countless woes and a treatment lacking even in the basic tenets of humanity.

But, we don’t have others to blame. We can only blame ourselves for policies which were ill-advised in their conception and construction. When we should have cared for our impoverished people, we either promoted the interests of the select beneficiary elite, or remained ingrained in the cause of advancing the interest of our allies-in-religion. In the meanwhile, we were also feeding this fiction to our people that salvation was just around the bend. But, even after turning countless corners, we are still awaiting the miracle dawning upon us that would alter the fate of the poor and the helpless of this country, for whom, hope is a lingering panacea for their countless deprivations.

It is like we are glued in time. Will the shock of being deserted lead to an objective appraisal of our limitations and adopting a more pragmatic course? Or, must we remain stuck in this pit that has neither an outlet to freedom, nor a provision for hope to salvation?

It is tragic. But, much more than that, it is stupid, stark stupid. We have not only deprived ourselves of worthiness, but have also lost self-respect in the process. The latter is a fatal outcome of a pile of short-sighted policies that we have pursued through decades. It is now time to initiate the cumbersome process of extricating ourselves from a chequered past and begin forging friendships and alliances on the basis of shared ideals and stakes. Religion is definitely not one such instrument. The sooner Pakistan sheds this decrepit espousal, the quicker it would gather the strength to become a vibrant presence on the international stage.

Pakistan’s interests having been compromised, it can’t afford continuing to trek the path of a flawed past. New tidings beckon which could usher in a future free of the pain heaped upon an unsuspecting people at the hands of a coterie of corrupt and clueless leaders and the erroneous policies they tailored.

The phoenix is burnt. But the phoenix can rise.

The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.