- Squandering a great opportunity
“If I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarise it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. I can sketch, one by one, all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardour or these silences, this nobility or this vileness. But, aspects cannot be added up. This very heart, which is mine, will forever remain indefinable to me. Between the certainty I have of my existence and the content I try to give to that assurance, the gap will never be filled.”
Albert Camus: “The Myth of Sisyphus”
An acceptance of the need for change within has been acknowledged as a prerequisite for spearheading change around. And this is what most of the people find difficult to accomplish when confronted with the pressure of numbers, paucity of time and absence of resources and opportunities.
But there are also innumerable examples of people who surmounted daunting challenges by converting them into possibilities in pursuit of their vision. The critical factors that enable one to do this include an impregnable commitment to the ultimate cause, resolve, fearlessness, clarity of thought and a competent team of people who passionately share various parameters of the leader’s vision.
The tragedy is that when ill-advised compromises are made, it shakes the trust of people in the leadership which is manifested in multiple ways, thus initiating a process of emergence of mafias who use vile tactics to promote exploitative agendas. This syndrome does not remain confined to a select few. It spreads around and is espoused by all ranks and files of the society either on account of their insatiable greed which prompts them to accumulate more, or their basic need to survive. Over time, this vicious cycle gets a stranglehold of the society, rendering it captive within its tentacles.
But one thing definitely seems to have frittered away: the credibility of a government people had reposed faith in that it would prove to be different than the ones they had endured in the previous years. Gradually, it appears to be creeping back to the past
Through decades of cruel and dehumanising exploitation which has been rampant in Pakistan, this is the character the society has assumed. What makes it far worse is that, along the way, they have lost faith in the leadership and institutions alike. With the state having forfeited its responsibility to care for its impoverished and the stricken people, they rightfully believe that, at the end of the day, they have to fend for themselves. The quotients of legality, morality and correctness of what they may engage in have little meaning or relevance for them because it is their survival, and that of those who depend on them, which is at stake. It is something which they have to do. Neither do they have an option, nor another avenue to look to. So, how they do it does not really matter.
With this becoming endemic, there is none who can remain safe from the pervading infection, thus paving the way to the evolving of an exploitative society where a vast majority of people are captive in the grip of a few who control the state apparatus and who feed it on a variety of self-serving prescriptions. The crisis is that those who exploit and those who are exploited are both part of this degenerate network working for advancing their respective interest by way of methods that they may be able to lay hands on.
This is what the country has been fed on for over seven decades. Corruption and exploitation have taken deep roots and cleaning it up was never going to be easy. When the incumbent government took the plunge, it was like it had taken on the whole world. Feeling threatened, the beneficiary mafias retaliated with venom and ferocity as well as cunning and conniving, the latter tactics being far more challenging than the former.
In these circumstances, the role that institutions play can be decisive. They must all stay within their respective domains and discharge their duties in strict conformity with the constitutional provisions and the dictates of law. This, unfortunately, has not been the case.
The judiciary must bear bulk of the blame. Not only have they delayed, even denied delivery of justice to the people with no trappings of power, some of their adjudications have also raised eyebrows. The worst has been the extent to which they have encroached upon the turf of the executive branch, defanging it of its right and authority to govern.
The media is another case in point. Instead of dealing with issues on their merit, the studios and newsrooms have become nests of weaving conspiracies, without logic, rationale or respite, and connecting imaginary dots with abandon. Their written and spoken words are all up for sale in exchange for pieces of silver.
Having been reduced to acting as bootleggers of the ruling oligarchs, all other institutions have continued to further debase themselves on the behest of mafias whose job it is to cultivate subversion and exert pressure on the government so that they could escape unscathed. Take the case of the NAB. It has not succeeded in securing convictions for dozens of people they have kept locked up for inordinate periods, recreating an image of times when there was no recourse to justice. This syndrome shakes the confidence of people in these institutions and jeopardises the very task of ensuring transparency and accountability as key constituents of good governance.
Where we stand today is not where the government thought it would be after 18 months of having taken over in the country. Non-delivery of justice has not been the only failing during this period. A serious problem is the increase in the cost of living of the poor who find it impossible to sustain the burden any longer. It is difficult for them to understand that the process of reform takes time to materialise and yield results. They have been virtually left rudderless and the hopes they had attached with the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan have been dashed. This is no small setback. It is a massive blow to the aspirations of a whole new generation of people who thought that their messiah had finally come to transform their lives.
There is no messiah. There is no justice. There is no easing of life for vast multitudes of people in the country. Yet it is difficult to blame the government alone. No one person can ever bring change singlehandedly. A competent and well-meaning group of committed people is needed to deliver on the promised fronts.
The government’s failing is not reflected in any lack of resolve. It resides in its inability to put together a credible team that would understand the challenges at hand and will have the nerve, capability, capacity and commitment to work resolutely to deliver. Instead, we have a disparate lot with each humming a different tune. As long as the needed changes are not incorporated for a cohesive effort, the cherished ideal of a just, compassionate and caring state will remain a distant dream.
But one thing definitely seems to have frittered away: the credibility of a government people had reposed faith in that it would prove to be different than the ones they had endured in the previous years. Gradually, it appears to be creeping back to the past. That’s no small tragedy!