|August 14 - Cast off Despair|
I was born in slavery. On 14th August 1947, I was a free man, proud citizen of a free, independent, and sovereign country which I could call my own, a country I could live for and die for. I was young-twenty four to be precise, full of joie de vive, idealism, hope and ambition. For me and, like me, for all those who belonged to my generation, Pakistan symbolized all our wishes and expectations.
On that day, over a century and a half of British rule came to an end. The Union Jack was lowered for the last time. I saw the sun set on the British Empire in the sub-continent. I witnessed its dissolution and emergence of two independent sovereign countries. We had entered a new era. In the shivering streets, people warmed themselves with hope.
Memories come back to me like shards of glass, prompting tears, sorrow, and anger. My sadness in following the events since independence, is deepened by bittersweet memories of the euphoria of the Pakistan dream, the heady days of 1947 when Pakistan was so very new and hopes were so very high.
Mr. Jinnah envisioned Pakistan as a modern, progressive, democratic country, drawing its inspiration from the true, dynamic, pristine, revolutionary Islam of its early years with its emphasis on egalitarianism, social justice and accountability. Jinnah was a fervent believer in the sovereignty of the people, the inviolability of constitution, supremacy of civilian rule, an absolutely independent, incorruptible judiciary, Rule of Law and a strong, neutral, honest civil service. The ruling passion of Jinnah's life was love of law and liberty.
Marx once said: “Neither a nation nor a woman is forgiven for an unguarded hour in which the first adventurer who comes along can sweep them off their feet and possess them”. October 7, 1958 was our unguarded hour when democracy was expunged from the politics of Pakistan with scarcely a protest. The door was opened to Bonapartism. When the history of Pakistan comes to be written, the verdict of history would be that periodic military interventions in the politics of Pakistan, duly validated by the Supreme Court, destroyed Jinnah’s Pakistan.
As he left the constitutional convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an admirer, “Dr. Franklin what have you given us”. Franklin turned to the questioner and replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it”. Not too long ago, we too possessed a great country earned for us by the sweat of the brow and iron will of one person. Where giants walked midgets pose now. Our past rulers, elected and un-elected, have done to Pakistan what the successors of Lenin did to Soviet Union. “Lenin founded our State, Stalin said, after a stormy session with Marshal Zhukov. The German army was at the gate of Moscow. “And we have …it up. Lenin left us a great heritage and we, his successors, have shitted it all up”.
Today, Pakistan which symbolized all our dreams, our hopes and aspirations, is a nightmare of despair and despondency, in doubt about its future. The rich are getting richer while the poor are sinking deeper and deeper into a blackhole of abject poverty. While life at the top gets cushier, millions of jobless educated youth and those at the bottom of the social ladder are forced to resort to crime, drugs and vagrancy merely to survive.
We have a disjointed, dysfunctional, lopsided, hybrid, artificial, political system. Parliament, the so-called embodiment of the will of the people, is fake like a Potemkin village and is becoming more and more odious and irrelevant. Pakistan will be Pakistan again as soon as we have swept away this scum, and there will be no Pakistani who will not cry with joy when that happens. It is deaf and blind to the anguished cries rising from the slums of Pakistan! Give us bread! Give us drinking water! Give us light! Give us the right to live! Its “stunning” performance fascinates only a few enlightened souls; whereas nine out of ten Pakistanis are totally indifferent and unaware of its existence.
The opposition languishes in torpid impotence. I have never seen an opposition so nonplussed, so impotent, so clearly without a shot in the locker. It is, I regret to say, not playing the role it should be playing in a parliamentary form of government. In the words of Hazilitt, “the two parties (PPP and PML N in our case) are like competing stage coaches which occasionally splash each other with mud but travel by the same road to the same place”.
Our chequered history can be summed up in one sentence. It is the sound of heavy boots coming up the stairs and the rustle of satin slippers coming down. Democracy is a splendid conception, but it has a disadvantage: on occasions of placing in the lead men whose hands are dirty, who are mired in corruption, who are dodgy, who will sap the strength of a country, not in years, but over a period of months, who will demoralize and encompass the collapse of a great nation in the space of a few months. When they go abroad or speak to Foreign Heads of State, Pakistanis sit on the edge of their collective seats wondering how their rulers will embarrass them next.
Pakistan has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military dictators, political illiterates and carpet-baggers. These leaders use their power not for public good, but to enrich themselves as quickly as possible. Once we were the envy of the developing world. That is now the stuff of nostalgia.
We live in a beautiful country. But corrupt leaders who have nothing but contempt for the people and no respect for democracy, freedom or justice have taken it over. It is up to all of us to take it back. And as Margaret Mead said, ‘never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has’.
In this country, nothing has so altered the fortunes of so many people so suddenly as political power. Here money and power seek each other. No wonder, the business of politics attracts the scum of the community and a legion of scoundrels. In the name of democracy, unspeakable sins are committed. These practitioners of the art of grand larceny, loot, and plunder in broad day light, with no fear of accountability, reminiscent of the East India Company, Lord Clive and the Nabobs who looted and plundered Mughal India.
The Pakistan Mr. Jinnah founded is gone. It disappeared the day power–hungry Generals and corrupt politicians hijacked Pakistan. On that day, the lights went out. Pakistan slid into darkness. Thanks to corrupt political leaders, today Pakistan is a ghost of its former self. If it were to look into a mirror, it won’t recognize itself. Today Pakistan looks like a bad parody of the miracle we witnessed on August 14, 1947.
The ossified political parties are out of sync with the spirit and essence of times and are fast becoming irrelevant. Nature abhors vacuum. So does politics. A vacuum was awaiting a star who had both integrity and credibility. Destiny beckoned Imran, a leader of great integrity and credibility, whirlwind of a leader, harbinger of change, a man of unbounded vitality. More and more people are looking up to him to deliver shock therapy to the corrupt, encrusted, two-party duopoly who until recently, ran the show in Pakistan.
Imran has a shrewd sense of timing. He saw the tectonic plates shifting. He sailed with the wind until the decisive moment when events propelled him into the center of the storm. Otto Von Bismarck famously said that political genius entailed hearing the hoofbeat of history and then rising to catch the galloping horseman by the coattails.
When a crisis comes, a kind of tidal wave sweeps the man of character to the forefront. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Today we have both. The hour has struck. It has found the man who has the will and the power to restore the Pakistan dream.
In contrast with the aging profile of the current political leadership, Imran’s supporters are all young. There was something very touching about the young men and women, I met at the dharna. So full of fire and promise and curiosity of life. Imran electrified them. He spoke with buoyancy and hope. His message: No drone attacks. Our aim: revival of Jinnah’s Pakistan, a sovereign, independent, corruption-free Pakistan and alleviation of poverty. A wind of change has already begun to buffet Pakistan.
Today, Imran alone has that passion burning within him that will unleash people power and set the nation alight. He will lance the poisoned carbuncle and clean the country of all the mess. He is, mark my words, destined to change the political landscape of Pakistan.
At long last, people have found a leader who will light a candle in the gloom of our morale. Our nation has the heart of a lion. Imran would give it the roar as Churchill did in World War II. Imran will reclaim our sovereignty, our self-respect, our sense of pride, our moral compass. Pakistan will regain its soul, its élan vital. Pakistan will be mistress in her own house and captain of her soul.
Imran is the only leader who will tell the Americans: enough is enough. No more violation of our air space. No more drone attacks, no more interference in our internal affairs. He will lead the nation and the country back on to broad uplands where freedom shines. He will lead the people out from the dark forest into the broad sunlit plains of peace, stability, good governance and genuine democracy. Imran will give the country the lift of a shining dream and drag the nation to his feet again. This, of course, is asking for the impossible. But pursuing the impossible and asking for the impossible is one good definition of a Revolution…. Imran will electrify this country, because we live in darkness.
One of the earliest and most spectacular acts of the great uprising in Paris in July 1789 was to pursue the economic vampires who were widely rumored to have secreted away their booty. “Tremble, you who sucked the blood of poor unhappy wretches”, warned Marat. “These blood suckers either give an account of their larceny and restore to the nation what they have stolen or else, be delivered to the blade of law”. This is also one of Imran’s top priorities. He is relentlessly pursuing the economic vampires of Pakistan. He has zero tolerance for mega corruption.
The dark long night is about to end? The time has come for us to leave the valley of despair and climb the mountain so that we can see the glory of another dawn? So cast off despair. Buckle up, be up and doing!