Pakistan once again stands at a crossroads in its short history. Two paths are clearly sign posted. One leads to peace, prosperity and a dignified existence and the other to ruin and self-destruction. This country is now in desperate need of a second chance and looking for new leadership to guide it towards its cherished goal.
After a long period of rule by the two main political parties, we have a new leadership which catapulted into power with the slogan of a ‘new’ Pakistan based on liberty, fraternity and equality. A corruption-free Pakistan with the highest regard for justice and human rights. After over two years in power, the common man in Pakistan is still yearning for the ‘new’ and improved Pakistan as promised by the new leader.
The new leader must realize that greatness has been thrust upon him at a crucial moment in history. Millions of Pakistanis look upon him as a messiah who alone can pull them out of the quagmire of poverty, religious extremism, ignorance and economic deprivation. About time the new regime wakes up to the fact that the people of Pakistan not only need but also deserve good governance, honest leadership and responsive institutions. New political leaders should recognize and appreciate the importance of the common man and to instill a sense of security and pride of participation in the affairs of the state.
The American constitution begins with the words “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure democratic tranquility, provide for common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The most beautiful phrase in this document is “We the people” not “we the leaders” or “we the officials” or “We the clergy” or “We the armed forces” or “We the experts.”
The tragedy of Pakistan is that we the people have been taken for a ride by successive governments. Today the simple and hardworking people of Pakistan are living in a climate of fear, apprehension and despair. Common people are confronted by the horrors of terrorism, bigotry, obscurantism, corruption, chaos and anarchy almost every day.
In the promised new Pakistan, we can only see a grim and terrifying scenario. National leaders, parliament members, civil servants, custodians of the law, revenue collectors, professionals and religious leaders all seem to be entangled in their own network of selfish vested interests.
A major reason for the sorry state of our society is that the common man has been neglected and deprived of his rightful share and importance in society. Our top leaders have simply forgotten the basic lesson that organizations and institutions are designed and built for the benefit and wellbeing of the individual and not the other way around. It is the individual who makes or destroys a social system.
In the words of Alexander Pope, “hope springs eternal in the human breast.” We the people of Pakistan have hope and belief in ourselves and we have numerous examples around us to nurture and sustain this hope. We have heroes like Hakim Saeed and leaders like Liaquat Ali and Benazir Bhutto who laid down their lives at the altar of faith and belief.
In our decaying society we have had pillars of strength such as Abdul Sattar Edhi. This simple, rustic and semi-literate Pakistani built a vast empire dedicated to social welfare. His organization continues to provide relief and succor to the poorest of the poor and the outcasts of society. Another legendary common Pakistani was Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan who gave up a lucrative career to provide help and relief to the downtrodden and neglected segments of society. Dr Khan launched the Orangi Pilot Project because of his fervent belief that one of the most passionate human traits is the urge to be needed, to belong to participate in society with honor and dignity.
We have to remain hopeful and take pride in human rights crusaders like the late Justice Dorab Patel, Asma Jehangir and Ansar Burney. These plucky Pakistanis deserve praise and recognition for their convictions and bravery. They stood their ground fearlessly while facing salvos of fire and brimstone from powerful sectarian groups and religious fanatics. We the people of Pakistan should remain hopeful and proud because we have produced scientists like Dr Abdus Salam, Dr I.H Usmani and Dr Pervez Hoodbhouy. Who can deny the contribution of our atomic scientist Dr Qadeer Khan? People like these from humble backgrounds are the self-made Pakistanis we can take pride in and such common Pakistanis are the future hopes of the nation, who can lead us to a bright and prosperous future.
Let us not forget that economic wizards and international bankers like the late Agha Hassan Abedi, Dr Mehbub ul Haque and Dr Moin Qureshi from Pakistan. All of them came from middle class families and modest backgrounds yet they developed a global vision and commanded a great deal of respect in the eyes of the world community. We the people of Pakistan can boast about a star-studded galaxy of scholars, historians, poets and writers. We can bask in the fame and glory of Dr A.H Dani, Dr I.H Qureshi, Professor Ahmed Ali, Ahmed Faraz, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and many others who proved their mettle in the literary and intellectual fields.
The people of Pakistan have no dearth of artistic or creative talents. Our composers, singers and musicians are household names for music lovers. Our youth have humbled the might of many nations in sports, we have produced world champions in cricket, hockey, squash and snooker. As a nation we already have a well-defined framework of morals and social values. The people of Pakistan have to build a modern, progressive and vibrant society. A society that allows the individual to breath, develops human resources at the grass roots levels. Lays emphasis on ethics and morality, stresses the importance of education and removes the impediments in the way of individual progress and prosperity. If we want a society free of social conflict as well as ethnic and sectarian tensions, we will have to build these societies around the creative talents of individuals -individuals who are free from the corrupt white elephants called our national institutions.
The leaders of the new Pakistan must keep in mind that the future hopes of the nation are the youth of today. Mercifully the future hopes of the nation are progressive, educated and enlightened. The people of Pakistan are hoping and praying for a courageous and brave helmsman, somebody with a steady hand on the tiller to guide the ship of state through turbulent and choppy seas.