Hope for Pakistan?

"There has never been a ... time ... that Pakistan was on right track to finding its ... destiny in comity of nations," writes Raoof Hassan

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A spectator waves the national flag of Pakistan while watching with others the final match of World XI cricket series in Lahore, Pakistan September 15, 2017. — Reuters
A spectator waves the national flag of Pakistan while watching with others the final match of World XI cricket series in Lahore, Pakistan September 15, 2017. — Reuters

With a few exceptions under extraordinary circumstances, human conduct mostly remains an unpredictable phenomenon. While some rise to the apex of glory, going through imponderable challenges, there are others who plunge to the depths of depravity and degeneration.

What are the dominant triggers that shape the direction that individuals pursue in their effort to move on in life, and whether they would remain amenable to changing the course they may have chosen under one influence or the other?

These questions have haunted us through our years as an independent country. There has never been a prolonged period of time when one thought that Pakistan was on the right track to finding its due and legitimate destiny in the comity of nations which would also serve the intrinsic interests of its people.

There was always this lingering feeling that decisions were being taken not maintaining the supremacy of national interest. Instead, they were being structured to promote a policy profusely laced with the profit-driven preferences of cartels managed by the minuscule ruling elite. 

Not only has this not served the state's interests, this approach has been a grievously damning facet of our policy, both internal and external, which has virtually brought us to the verge of collapse. 

Is there still a chance of remedy to correct our course, or, driven by the ghost of infallibility, are we so deeply immersed in the juices of hate and venom that we refuse to look inward for introspection?

While the former would be a preferred course for every sane person who has even a shred of sympathy for the country, it is the latter that has mostly driven us, plunging us deeper into a yawning abyss.

 Simultaneously, a malevolent system has been grandiosely developed, which eliminates a role for those who could bring even a spattering of goodness into play, which may help incorporate healthy changes in the national narrative to tackle the existential challenges that the country faces.

So, should we resign to this self-inflicting syndrome and give up on the future of the country, or should we continue making an effort to promote reason and sanity in preference to an abject infatuation with preserving and promoting the self, irrespective of whether this be at the cost of the state, even its survival? 

For someone like me, there is no choice: we are because of the state, and we must stand by the state. If that be so at the cost of the self-serving and self-elevating interests of the corrupt ruling elite and the cartels they sponsor, then so be it. 

That should neither dampen our resolve nor dent our courage to respond to the national calling and address the challenges which are only increasing with time.

It is when the avenues for pursuing such struggle, which are allowed in a democratic polity that we pretend to be, are blocked by using the draconian power of the state exercised through those who have been given its charge and when justice becomes the handmaiden of the corrupt elements who manipulate it by using their power and pelf that it becomes impossible to stop things from taking an unpleasant turn. 

Currently, Pakistan is transiting through such a period which is damaging both in its present context as well as the effects that it may generate in the long term.

In addition to the efforts to dismantle the largest and the only national political party of the country, all constitutional avenues for registering protests have been blocked. 

People asking simple questions regarding the denial of these rights are being subjected to discriminatory curbs. 

If that be the status of rights (not) granted on the ground, further aggravated with the cost of living increasing at an exponential rate, what could one expect of a people who are faced with an existential crisis? 

Should they follow the advice of the chief justice who asked them to learn to bear the hardship rather than approach him to deliver justice? 

Should they remain locked up behind closed doors with hands raised for deliverance? 

Should they be content looking at the mocking smiles adorning the faces of the national leadership when dealing with issues of public interest? 

Should they just act that everything is hunky-dory and pray for the wellbeing of the incumbent leaders?

Or should they all stand by the roadside trying to collect alms to survive another day? 

After all, they are the citizens of a country which, thanks to the treacherous methods of its ruling elite, is today described as the begging bowl of the world. 

How much further do we have to go to embrace extinction?

These are not mere thoughts. These are realities staring us in the face, only becoming more gruesome with the passage of time. But, instead of carving out methods to escape the dreaded fall, we are, on the one hand, further extending the begging bowl for more coins to drop in and, on the other hand, denying to the people their constitutionally guaranteed right to raise their voice peacefully. 

If the right to protest is denied, particularly amidst grave issues which keep cropping up, the prospect of violence increases. It was John Kennedy who said that “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”. 

Must we be forced on that route? Or is that a mechanism that is being wilfully cultivated?

There is hopelessness in the air. 

But, worse still, there are curbs and there is lurking fear that the state apparatus would deal harshly with those who dare raise their voice. 

This last bit adds to the accumulation of frustration which would be constantly seeking cathartic avenues for venting feelings. These avenues should not be blocked. 

Instead, these should become barometers for the rulers to ascertain the national sentiment and mood to help them chisel their policies accordingly because, after all, we are a democratic polity and denying rights guaranteed therein should not be allowed.

Societies prosper by hope, not fear. While the former makes human beings transcend barriers in achievement and excellence, the latter curbs their potential to advance in life and be of service to the state and the people. As Maya Angelou said, the two cannot coexist. 

Every state, every people should choose one to remain on course to salvation. With citizens having been deprived of their rights, the responsibility for ensuring this would fall squarely on the shoulders of the state and its rulers.

This is the crossroads where we stand today. Moving further would need the banishing of fear and embracing of hope. The nation deserves it. Pakistan needs a healing touch.

The writer is the information secretary of the PTI, and a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets @RaoofHasan

Originally published in The News