A Nation At War With Itself – By Dr Farid A Malik
We are fighting each other. As a nation, we are all in a survival mode as there is no facilitator/coordinator/regulator. The state has ceased to function. Everyone is forced to survive and fetch for himself. The entire country has been converted into enemy territory, the signs are evident. Every morning when I drive to work during the peak hours the roads are blocked by garbage trolleys, water tankers and mechanical sweepers. Occasionally I stop by and ask the operators of these show of work about their selection of time. Though I never get a straight answer, but it is evident they want to be seen and endured as their work does not speak for itself.
As a child growing up on the Mall, when I walked to school every morning in the fifties/sixties the roads were wiped clean with garbage lifted before dawn. Education was within reach. Every locality had Corporation Schools with token fees of Rs. 0.25/ month, then there was several government and Anjuman institutions where knowledge was imparted as a national responsibility with no personal returns. I came into this world in a state facility (Lady Wellington Hospital) and my father the worker of the Pakistan Movement also died in a government run institution (Mayo Hospital). The city of Lahore had a functional transport system managed by Lahore Omnibus Service (LOS).
Everyone’s focus was on nation building. Leadership was elected and honest. The slide started with the murder of the first Prime Minister in 1951, which was then followed by the dissolution of the elected parliament in 1954 and finally the first Martial Law in 1958 derailed both the democratic process and the freedom struggle. Instead of service to the people politics of loot and plunder was initiated through the “Thana’ and Patwarkhana”. This approach was adopted by successive GHQ sponsored Muslim Leagues down to the present version (PML-N).
I remember a famous verse from my Intermediate Urdu class ‘Shehr Achay Kay Ban’ (Which is better city or Jungle?). Now the distinction is lost, our cities have been turned into jungles with its approach of might is right. Systems, rules and regulations that are essential to regulate civilized societies are blatantly violated. The mighty and powerful flout laws creating harmful trends which then become the norm.
The first class at Government College in August 1969 was an experience. Students from across the country were there, some of them had came from one room village schools who had worked hard under the tutelage of very dedicated teachers. Purely on merit they had entered the most prestigious institution of the country. Their social skills and command of English language was weak, other concepts were clear. Through sheer hard work and grit they then landed in professional institutions. After the collapse of the public educational network in the country this route to glory for the common man has been blocked. Private school systems have emerged which are not only expensive but lack the missionary zeal needed to impart knowledge.
A Government that cannot even provide clean drinking water to its masses has no right to remain in power. Billions of public funds have been squandered in the ‘Saaf Paani’ project. The ‘Sasti Rooti’ was another disaster and so was the ‘Ashiana Housing Scheme’ for the lower strata of the population.
The elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) tried to pick up the pieces. From 1971 till July 1977 there were solid civilian and democratic gains which have since then been neutralized. Only the 1973 unanimous constitution has survived. Now that the era of loot blunder is coming to an end, hope has been rekindled. There are signs of another free and fair election after ten manipulated electoral exercises that have produced third rate political leadership that we have to endure.
Political cleansing is underway, as two functional national institutions have started to play their constitutional role. In the past when judiciary stood up against corruption, they came under attack from the goons of the ruling party. The khakis did not protect them, judges had to run for safety. Today the situation is different, justice is now destined to prevail.
The gentleness and kindness has to be restored across the board. We have to rise together as a nation, our survival depends on our unity. At least education, health and employment has to be guaranteed to every citizen. Elected governments are required to work in best interests of the people who elect them. Exploitation and apathy leads to disenchantment of the voters who then feel frustrated and helpless. Anger is a result of frustration and hopelessness. Hope needs to be rekindled. State must act as a mother for its citizens. Motherland is a big undertaking which cannot be taken lightly. Those who lead must set personal examples of service and sacrifice, there must be collective efforts to reduce the pain of the deserving and needy. No one should have to sleep on an empty stomach unless advised by the doctor. Only nations at peace can rise rest invariably sink and suffer. Let us end this war and give peace a chance.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.
The article first published in The Nation