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On a lost path

Across the world, it is difficult to find anything resembling sanity. The war in Europe has suddenly brought global attention to war, with commentators and analysts on major news channels ignoring the fact that war is not an infrequent occurrence in African countries and in other regions of the world, including Asia. But of course, white lives matter far more than black or brown ones. We have absorbed this message well, from the comments made consistently, day after day, regarding the war in the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan we have leaders making speeches that leave almost everyone bemused and extremely confused. We do not quite know what games are being played and what lies ahead for the country. But certainly, even toddlers watching television will have picked up a vocabulary of language not appropriate for them. It is also simply not appropriate in any political sphere to make jibes or mimic someone else who is also a politician, and the leader of his or her party. The fact that this is happening with increasing frequency and has become a part of our political culture is sad.

Then we have the mayhem that broke out at the Parliamentary Lodges as police raided to capture elements of Ansarul Islam, who the JUI-F leaders say had been called in to help protect them against abduction. A country in which parliamentarians can be so susceptible to abduction leaves open the question of how ordinary citizens can campaign for their own security and what they can do to protect themselves. The statements that suggest MNAs of a particular party may not be allowed to vote are also absurd. Surely, the purpose of having a parliament is to ensure those who have been elected to it can cast their ballots. When anyone suggests that they will be disallowed to practice the simple act of democracy, we can see that there is something very wrong with the system.

We have mob lynching, the gang-rape of women, the rape of babies, the suicide of young girls in universities due to harassment, and the killing of persons simply for the sake of a mobile phone or some other small item. All this suggests a nation that has lost its mind and does not know where to go, or what to do.

In such a situation, the example and the way forward has to be laid out by our leaders and our political class. These persons carry the responsibility not only of trying to ensure their own seats in the next election, but also of providing leadership to people and setting sound examples. They are certainly not doing so at the present time. The prime minister’s increasingly intolerant speeches have left many horrified. Even those who had been supporting them are now wondering if their choice was correct, although there remains a hardcore element, which insists that the PTI remains the best choice for the future. The reality is that we really have very few choices, and very little role in leadership, from which very few roles to pick as leaders.

There is a need to examine why this has happened. Across the world, Pakistanis have excelled in various fields including IT, medicine, physics, and other fields in which they have won prizes and gathered international honours. Why can this not be duplicated in our country? The answer perhaps lies in the environment that has been created and the feeling among people that there are too many different tiers of society through which the poorer layers cannot make their way to anywhere near the top. Perhaps the Sindh chief minister was not entirely wrong in pointing out that people were stealing and engaging in greater street crime because they were desperate. This can be no excuse for his government’s poor performance in maintaining law and order, but certainly gives us something to think about.

We talk about children being sold by parents who have no money and not enough to feed their other children in Afghanistan. The reality is that this is also happening in our own country. We do not look hard enough, or deep enough. We need to assess precisely what the condition of people is and how it can be improved.

We also have other anomalies that need to be worked out. One example is the health card introduced by the government. This is an excellent measure, although there can be some debate as to whether it should be open to all or only to those earning below a certain level of income. However, the confusion that exists in hospitals and clinics, notably in Punjab, over whether or not the card can be used, is a sign of the poorest governance we have seen in a very long time. People are equally confused and believe that with the card, they can pay for anything. A clearer explanation needs to be given about the inpatient nature of treatment that can be offered by the health scheme and hospitals given clear instructions on what to do when a card is presented to them.

At the same time, the events that the ruling class carries out leave us all dismayed. At least they leave many of us dismayed, although there may be a larger number, which is not at all displeased by these actions. In Lahore, during the Aurat March on March 8, security was provided to the ‘hijab’ marches which took place on the same day but women who had collected at the Lahore Press Club for the Aurat March were told that there were threats to them and that they should call off the procession. The many young men also present to march along with the women tried to battle the police and use what contacts they had as did the women present on the occasion, but the determination of police to try and curb the march or at least lower the numbers participating in it eventually led to a state of chaos, in which no one knew quite what to do.

We should ask ourselves then what kind of state we seek for ourselves and for our daughters. Do we want a modern state, one where, as is the case in so many other Islamic countries including Iran and Turkey, women enjoy equal educational and legislative rights with men, or one which is so backward that very few children in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas go to school. The percentage for girls is even lower in some areas of both this region and Balochistan.

We also have a continued state of infanticide of baby girls. How then are we replicating the State of Medina that our prime minister talks about so often and how are we to regain the intelligence which as humans should be a part of our upbringing and restore the belief that humans are the most intelligent creatures in conventional terms on earth.

Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

Kamila Hyat, "On a lost path," The News. 2022-03-17.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political culture , Political sphere , Leadership , Politician , Democracy , Ukraine , Lahore , JUIF