Wait till you hear the good news…!
There is a quiet evolution taking place in this beautiful country we call our home. Don’t blame yourself if you missed it. Caught in the perfect storm of incompetence, inability, and inexperience most would not catch sight of the faint rainbow across the horizon. But there it is, framed against the darkening skies yonder, shining brightly through the vapours of partisan despondency.
Shining bright? A vicious tsunami of inflation is about to hit our vulnerable shores. We have the sharp IMF dagger in a double-handed grip and await the signal to plunge it in our soft and flabby belly. Our collective excruciating economic pain is emitting its initial pangs as we brace for an open heart surgery without anesthesia. People will lose jobs; businesses will shut down and families may end up on the streets. The inevitability of doom was never so inevitable.
And yet shining bright?
Indeed. Some surprises come wrapped in gift paper. For what else would you call the critically important bill on child marriages by the indomitable Sherry Rehman. The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has passed through the Senate and has been sent to the Committee of the National Assembly after a heated debate that saw differences between parties itself.
It is a bill whose time has come. And not a minute too late. The fight for Jinnah’s Pakistan — it is thankfully obvious — is far from over. People like Sherry Rehman and there are many like her in positions of power today, remind us that Pakistan can fight its demons one at a time; that Pakistan can overcome the toxic legacy of its past rulers one at a time; and that Pakistan can amplify its rational voices in an irrational ambiance one at a time. The child marriage bill that aims to make it illegal for women under the age of 18 to be legally married, has a decent chance of becoming law despite opposition from narrow-minded obscurantists in parliament. The bill has bipartisan support which in itself is a heartwarming sign for us all. The fight goes on.
As does the one in which Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for Science and Technology, is looking at the bright side of the moon. He is attempting to do what all want to be done but none has had the courage to do.
By announcing that he wants to make a lunar calendar that would end the annoying controversy over moon-sighting, Fawad has courageously taken on the might of the Ruet-e-Hilal establishment and the lobby that backs it. Is a lunar calendar calculated through technology possible? Absolutely yes. So many major Islamic countries are already using it. Is it desirable? Absolutely yes. Who among us is not sick and tired of Pakistanis celebrating Eid and Ramazan on different days? Is it politically feasible? Perhaps.
Here’s a test for Imran Khan’s government. Is it commendable? Absolutely yes. People like Fawad Chaudhry remind us that there are many around us who have the courage and conviction to take on the zealots and attempt to reform this ossified system one brave step at a time.
Is there anyone who does not want this ossified system to be reformed? Those who do not — the prime beneficiaries — are shrinking into a minority. But this minority is not divided into partisan lines, as many PTI supporters might argue. In fact, reform-minded people are now populating most political parties and sections of our society. These reformers have internalised the belief that Pakistan can grow into a modern, dynamic and progressive country if it can garner the will, determination, and capability to start changing this ossified system one reform at a time.
It is natural that such reform will be led by men and women of competence, caliber, and credentials. Once upon a time, such people were an aberration in our political system. The traditional politician was a breed that banked less on expertise and more on land, lineage, and legitimacy. All these were fine — and still, are — but they missed out on one crucial aspect: governance through service delivery.
Developments of the recent past have borne this out. The spectacular incompetence of the PTI government has thrown up two key lessons for our system: 1) Loyalty to the party should not be a key determinant for ministerial responsibility; 2) The PTI’s government will be saved not by random generalists like Amir Kiani, Ghulam Sarwar or Shehryar Afridi but by specialists like Dr Ishrat Hussain, Dr Reza Baqir and Nadeem Babar.
In fact, this is what denotes change — and hope the increasing demand for specialists and competent in our political system. With time, political parties are realising that the days of mildly-educated electable as leaders of governance are slowly fading away. These traditional politicians just cannot keep up with the dictates of time.
In their place, slowly but surely, is rising to prominence a breed of men and women who can deliver governance through expert knowledge, training, and experience. In the PML-N for instance, the meteoric rise to prominence of people like Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Miftah Ismail, Ahsan Iqbal, Musaddik Malik, Mohammad Zubair, and Marriyum Aurangzeb is not a coincidence. These people have delivered on their tasks while others have basked in the luxurious Jacuzzi of electable legitimacy and not much else.
These components join the ranks of bright doers in government like Dr Shireen Mazari, Hammad Azhar, Omar Ayub, Taimur Saleem Jhagra (Finance Minister K-P) and now Shabbar Zaidi. Together these men and women are redefining political priorities and agendas by making their leaders more and more dependent on them for governance.
The march of political evolution is on. This evolution has forced the PTI to change its team and outlook within eight months. Ditto for the PML-N. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not all about simplistic notions of intentions, convictions, and resistance, but in fact, increasingly it is about fixing the system, resolving problems, delivering on governance and reforming the State.
The end objective is clear: transforming Pakistan into a country that progresses itself out of poverty and illiteracy ; that powers itself into a responsible regional player; that matures itself into a tolerant and kind society; that legislates itself into pro-women, pro-minorities State; that develops itself into technologically-driven, digitally-enriched middle-income economy within a generation by growing at a double-digit rate; and that can reform itself into a political system that breaks free from the iron-grip of medieval-minded traditional electable and opens itself to the talents of bright, educated and competent Pakistani men and women who can shape our country in their progressive, optimistic and dynamic image.
All this may take a while, but the journey is already underway. See that rainbow framed against the darkening clouds? That’s the story it is whispering.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2019.