The sleepwalkers walk

Can there be a swift metamorphosis of the national mindset so that mobs and individuals see and bring change?

Amina Jilani July 20, 2012
The sleepwalkers walk

“If Pakistan’s civilian government wasn’t fully dysfunctional, rest assured: it now is.” So wrote Christine Fair on June 21 in Foreign Policy magazine, after the June jugglings of the country’s prime ministers. “By any measure, Pakistan has squandered the last decade,” she continued. Fine, no one can argue with either statement.

And neither can they argue with her further comments: “Pakistan is in crisis. Its courts act on whim rather than jurisprudence. Its political parties are vast pools of corrupt patronage networks that aggregate elite interests while disregarding the interests of Pakistan’s struggling masses. Neither elected politicians nor military rulers have had the political courage to right the nation’s fiscal woes by enforcing income tax or imposing industrial and agricultural taxes on the ruling elites and their networks of influence. While the army has retrenched from a direct role in politics, it has done so likely because it has no other option: Pakistan’s military suffered a mighty humiliation after the Bin Laden raid, which left many citizens wondering whether their country is a failed state, a rogue state, or both … Yet, the Pakistanis continue to somnambulate in the dream of their country’s own importance.”

The final words of this excerpt should be digested. Yes, the nation does seem to hold the belief that the world awakens each morning and says to itself, “Well, What are we going to do about Pakistan today?” Well, it doesn’t.

Clamours from inside for ‘change’ continue to echo. One comment made recently was that the people, also known as the beloved awam, the great unwashed, are ‘yearning for a change’. The outer world is pretty damned sure that it will not change, that it will either ‘muddle on’ in the same old way or come to some sort of grief.

As things are, it would seem that those ‘yearning’ are doing so in vain. When elections come — ‘if’ does not currently seem to be an option — what new will emerge? As far as we know, there are no shining lights in the present assemblies that are likely to spring to the fore. Those manipulating the ballot boxes will be but the old tried and failed faces, of which by now we should really all be thoroughly sick, plus members of their families or extensions of their families. And the mass of the electorate — the rural lot — since the 1988 elections, is by now so inured to voting for the local political head honcho that there is little chance that it will go berserk and opt for the new and untried; that is, if there is such an option on the horizon.

More importantly, from where and how will change in the national mindset come? For one, can there be a swift metamorphosis of the national mindset so that mobs and individuals see and accept the blasphemy laws for what they are (wicked in the extreme) and cease murdering the insane and under-privileged using those laws as a vehicle for their blood lust? And even more importantly, will we have legislators who have some gumption, who realise the horrific consequences of these laws and emerge from their cowardly shells and legislate as they should so that, in turn, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary can act as they should? And the same goes for the anti-Ahmadi laws.

As for the world, will Pakistan, as a state, recognise its true standing on the international front and cease fantasising about how powerful it is with its nuclear arsenal being one of the fastest growing in the world — which has done nothing to boost its reputation? As it is, it cannot in any way keep on an equal footing with the world powers with whom it must deal. Making futile ‘stands’, hoping to impress, knowing fully well that it will have to back down and resume the status quo only aggravates the already aggravated presumed ‘friends’ who consider it by and large to be a bloody nuisance.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.


realist | 12 years ago | Reply

Excellent read, but only 11 comments. The article on Burmese Muslims' plight seemed to garner so many comments.

gp65 | 12 years ago | Reply

@Lala Gee: One of the few times I agree with you Lala Gee.

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