The degeneration of our political leadership is such that the ordinary Pakistani citizen has no faith in any state institution, suspecting, rightly so, that they are simply instruments of plunder.
This leadership vacuum inevitably leads to disillusionment and despair. Here is Iqbal again on our current predicament: Az ghulamee bazm-e millat fard fard/Ain-o aan, b-ain-o aan andar nabard (Under slavery, the community’s harmony scatters, and/ Everyone is at loggerheads with everyone else).
However, the people of Pakistan, the ordinary men and women that our esteemed ‘intellectuals’ dismiss so contemptuously, have never been passive spectators. We do not need to go too far into the past. The popular movement of 2007 led by courageous lawyers was the most recent example of ordinary people attempting, yet again, to take charge of their lives and their society. Ordinary people, though, cannot participate in mass street movements for long. Unlike well-heeled middle class op-ed writers, most working people have pressing day-to-day concerns of livelihood to attend to. The fact that all of us are not on the streets every day protesting is not evidence of our acquiescence in the status quo. None of us accept the collective guilt for the atrocities that our misguided ‘intellectuals’ would thrust on us.
Faiz writing in the weekly Viewpoint in 1976 said: “It has been fashionable to highlight the ‘passive’, ‘negative’ and even ‘collaborationist’ traits of our people… one of the heaviest crosses that our people bear today is the disdain of their own intelligentsia.” Revisionist historians attempted to blame the atrocities of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party on all Germans calling them ‘Hitler’s willing executioners’. Our ‘leaders’ and ‘intellectuals’ are now playing this role in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan condemn the inadequate government response to the floods ravaging our land and we are doing what we can to help our brothers and sisters in need, we forcefully condemn any and all while recognising that such atrocities are a stark failure of those in government who stand more and more alienated and distant from ordinary working people. We will continue to condemn this and to seek what we know Pakistan can be: a modern, democratic and progressive society where everyone has freedom of speech, religion and opportunity.
This is the Pakistan envisioned by the Quaid-e-Azam. The historical role of intellectuals is to be the guides and torch bearers of society, to show the way to a brighter future. If they can see nothing but despair around them and nothing but inky blackness in front, we quote Iqbal to them again: Apni duniya aap paidaa kar agar zindon main hai (Create your own world, if you count yourself among the living.)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2010.
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