Pillars of clay

Published: November 2, 2014
The writer is Director News, Express News. He tweets 

The writer is Director News, Express News. He tweets @fahdhusain [email protected]

Are you kidding me?

These marathon cabinet meetings and supposed accountability of the ministers is going to strengthen democracy? This hypocritical rhetoric spewing forth from fountains of pseudo liberty will cement the cliched and hackneyed democratic project?

Like seriously? Are you kidding me?

It’s a politico-tragedy unfolding out there. Men and women, fed fat on a diet of pomposity have erected an electoral facade over the smouldering ruins of constitutional liberties. And like zombies, we shuffle along with our eyes open and minds shut.

Something is going horribly wrong in this country.

Ask yourself this: Does democracy equal freedom? Does democracy equal fundamental rights? Does democracy equal constitutional liberty? In a fascinating book titled Future of Freedom, American journalist Fareed Zakaria raised these questions and attempted to answer them a decade ago. One of his conclusions was that we need more liberty and perhaps, a little less democracy as defined by electoral exercises.

One look at the House Sharif, and Zakaria’s thesis begins to take on an ominous shape. This disenchantment with the affairs of the state; this disillusionment with the way this system works; and this revulsion at the elitist model of democracy — all this actually has a fairly simple explanation:

Individual liberty is being slaughtered at the altar of the electoral temple.

Complicated? Not really. Let’s apply this to our lives. You the student, do you have a problem getting admission on merit? You the victim, do you find it impossible to find help from the police and justice from the courts? You the common citizen, do you face inequality before law when faced with powerful people?

Short answer: yes, yes, and you’re damn right, yes.

Don’t blame democracy or dictatorship or even the system that remains the same regardless of who is at the top. Blame the fact that we are missing the fundamental element of a representative system: the individual is the foundation.

Yes, the individual. You. Not elections, not parliaments, not cabinets and prime ministers and oppositions and generals and bureaucrats and state institutions and superior judges — but you. Get it? You, the one man; you, the one woman; you, the one child — you and your well-being is more important than all these fat cats rolled into one. This is what differentiates true democracies from the quasi-fraud that we have.

Think about it. You look at these VIPs grown obese on your tax money and whizzing past you in shiny black limousines and their screaming squad cars. You feel a bile of loathing welling up inside you. Why? Because at that moment, you realise this system is not for you, but for them.

You get abused and beaten in the thana, while these fat cats rape the law and are saluted for it. You look at this elected criminal from behind your swollen black eyes, and at that moment you realise this system is not for you, but for them.

Your kids do not have schools to go to, and your wife can die in childbirth because the hospitals you have access to are crawling with rats and cockroaches and ill-trained, ill-tempered doctors. Then you see your elected grandees going abroad for treatment because they are entitled to this privilege, which they granted themselves. This sickening duality slaps you across the face, and at that moment, you realise this system is not for you, but for them.

England had the rule of law before it had electoral democracy and universal suffrage. A century ago, a common citizen of England had more individual rights and more basic privileges than a common citizen of Pakistan today. A century ago, a common citizen of the US enjoyed greater equality before law and greater access to justice than a common citizen of Pakistan today. A century ago, women in England and the US did not have a right to vote — that came a bit later — but they had ironclad rights bestowed on them by a system built on the premise that all were equal in the eyes of the law.

What do you want more in Pakistan: complete equality of everyone before the law, or a morally bankrupt parliament? Your constitutional protection against any type of abuse, or elation over the fact that you have something called a Senate? The reign of pure merit, or the privilege to cast your vote every five years and dance with joy like a Roman citizen in the Colosseum?

Yes, you should not have to make this choice, but you are now forced to. Because you are only being given half of what you deserve — and the lesser important half. The narrative here is skewed. Forget democracy versus dictatorship: this argument is the last refuge of the scoundrel. The narrative now should be: “Keep your elections, give us our rights.”

But these fat cats won’t. They have no idea what human progress actually means, and entails. Damn these buses and bridges if the citizens who sit in them can be persecuted by the law that should be serving them. Damn these laptops and other harebrained schemes if those receiving them cannot ever challenge the rulers on merit. And damn these concrete monsters on Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue if they cannot legislate and implement a steel web of individual rights for every single man, woman and child in Pakistan.

The virus is not in the air we breathe, but in the minds of those who rule us. They are where they are because they have enjoyed the privileges and advantages this system has accorded them. Can you expect them to cut the branch they sit on? Can you expect them to reform away the very ills that have catapulted them into these positions of power? Can you believe medicine — any medicine — can cure the virus that infects their mind and their thinking?

If you wait for this manipulative system to reform itself, you are in for a long wait. If you think these rulers — all of them — will suddenly grow a revolutionary brain, you need to see a shrink. This, my friends, ain’t happening.  The increasingly aware citizenry — yes you — will have to make a collective heave to push the fat cats out, and reclaim this glorious nation that the Quaid gave to you — not to them.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Zaid Noorsumar
    Nov 2, 2014 - 12:27AM

    And how do you propose we “push the fat cats” out? What do you want, a (violent) revolution? It certainly worked out well in Egypt and Syria…oh wait.


  • Zia Ahmad
    Nov 2, 2014 - 12:46AM

    The last few lines just summed it up:

    ‘As u said ‘if wait for system to reform itself its a long wait’
    plus I think it will encourage system/rulers remain same.

    So we have to speak up against wrongs in system.


  • Sarah Rehman
    Nov 2, 2014 - 12:48AM

    Another wonderful piece of writing! These leeches are never going to think about our wellbeing. The time has come for us to stand up for our rights which are being usurped since the last many decades. I thank Imran Khan for creating the much needed awareness and it’s solely because of him that we have woken up.


  • Yasir
    Nov 2, 2014 - 1:14AM

    Solutions please!!!! We know all these problems but mere ranting will not suffice


  • Faraz
    Nov 2, 2014 - 1:16AM

    The column completely depicting the wrong picture of Pakistan. I agree Pakistan has severe problems. But we have the constitution, we have the independent judiciary, we have the Parliament and we have the media through which u r highlighting your concerns. From my point of view, we only need to implement the laws and constitutions in true letter & spirit. This could not be implemented in a year or two. This will take time. The best system is democratic system where people judge their representatives. Existing five years govt will be better than the previous ones as they know if they will not delivered they will be wipe out like last govt. The system should not be disrupted. The other thing you should highlight solutions regarding every problem rather than passing sweeping statement. If any wall or any room of a house not function properly, you should not destruct the whole house, only repair the defective areas.


  • Farah
    Nov 2, 2014 - 1:54AM

    It is an excellent piece of writing to read. There is another problem growing these days that if one critisizes ruling class , it means he is supporting dharna team. I want u to clear one thing that rulers are always critisized but this time the difference is that we as common citizens have realised the truth . We know now that the problem is not with individuals but the system , which is cleverly crafted around us , to benifit only the ruler class.


  • tauseef rasheed
    Nov 2, 2014 - 2:09AM

    I think the Fahd Husain is absolutely right when he says that it is about our fundamental rights as common citizen of Pakistan which are being denied to us by the present and past ruling class and they are pretending this to be struggle between democracy and dictatorship. The nation has to stand to gather and fight a long battle against the ruling class who want to maintain the status quo and is not ready to give the basic rights of equality before the law, education and basic health facility to the nation. They are throwing the Public money on useless projects which can not bring prosperity to the poor Pakistanis. It is high time for all Pakistanis to stand united against these opportunists who will never give the due share to the poor Pakistanis. This rotten system must go but for this to go, we all have to let our differences go and stand hard and united against these evil doers.


  • Farrukh
    Nov 2, 2014 - 4:40AM

    This is all truth and nothing but truth. Who will bell the cat?


  • Steadily
    Nov 2, 2014 - 6:07AM

    Steadily democracy is going to increase individual liberty. Just give democracy a chance.


  • Ria Missem
    Nov 2, 2014 - 8:45AM

    Pakistan is in the hands of wrong people. You are right, Fahad! There is no hope they will get right. What is the way out? It is politics that will defeat them. The struggle to this end is going on. Let’s, for sure, have yet more democracy!


  • Fazal Safi
    Nov 2, 2014 - 10:54AM

    Dear fahad hussain we all know that our nation is now awake, you are right what you mentioned but how will the system revamp, no one is ready to answer this.


  • Uza Syed
    Nov 2, 2014 - 11:39AM

    Quasi fraud?! It is real, perpetual fraud and we are the real victims here.


  • Syed Ali
    Nov 2, 2014 - 12:01PM

    Another beautifully crafted piece! There was a lot of passion in the writing and you dont get to see that often.
    I cant even fathom how some common civilians, just like you and me, still support the status quo parties. The arguments you made,they cant be contradict with any logic whatsoever. And yet, mark my words Fahd, no matter how bad things get,that one tiny-yet-a-sizeable portion of the “awaam” sleeping,will always remain asleep


  • Agnostic
    Nov 2, 2014 - 1:12PM

    This sounds like PTI -PAT rant. No solutions are indicated. Still at square 1.


  • Rex Minor
    Nov 2, 2014 - 1:54PM

    ET mod. you did not accept my comments indicate that the media must also reform itself inorder to get the country out of abyss! What the European people experienced through revolutions, magna carta and bill of rights in england and beyond or the period of industrialisation, renaissance and enlightenment as well as two world wars setback, the priority for the people of Pakistan must be to take a chapter from the neighbouring Chinese who through cultural revolutions and reforms and not through militarisation( as is the case in Pakistan) rapidly got out of their misery, galloping to catch up with the west and are very likely to take the leading position.in the world. You are free as you exist, keep your freedom nurtured and respect others freedom as well besides yours..

    Rex Minor


  • Dr Ghulam Ali
    Nov 2, 2014 - 1:59PM

    A brilliant piece, timely and well penned.
    Needs such efforts to wake up the people to snatch their rights from these “fat cats”. Common Pakistanis have been living in a state which is far lesser than animals deserve in civilized countries.
    Only a revolution, not an evolution, is the solution.


  • Rashid Ghaznavi
    Nov 2, 2014 - 3:13PM

    Hard hitting, the truth and courageous. How can I get a hard copy to include in my forthcoming book? There is nothing I can leave out if I want type it out.


  • Ishrat Salim
    Nov 2, 2014 - 3:54PM


    Stand up against any wrong & stand up for your rights…this is how people in the developed countries have evolved themselves into a developed nation they are called today….


  • Ishrat Salim
    Nov 2, 2014 - 4:04PM

    The system / democracy will not take root, unless local govt system is established. If these political parties were sincere to bring in true democracy, why have they all collectively been avoiding to conduct local govt system for the past 6 years now ? & now when they are being forced to conduct LG election as per constitution, they are amending rules to make it on party base, although as per constitution, it should not be party based, so that representation is made from grass root level & all & any one could get elected. This is what Fahd Sb is trying pointing out…we must stand up to resist such un-constitutional step….just one example.


  • Yasir
    Nov 2, 2014 - 6:29PM

    @Ishrat Salim: Stand up, break the shackles, shout !!!! This is the anarchist approach in the guise of revolution. Any revolution in our illiterate country will lead to anarchy and destruction. Articles like these are polarizing the nation without providing any concrete solutions


  • Munir Kakar
    Nov 2, 2014 - 6:58PM

    Brilliant to say the least. He has very eloquently spoken out his heart which aches for highest moral, humanistic and political values which has been unashamedly crushed for protection of their vested interests by the robber barons. But the six million dollar question is how to go about it. The individuals are not individuals but have very intelligently been wrapped by elites with plethora of identities that expecting them to act in unison is next-to-impossible. The specter of bellyful polarization- sectarian, regional, ethnic, class- will haunt every sincere attempt to mobilize the people and identify the real predators. Let us mourn the future of our children who has no future.


  • ObserverUSA
    Nov 2, 2014 - 8:47PM

    Spot on!!!


  • Parvez
    Nov 2, 2014 - 11:13PM

    In all honesty I did not expect my original comment to be printed. So this is a 2nd much watered down attempt at a comment.
    Every week you get better and better…….and you are calling it like it is.


  • Xman
    Nov 2, 2014 - 11:34PM

    “Keep your elections, give us our rights” yeah right. Rant for rights, but forget about “responsibilities”


  • beyond weight
    Nov 3, 2014 - 5:53AM

    @Rex Minor:
    ET is agenda driven. Any comments that undermine its agenda are trashed.


  • Ishrat Salim
    Nov 3, 2014 - 11:37AM


    This is how CHANGE will come. What CHANGE 2 peaceful dharnas brought ? the present status quo parties & all those supporting them have proved that they will jointly resist any CHANGE & have you not witnessed that ? it is history that any CHANGE is never peaceful….why are you afraid ? unless we are prepared for sacrifice, no CHANGE is possible…can you propose any better alternative ? where poor people in particular get the most benefit…they get their rights, rights to education , they are assured at least 2 square meal a day, employment, security to life & right to fair justice – this is in our constitution – have any of the govt / party followed the constitution ? yet all blabber about protecting constitution & democracy, while 40 basic articles are not followed by any govt in power…are you that naïve or pretending to be one..do you have a conscience ?


  • Khalid Rahim
    Nov 3, 2014 - 9:43PM

    The problem with our leaders is their lack of insight to their own character! How then can they see beyond their nose into the far horizon to develop foresight for the nation.


  • Anarchy
    Nov 4, 2014 - 1:10AM

    In the name of individual rights and liberty and equality, you are pleading anarchy wittingly or unwittingly, which sadly still won’t guarantee individual liberties but could usher in a harsh and possibly tyrannical dictatorship.


  • ObserverUSA
    Nov 4, 2014 - 2:50AM

    @Ishrat Salim:
    “…where poor people in particular get the most benefit…they get their rights, rights to education , they are assured at least 2 square meal a day, employment, security to life & right to fair justice – this is in our constitution – have any of the govt / party followed the constitution ?”
    The people have to create their own employment, security, 2 square meals and so on. The govt should only provide security and a lawful protection. We don’t want a big all encompassing government and we should be against totalitarianism.


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