The good news is we have some idea where we’re heading. The bad news is we’re far away from there.
Look around you. Look at the littered landscape you call Pakistan, which you call home. You see the judiciary on a crusade, the parliament struggling to outgrow its adolescence, the military finally recognising its home-grown and self-created enemies, the executive reining in its excesses and the media reaching out to the farthest corners of the land. Then you realise that this confused and traumatised nation is in a flux. It’s on the move, thrashing its limbs wildly to stay afloat.
And stay afloat it will. Just like a beginner learning to swim.
Do you know why? Because everything that every centre of power is doing is in some manner geared towards getting the approval of the country’s greatest asset the people.
Here’s why. The parliament may rejoice the passage of the 18th amendment, but its members know that constitutional cleansing alone will not win them votes. An end to loadshedding will, as would a reduction of inflation and unemployment. The treasury politicians know very well they have got to deliver direct benefits to the nation, howsoever they go about achieving that.They may tell us an infinite number of reasons why there’s a power famine, but that’s their problem. They and others like them created this mess in the first place. Who cares if government X did it or dictator Y. The bottom line is that we’re living in darkness – literally – and that’s what hurts us and our families. If they bring us electricity, jobs and a better living standard, they may get our votes. Otherwise, they can take a long walk off a short dock.
The opposition benches realise very well that playing to the galleries is what matters. Galleries R’ Us, by the way. They will jab, stab and impale the government in our name. The closer they get to us, the closer they get to power. Sure, the army and the American aspect in the equation still carry their weight, but it’s increasingly public opinion which is defining the agenda.
And what about our Lordships? In the exalted court they give the third degree to bureaucrats and politicians, and we applaud. They threaten the high and mighty with jail, and we cheer. They fling files full of lies at stiff-necked civil servants and we thump our desks. Yes, we the galleries love it. And they love it when we love it. You see, playing to the galleries is a contact sport. And it’s addictive when the galleries respond with approval.
And then there are the generals. They’re the ones who gave us the 1948, 1965, 1971 and the 1999 wars. They didn’t ask us – the people – before cocking their revolvers and pulling the triggers. However, all that seems to have changed. The Swat operation of last year succeeded because it had the public approval to support it. Whether it was the girl-flogging video or the TV images of the long-haired, wild-kohl-eyed Taliban storming into Buner in their pick-ups and ’threatening Islamabad‘, the result was a pendulum swing for public opinion. The top brass had been complaining to journalists in off-the-record briefings earlier that their hands were tied because of ambiguous public opinion. Then, they had their support. Then, they had their war, first in Swat, then in Fata.
It is the same situation as far as the media is concerned as well. The viewer, reader, listener is king. The people define what they show. It may produce amazing content but if it is not seen, read or heard, it’s a virtual waste.
Let’s face it. There’s much that is wrong in Pakistan, but increasingly there’s much that’s right. Or has the makings of being right. The credit goes to us – the people. The governed are suo motu-ing the governors.
Judge this, baby.