There is trouble brewing in Westeros. And winter is coming,
The fresh season of the wildly popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” is back with a vengeance. There shall flow rivers of blood and tears as ruthless characters hack and slice their way through 13 episodes of pure unadulterated intrigue and power play. Many will die a thousand deaths, trampled under the hoofs of unbridled ambition and unabashed self-interest.
Prepare to drown in the delicious agony of excruciating ecstasy.
You shall not be blamed for confusing Westeros with our homeland. Rich in minerals, and in intrigue; blessed with fertile land and infertile imaginations; and brimming with potential, and a thinly-disguised death wish — this is where the action is. Hail the chiefs in all their glorious mediocrity.
For what else would you call a land that struggles to recognise what is good for it and what is not while sleepwalking through policy options? What else would you call a land that swallows the shrapnel of terrorism, yet retains an appetite for death beyond its shores? And what else would you call a land that buries its sons and daughters, and still remains ready to harvest its children’s lives in distant lands?
This is madness. No, This is P.a.k.i.s.t.a.n.
But wait. There is method in this madness. This is not a country that is willing any more to roll over and play dead. No sirs, that country is now a distant memory of generations past. Gone are the days when the mighty rulers stalked this land like hungry wolves, snarling at dissent and devouring all those who dared to think and speak differently. Those were the days when the Establishment was king, when the landed politicians dabbled in social and political mayhem, and when bureaucrats schemed their way to riches and influence. Back then this land belonged to the select few, who by privilege of birth or office enjoyed the best this piece of precious real estate had to offer.
Things they are a changin’ now. Kind of. The Lannisters, Targaryens and Baratheons are locked in a ferocious mortal combat of ideas and ideals. The clanging of steel and iron, the grunts of bloodied warriors, and the stench of charred thinking — all portray a society grappling with existential angst amid the ruins of its original dreams. There is the agony of elected leadership shriveling away from the challenge of terror, to the ecstasy of armed forces leading the charge against extremism. There is the agony of political midgets passing the shameful cybercrime Bill, and ecstasy of the citizens fighting back against this outrage. And then there is the agony of the government coping with the Yemen situation and the ecstasy of the nation standing united against sending our men and women in uniform to fight other people’s wars.
This is a country that is aching to be born again. Torn apart by internal fissures and external pressures, rent asunder by criminal governance and dishonest leadership, the land fights on for its dreams, its aspirations and its future that is still there for the taking. For where else would yesterday’s villains transform into today’s heroes; and where else would generations deprived of education and fundamental rights still produce an aware, motivated and galvanised citizenry hungry for a glorious tomorrow. No ladies and gentlemen, unlike many societies around us, we do not have a dead citizenry that consoles itself with a silver spoon. We suffer from hunger, and hunger drives motivation. We are a mammoth being straining to break free from the shackles of visionless leadership and its myopic policies. Yes, we suffer the agony of our imposed limitations, yet we taste the ecstasy of barrelling ahead against all odds. Roll over and play dead? Never.
Perseverance does indeed command success.
So smell the air around you — yes that’s the scent of hope wafting through clouds of despair. There is hope because this land is once again fighting for its promised future. In every street and bazaar, in every city and town, and in every forum and platform, Pakistanis are combating the demons of the past transmuted to the present through germs of heredity and tradition. Hope is backed by a plan of action, and good things are in store for us.
The strategic moment is upon us, and the dark forces of convention and tradition shall be put to the sword. The tide may yet turn. Karachi — the engine that will pull us into the bright future — is reclaiming its potential. This city will be rid of its horrors, and its scars shall heal with time. Every day promises a better tomorrow as bad men are brought to justice by good men. Every day promises a new beginning when incapable rulers and their petty interests are flung aside by other good men so law reigns over petty politicking. The agony of Karachi is making way for the ecstasy of Karachi. May the best man win the election this week and blaze a new trail of hope for this city of joy.
And may the shameful cybercrime Bill die an inglorious and painful death at the hands of those who cherish freedom of expression, and hold dear the liberties that define a modern society. It is not a bill; it is a travesty in the name of legislation. Those who have drafted it, and those who have passed it, deserve scorn. They are the Lannisters of today.
But the ecstasy of this agony is the promise that this bill will die a slow death like King Joffery — unmourned and unloved. And once it is burned at the pyre, it will herald yet another fantabulous defeat for the dark forces of convention, tradition and mediocrity. There will be time to celebrate, but not yet, for much work lies ahead for this project in progress we call our home.
There is agony in ecstasy, but perhaps a greater ecstasy in the agony that we endure, knowing well that a better tomorrow awaits us all. For Westeros, winter may be coming — but for Pakistan, spring is in the air.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2015.