24 May 2024 08:01 PM


Humayun Gauhar | 17 FEBRUARY, 2016

Pakistan Marches Backwards

“What should our be vision for Pakistan?” asked Maverick the Monkey innocently to get the conversation going. Little did he realize that he was igniting a time bomb.

“You guys use words, words and more words just to sound intellectual,” scolded my wife. “Where are you coming from? Alice in Wonderland? Do you really understand these words – ‘vision’, ‘philosophy’, ‘ideology’ – blah. Respect words; they are a universe. So ask not about vision boys; ask: ‘Where we want Pakistan to be in five years and beyond’. That’s solid. Vision my foot, its amorphous. Only confused soothsayers have visions like the one in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, though his vision about the Ides of March turned out to be correct. If old William had been around he could have penned a great comedy on you two. A vision is dreaming while awake – daydreaming. You are champion daydreamers. What’s in your genetic code won’t go away in a hurry.”

The lady was now in overdrive, from zero to sixty in four seconds. “Look, forget vision. After determining where you want Pakistan to be in five years, make a realistic and doable plan. Call it ‘strategy’ to satisfy your pomposity. But always remember that the plans of monkeys and men come to naught in the face of God’s plan? But since it is the duty of man and monkey to try their best, naturally you have to do it. You must. So do it, don’t moan, then leave the rest to God. Right now it seems that God has decided to teach us Muslims a lesson by destroying and changing the States that we’ve made, for only when we are cornered are we likely to see the Light again. To teach us a lesson God has gifted us Nawaz Sharif for a third time after gifting us the Bhutto’s and their son-in-law four times. Now he is smiling on Nawaz Sharif: cheap oil getting cheaper, no floods, weak opposition, weak opposition unable to rouse a people in the sloth of despair and disappointment, an army that may dislike him but doesn’t loathe him and America happy with him and our sham democracy.

“After making your plan, identify who will implement it without ifs and buts. Determine realistically what their attributes should be and how you will weigh and measure them remembering that you don’t really know what’s in anyone’s heart unless they get the chance to show you. Remember: the only honest people in Pakistan are those who have never had the chance to be dishonest. Don’t look for angels. Work with the best you have, which may not be very good, but that is all you have. Even if they are not the best, ensure at least that they are not rotten. The best of chefs can turn out a terrific dish with ordinary and inadequate raw material as long as it is not rotten. Humayun once made fish cutlets out of chicken and no one noticed. He won’t tell me how, so don’t ask.

“Humayun,” she continued without breaking breath, a facility women have and men don’t, “remember how many people have shocked you into silence, those who wouldn’t stop haranguing you about corruption and then broke all records of loot and plunder when they got into power. Almost everyone who got public office turned out to be corrupt when they got the chance. Their motto is: ‘Power for Pelf’ that they never revealed while they were not in office. How good your guard dog is can only be determined when he is required to guard something. When your dog gets mixed up with thieves you don’t stand a chance. If your dog mistakenly bites you, as my cousin’s dog bit him, whose fault is it? The stupid dogs and my cousins for choosing him and not training him properly.”

Now cruising on autopilot, she continued: “After making the plan determine whether you have the capacity to implement it unless you think you are Plato or Aristotle or Socrates or Thomas Jefferson. You want to be Lt. Gen. Oliver Cromwell and Maj. Gen. George Washington. Given the capacity of the raw material you have to work with, it’s not going to be easy. Look, you may be a great chef Humayun but if I gave you rotten meat to cook your famous ‘aloo gosht’ with you would turn up a rotter. You and your monkey think you can solve national problems? Who do you think you are? You are trapped in the ‘if wishes were horses pigs would fly’ syndrome.”

“Look, my lady,” said Maverick. “My turn to speak; yours to listen. You cannot have a plan without a vision. Our vision is national and individual prosperity. So we make plans on how to achieve them. If no one takes notice or, more likely, tweaks the plan and uses it for his own benefit that is not our fault. God has given Mankind many plans in His scriptures but we have always mutilated them by deliberately misinterpreting them for our own selfish purposes. Mutilation, misinterpretation and adulteration – not to be confused with Ijtehad, making things contemporary without breaking fundamental principles – are in our genes too dear lady, not in our stars, that we are wretched underlings bereft of independence and sovereignty.”

“If only there were a people’s revolution you moan,” continued my wife ignoring Maverick. “If only the army produced an Ataturk. You want a French revolution then become like the French. The closest things we have had to an Ataturk are Ayub Khan and Musharraf. But they didn’t become Ataturks because they tried to save the status quo by denting and painting the wretched system for they too are its beneficiaries. Ataturk didn’t come from the privileged background a general does. He was a product of the defeat of Turkey’s empire. Thus he was fired by nationalism. So are all liberation leaders. But here we have to win liberation from our own ruling classes. We are not even a nation. If you do not destroy the status quo and all its man-eating systems, no damn vision is going to be anything but a nightmare. I have been hearing this ‘vision’ nonsense since I married Humayun, always building castles in the air, but we have only marched backwards. ”

Feeling momentarily sheepish, I saw that even Maverick had managed a blush through his furry face. She had shocked us by telling us the blunt truth bluntly.

Since my wife joined our dialogue Maverick and I have been scolded and, I admit, been brought down to earth repeatedly. Only women can do that best for they live less in a dream-world and are ruthlessly pragmatic. But I also thought that dreams are the stuff reality is made of. The lesson is that while converting dreams into reality one should keep one’s feet on the ground, not a few feet above it, head in the clouds. Dreams and reality have a symbiotic relationship and one should work within one’s limitations. Ask first: Who’s listening? Probably no one so far. The secret then is to be aware of one’s limitations and work with and around them and try to improve capacity as one goes along, which can only be done with education, information and knowledge, not if one has degraded clay for the potter’s wheel. Scolding is good for us for it gets us out of the day dreaming realm and jolts us back into reality, like waking up from a beautiful dream and finding the same awful reality we fell asleep in.

Finally, I spoke up, but not without some trepidation I admit. “You linear thinkers are happy because posters have appeared in some places asking General Raheel Sharif to withdraw his statement not to accept extension in his term. If you recall, I said that would happen when he made the announcement. Do you know who is behind it? No you don’t. Is it the army itself or a political party not without encouragement or some people with or without encouragement or on their own? You don’t really know, but the last is the least likely. Who has the time or the money? If it is any of the first three, then you get a peep into the army’s intent. If it is the last it is sign of a paucity of ideas, passing the buck in desperation to the army. One man cannot do it alone, not without clarity of vision, doable plan and the best available young people to work with. To put it another way, if a country is so dependent on one man to save it, you cannot save it. If the army cannot have continuity of policy without one man, it is not an institution but a gang. Get real. Mr. Jinnah may have been the best and the lead spokesman for Pakistan, but it is a misnomer to call him ‘sole spokesman’. There were many others around him and without them he alone could not have done it. He succeeded because he selected the right people each with his own function.

“Army, army, army: that is all you idealess people can think of,” I continued seeing that no volcano had erupted. “You cannot go on repeating the same experiment hoping to get the result you want one day. Look, our greatest problem is our political leaders and terrorists. Where do you think they came from? Did they all fall out of the sky? No, the army was there in the lab, petri dish in one hand, pipette in the other. Out of the artificial womb came Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain, terrorists of many ilk. Expecting those who gave you the disease in the first place to also give you the cure is a sign of stupidity. Don’t blame the army. The politicians handed the country over to the army time and again because of their incompetence, corruption and ill-intent. The army is not trained to run a country, only to defend it. If you use a car as a tractor, the car will not deliver for it cannot. It is not made for such work. Get smart kids.”

“Look, girls and boys,” I continued seeing that I had put my wife into silence. “We all think we have answers but they can be tested by action only. Cleanse the constitution, break free of the colonial mindset and adopt a political system that is close to native yet modern – easier said than done. Undertake ruthless accountability and mete out proportional justice… and so much more. But who will do it? Our highly parochial people, illiterate and poor, seem in no mood to revolt for they have been used, abused and discarded many times. The minds of our class are colonized; poor minds are mullahized. While we make for idiot daydreamers, they make for terrorist fodder. Both look for instant solutions, both by violence. One makes for lack of imagination, the other for primitiveness. One makes for slavery; the other for marching to backwardness. Both make for chaos and anarchy. There is only one commonality between them: they don’t make for revolution. But the worm is known to turn.

“So, back to the drawing board, Maverick my friend. We will talk soon about making a framework for a plan of monkey and man. Meantime, the best option might well be the natural – LET POLITICAL EVOLUTION TAKE ITS COURSE and see where it takes us. Prepare for the worst while keeping in mind the people of Syria to help you understand; hope for the best keeping in mind that the global economy could go for a spin in a couple of years. Never lose hope. God’s Will will always be done and it will be for the best for it is in the programme of the cosmos.