Maybe it is time to take a break from the usual self bashing and look at ourselves from a different angle. We have been taking plentiful stock of what we have been doing wrong. Maybe taking stock of what we are demonstrably capable of may lead us to a different starting point.
I can remember two instances within the last three years or so when the people of Pakistan set an example.
First, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in 2005, the outpouring of help from across Pakistan was revealing. It reassured itself that this nation still has a pulse. Granted there was looting and price gouging, but it was overshadowed by a rare display of concern and unified action from across Pakistan for their fellow citizens. One BBC report put it this way :
“Pakistanis have astounded themselves with their own generosity since the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country on 8 October. A tidal wave of ordinary people have rushed to help the victims of the earthquake, raising money or just hiring trucks and delivering goods to Kashmir. These actions of civil society, not seen since the 1965 war against India, have united the nation and they will have significant political implications. ”
One interesting aspect was coordinating fund raising and logistics of relief efforts on email with the help of people on the ground. Pakistanis from across the globe got involved resulting in movement of money and material to the affected areas. People who previously did not know each other organized to do their duty of helping those in need. People from all walks of life contributed. One particularly inspiring instance was that of a Pakistani reporter who went to Muzzaffarabad to cover the devastation. He took a month’s leave to stay and help with the relief efforts. He was able to ease the pain of hundred of people. One man made a difference.
The media played a particularly commendable role and so did the charity organizations and other NGOs. It was good to see organized participation from the various political parties as well.
The government received a lot of criticism and a number of things were pointed out that could have been done better. However, Pakistan government’s response was speedier than that of the Bush administration’s in the wake of New Orleans. When the government of Pakistan wants to do something it does. And it should be no surprise. Pakistan government like any other government has a command and control structure. What materializes the command into a tangible action on ground is the perceived seriousness of intent and the attendant consequences for non-compliance. In such a system a single person at the top can make a big difference. Taking people to task works like a charm in raising the bar of performance.
The people of Pakistan earned themselves credit back then.
Second on the day of the long march to Islamabad, people came out en masse despite fear of possible suicide attacks sponsored by interests that did not want the long march to take place. Despite, considerable effort spent using and abusing state machinery to create hurdles and road blocks so that the will of the people can be thwarted, a sea of people came out and marched on until they got what they were looking for. The people set the stage, however, the role that Nawaz Sharif played did act as a catalyst. The sitting government did itself credit by not persisting with the untenable. Yet, the decisive nudge came from the military.
This was a truly unique occurrence. The lawyers movement, backed by civil society came to a certain point, but when backed by a popular politician, reached a critical mass whereby one of pillars of the establishment intervened and the people got what they wanted. A rare confluence. Now one can argue about the motives of each of the players in this interesting drama. However, there is no denying that people power was the lever that pressed on the gate until the gatekeeper fearing for the safety of the gate prevailed on the king to behave..
The CJ’s actions in the coming months will tell about whether he has earned the respect that people have showed him. It will be sometime before a jury can do in deliberation on whether the CJ is doing justice to his honorable office. Sure there will be knee jerk criticisms to his actions, some justified some not so, but it will take some time for the overall picture to emerge.
As some wise man said : “By union the smallest states thrive. By discord the greatest are destroyed.” Disagreement advances the thought process. But without open minds, disagreement quickly degenerates into discord. An open mind is a humble mind as it is open to the possibility that it many be wrong.
“Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts;” (Quran 13:11)
Maybe one part of such an inner personal change in the context of our nation is humility and maybe a greater measure of respect towards each other.
Both may help a great deal in forming a consensus where needed. Because if we ever were in need of forming a national consensus on how to deal with US’s presence in Afghanistan and the Taliban in Pakistan, it is now.
And if we are to push the envelope a little further, doing what we do to the best of our abilities, every day. This part will help us with what needs to be done post consensus.
Ironically, within the mess we are in, lies the opportunity of meeting our finest hour.
by: Kathay Kalame