Council of Elders | By Maj Gen Muhammad Samrez Salik (R)

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Council of Elders


PAKISTAN has lived through 73 years of its chequered history. It has passed through golden as well as tumultuous times. Though, the reader will feel constrained to stretch his memory for golden eras.

In my view, the prolonged conflict has been one of the major reasons besides many more for the poor evolution of society, degeneration of social fabric, societal decay, loss of national character, and erosion of law and order.

Most of the time the country has been seen at the crossroads of its history. Each crossroad unfortunately has led to the next crossroad. Though, there are many achievements too, for which Pakistan can be proud of itself.

Pakistan is defined by two keywords; ‘turbulence and resilience’. The country has oscillated between extremes of pendulum.

Liberalism to orthodoxy, non-violence to extreme violence, better democracy to sham-democracy, forgiving to unforgiving, and civility to savagery.

Notwithstanding the causes for this, Pakistan is apparently passing through a period of internal strife, infighting, and squabbles.

Political parties are shooting at each other and all organs of state are exchanging barbs with each other. Evils of TTP and ISIS are staring into our eyes.

Society is polarised like opposing poles of a battery. Oppositely charged poles cannot coexist without sparking.

It seems the complete body politic of Pakistan is agitated, full of vengeance, charged, and ready to cutthroats. To top it all Pakistan is surrounded by hostile India, sanctioned Iran, dysfunctional Afghanistan and maliciously looking US.

External challenges are being exacerbated by infighting which can best be tackled by a house in order.

It is interesting to note that the benchmark of neighbouring China for an upward trajectory is 1978, while that of Pakistan for the downward spiral is 1979.

China got a peaceful environment, visionary leadership, and continuity in the last four decades and it grew its economy ninety-one times.

In the same period, Pakistan witnessed perpetual conflict, inept leadership, mismanagement which has led to economic losses, blood losses, poor growth, and worst of all loss of national character.

No single segment can be squarely blamed for this state of affairs as certain strategic choices were thrust upon Pakistan. Seemingly, all segments have done their part to exacerbate the woes of Pakistan.

With that in view, we are what we are. In a pursuit to find the causes of our decay, one can argue for many.

However, a couple of glaring causes may be; the early departure of founding fathers which precluded a strong foundation for the nascent state and projection of vested interest groups, the prevalence of prolonged conflict in and around the state, and lack of visionary leadership.

In a perpetual state of conflict, the men of means opted to fly off for prospective safety and security.

Peshawar and Quetta were known as dying cities. To cite an example; until the 80s, Quetta was one of the better-managed cities of Pakistan. Its PTV station was highly vibrant in producing new dramas and throwing up new actors.

Off late Quetta has been a conflict-ridden and poorly managed city. All these causes and many more have left indelible marks on the canvas of Pakistan.

Mainly, these are; people have remained in search of nationhood, it has lost its national character, it has lost its intelligentsia as well as brain and the social fabric of the society has been torn apart.

Intelligentsia serves to steer the society in a direction based on the culture, strategic thought, and values of that society.

The absence of a potent intelligentsia is affecting the evolution of the society of Pakistan and the country appears to be a flotilla of rudderless ships.

Like PM wants to convert Pakistan into ‘Medina Kee Riasat’, while TV dramas are taking it elsewhere.

Entertainment TV, which plays a major role in forming opinions, collective attitudes and responses, is only concerned with viewership and making money. There seems a sheer absence of steering mechanisms.

Particularly all three places meant to groom future generations are dysfunctional. The mosque is teaching violence; the school is teaching cheating and households are indifferent and careless.

Extraordinary situations warrant extraordinary measures. The situation isn’t hopeless and we have no option to give up. The proposed solution isn’t supra-constitutional or the replacement of existing systems.

With a view to filling the gap of the intelligentsia, more than any time in the past; there is now a need for the Council of Elders.

An apolitical organization comprising sages (approximately a score)to provide direction to the society.

While security, geo-strategy, and hardcore functions of state may be handled by established organs of the state, this body should look at mundane issues afflicting the body politic of the society.

It should comprise mature and elderly people from all segments of society. It may comprise men and women of character, non-ambitious, apolitical, non-partisan, non-self-projectionist, balanced, free of vested interests, and preferably volunteers.

In a merely advisory role, it can be mandated to; fill the gap of missing intelligentsia, focus on societal decay, provide direction to various segments of society, look beyond day-to-day functioning and governmental issues with a view to focussing on key debilitating factors and building capacity for non-time barred, non-politicized, honest and long-term analysis on issues of national importance.

Unless we take certain drastic measures, afflictions of Pakistan cannot be cured through routine functioning. Violent tendencies grown over decades need to be transformed into non-violent attitudes.

Mosque, school, and homes have to be revamped for better grooming of next generations. Else deplorable incidents like recent in Sialkot will not abate and may rather increase.

—The writer is Ph.D scholar.

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