Light at the end of tunnel | By Tariq Aqil


Light at the end of tunnel

POLITICAL leaders, national institutions the all-powerful establishment and even our basic values and ethics all seem to be collapsing all around us. The nation is now fighting for the recovery of our values and traditions, we have to fight to preserve our values and traditions with the present crop of leaders and the institutions that make up the nation and state of Pakistan. Let us not forget that a lot of good has been done by these very leaders and our national institutions in spite of all the doom and gloom that we see engulfing the people of this fair land our beloved country.

During the last seven decades of our existence Pakistan has had its fair share of trials and tribulations some natural and some man made and has come out of all negative experiences with flying colours. Since independence the country has been in a state of enmity with our powerful neighbour in the east and suffered the consequences of two major wars and many border skirmishes. We have been a pawn in the great game of the cold war and suffered the results of siding with one global power, providing air bases and becoming members of military pacts like SEATO and CENTO. One sitting Prime Minister and one former Prime Minister have been assassinated in broad daylight. Our constitution has been trampled underfoot by military dictators, the media has been in chains many times, ethnic and sectarian conflict has distorted the national scene and terrorism has devastated the land. Almost all political parties and their leaders have suffered persecution, suppression, jail terms and character assassination. The political leaders have podded on and struggled to build the infrastructure and the democratic institutions of the country the PMLN did try to reform the constitution and the PPP created political awareness and gave a voice to the suffering middle class and the lower middle class groaning under the yoke of capitalism. It was the PPP led by its founder Z.A, Bhutto that managed to hand craft the 1973 constitution that has survived the test of time so far and has healed divisions in the provinces of Pakistan with their grievances of exploitation by the bigger province. Jamat-i-Islami and JUI along with other smaller groups of religious parties have sustained the religious discourse and ethnic groups like the MQM, AWP, and ANP have highlighted the problems and desires of ethnic minorities and struggled to find answers.

All political parties have faced the wrath of the media, the powerful establishment and a judiciary that has acted many a times on the doctrine of necessity and has failed to protect the constitution. Hats off to the Pakistani media that in spite of death threats, arrests, jail terms, floggings and murders has kept going to uphold the torch of freedom of speech and the press. The heroes of the media are journalists like Arshad Sharif and Saleem Shehzad who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty and refuse to submit to terror and intimidation. Hamid Mir, Absar Alam and Ahmed Noorani continued their brave fight even after surviving assassination attempts. Mati Ullah Jan and Umar Cheema showed courage and grit while defending the freedom of the press.

The military establishment and the civil service has been widely vilified and abused but they have managed to do their national duty in spite of meagre resources and lack of basic facilities. They have done a magnificent job during many natural calamities like earth quakes, cyclones and floods and the very recent Covid pandemic. Our doctors, nurses, Deputy Commissioners, patwaris, tehsildars, teachers, policemen and workers of different departments have done a marvellous job and worked beyond the call of duty to provide help and succour during any national emergency or crisis.

Polio workers and lady health visitors have braved death to provide services at the door steps of the citizens and these workers of our national institutions are the few who do so much for the so many and the nation owes them a debt of gratitude that can never be paid. The armed forces of the country provide the shelter below which the nation can sleep in peace and harmony. Soldiers, sailors and airmen always ready and prepared to lay down their life in the defence of the country. These brave boys have faced and blunted the onslaught of a bigger and deadlier enemy and never faltered to lay down their lives when called upon to do so. These sons of the soil have fought internal enemies and terrorist demons like the TTP, DAESH, BLA and religious extremist terror groups. We can be rightly proud of our brave and valiant armed forces who are awake and ever ready while the nation can sleep. The judiciary and the legal fraternity have no doubt failed many times to defend the constitution and at the same time they have shown independence of spirit and judicial independence. How can we forget the lawyer’s movement of 2007 or the decisions of Justice Faez Esa? Even in this age of doom and gloom everything is not lost, we are not at the point of no return, Pakistan can and will pull back from the brink. Pakistan has had many instances of greatness because of the patriotism, dedication and devotion of the leaders and institutions that seem to be rushing headlong into destruction.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

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