There is a Chinese saying by Sun Tzu, “If you know yourself and your enemy, you need not dread the result of a thousand battles.” But what would one say about a political culture that neither knows itself nor its enemy? Does it merit the credentials to govern a country whose pressing problems evade it, where escapism is a political stratagem, where megalomaniacs with soft ears bask in the aura of courtiers while nincompoops spin yarns with splendid abandon? This is a political culture unwilling to learn, research or debate. The long list of wants reminds me of a childhood poem:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,

for want of a shoe the horse was lost,

for want of a horse the knight was lost,

for want of a knight the battle was lost,

for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

Pakistan is imploding and rulers do not seem to care. Juxtaposed in conflicting narratives, Jinnah’s vision is eclipsed. Ever since the dawn of ‘democracy as best revenge’, federal and provincial plans, akin to the nail, lack vision, depth and detail. The brass tacks of good governance and national priorities resemble a jumbled meccano set that can be shaped for the worst. To be incompetent is pardonable; to be callous is criminal tantamount to complicity. The czars just do not have the mettle, urge or time to know or learn. Each is a victim of one’s own subjective experiences. Fallacies of generalisations insulate them from reason and logic. Critical thinking is non-existent. Flattery is music, dissent is unpardonable.

The dons who grace the constitutional avenue and assembly chambers have unlearned the habit of even reading tabloids, not to mention serious books. After all, journals and policy papers are too dry to digest for those who have more appetite for raw power and aggrandisement. The complete surrender to internal egos created by a deficit called vulnerability propels them to a psyche of self-preservation followed by a self-belief that they are invulnerable and indispensable. News-strips, odd tweets, smartphones and gossip are their best source of information. Administrative and intelligence paraphernalia remain preoccupied keeping tags on rivals and potential stragglers. Incriminating information is handy for blackmailing. These desi Al Capones have an insatiable appetite to blackmail or bump off dissent.

Introspection and self-correction is conspicuously absent. Why do it when the entire consequence of faulty decision making can be masked by rhetoric, conspiracy theories and political justifications. Two wrongs always make a right. For them, it is prudent to substitute the solitary moments of yore with political concubines who amplify the illusions and provide the pompous and megalomaniac aura that makes the toughest succumb to innate instincts. Democracy a la revenge runs on whims and not well thought policies. As the country gets weaker, the leaders of political parties armed with the lethal eighteenth amendment wield a whip against any dissent. A train of opportunists, beneficiaries and fly by night reformers followed by most obedient servants buzz around the whip master with a constant flow of melodious chatter. Inside the termite hill, workers of various descriptions bloat the invincible queen incapable to ventures for a ground check. As the plot deepens, the spirals in the sinkhole get fiercer and deeper. The democracy of mutual back scratching makes it incumbent to stamp the mouse even if there is a tiger at the door. After all, stamping means more activity and noise.

How could one define the incompetence, callousness and apathy of Pakistan’s politicians in the aftermath of a new found National Action Plan in the post-Peshawar tragedy? Despite repeated declarations of a counter terrorism policy forged through the copy-paste of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance and Anti-Terrorism Act, it transpired that the government was never serious in implementing it. There never existed a working or viable plan to complement military’s isolated campaign against terrorism. Two weeks have been wasted by political parties on military courts while the onerous task of perceiving threat levels, typologies and objectives have yet to be understood. The perceptions being created pre suppose that military courts will become the death knell for terrorism. As a result, the entire debate on counter terrorism is obscured either willingly or by default. The braying from Larkana suggests it is deliberated by all beneficiaries of NRO and the Charter of Democracy. The crocodile tears for the children of Thar, Sargodha and Peshawar reflect innate animal instincts.

The government is avoiding taking the bull by the horns. The entire process of successive all parties’ conferences are to create delays and complications in the execution of counter terrorism plans. Else the government should have shown immediate urgency and resolve in setting up the legislative, executive and judicial oversight mechanisms to complement counter terrorism operations. The fact that the government circumvents the issue means that either it is incompetent to take on the onerous challenge or wants to delay it. The country is indeed at war but the rulers do not wish to fight it. Some take solace in the statement that it was the army that created these monsters and therefore must eliminate them. The dirty laundry belongs to the army.

This absence of political will and credibility in backdrop of political rhetoric reminds me of another nursery rhyme:

A man of words and not of deeds

Is like a garden full of weeds

And when the weeds begin to grow

It’s like a garden full of snow

And when the snow begins to fall

It’s like a bird upon the wall

And when the bird away does fly

It’s like an eagle in the sky

And when the sky begins to roar

It’s like a lion at the door

And when the door begins to crack

It’s like a stick across your back

And when your back begins to smart

It’s like a penknife in your heart

And when your heart begins to bleed

You’re dead, and dead, and dead

indeed.

It is incumbent on the bleeding, mourning and bruised nation to rebuild temperate willpower and national consciousness to back patriotic forces against the Merchants of Venice seeking pounds of flesh. Like the nursery rhymes, it is time for basics.

The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson. He can be contacted at samson.sharaf@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter