Ours is a strange land, whose people and rulers do not understand the true meaning of ‘independence’. To them freedom is an unbridled right to do whatever they want with nary a thought for laws, ethics, common sense and civic responsibility. Our Founding Fathers led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah struggled against huge odds to get us an independent home, where a nation could build itself into greatness - not where political successors looted and corrupted all that they touched; not where people agitated, when law was applied, forcing weak and inept governments to reverse decisions; not where people got so used to adopting shortcuts that when the lawful route was enforced upon them, they displayed resentment; not when the nation lost the spirit to sacrifice in difficult times and not when the going got tough, the people showed weakness and despair.

Over seven decades of history, we have watched ourselves turn into ‘rabble’, breaking laws and feigning ignorance, encouraging the growth of a corrupt culture by abetting it. I know of someone, who was asked to pay a sizeable sum for conversion of the electrical connection on his business premises, from a single to three phases. He refused to pay anything except the laid down charges that would be deposited in the treasury. His file kept on gathering dust and the demand by the concerned department kept on decreasing, until the victim met an old class mate, who turned out to be very senior official in the electricity department. The file that had lain dormant for five months moved with lightning speed and the work was completed within three days without any illegal gratification.

Corrupt regulatory authorities close their eyes to construction that violates laws, because their pockets have been stuffed with banknotes. Then comes a government with zero tolerance for law breakers. Now, the necessity to survive forces the same authorities to remove encroachments previously approved by them. The streets fill up with chanting crowds and burning tires as buildings are levelled. Fingers are pointed and political leverage gained by political opponents. No one bothers to exact penance from the two parties responsible for what is happening – the department that allowed the construction and the individuals, who made and used those structures.

No one from amongst the public utters a word of praise for the police, when they bust a terrorist network or a gang of criminals, but all and sundry (including our media) take to the streets and air, demanding that the brave men, who in the performance of their dangerous evocation may have perpetrated, what is collateral damage, should be publicly hanged. For our politicians, such incidents are a window to gain mileage, without the bereaved ones even realising that politics is being ‘played’ over the dead bodies of their near and dear ones. Regretfully, no one spares a minute to consider the dynamics of what has happened – lack of scenario based training, where loss of innocent lives is imminent; lack of leadership or simply premeditated slaughter? While premeditated murder should be dealt with without reservation, lack of training and leadership cannot be implemented without restructuring and rearticulating our civilian law enforcement, so that neither innocent lives nor operations are jeopardised.

There is a third scenario, which aptly reflects the state of the nation. In majority of cases, this is due to our political culture, which turns people into thieves and criminals. Some years ago, a person, living in a Central Punjab village and known to me through a mutual acquaintance, woke up one morning to find his two buffaloes missing. A tracker was called and the trail ended at a house in another village, where the two buffaloes were found tied up in a crude shed. The alleged thief denied that the animals were stolen and threatened the grieved party with dire consequences if charges were pressed. When the unfortunate man went to the police, he was told that nothing could be done since the local political bigwig had intervened in favour of the suspected offender.

I do not agree with some of my colleagues, who say that it will take the correct raising of two generations to rectify our wrongs. I am of the firm opinion that the present dispensation has the potential to do what is necessary to put things right. They must not pay heed to the voices levelling vitriolic criticism on their five month performance i.e. cleaning up the ‘cancerous rot’ of the previous thirty five years, since no one else but these very critics are the source of this rot. Let these voices not divert attention, nor generate pressure to dilute the enforcement of order ruthlessly and without expediency. And most importantly, it is for the nation prove their worth in this hour of trial and sacrifice, for therein lies our survival.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.