I find it impossible to detach myself from the momentous events of Friday and go about writing my normal Sunday piece that stays away from serious threads. This day is historic by all counts, as it will be remembered as one, which altered the course of our national history, putting us back on track - towards a great future. It was a day, when the mighty fell, struck down by retribution for their arrogance and folly - a retribution dispensed by our Apex Court, which has earned the respect of a grateful nation. It was on the 28th day of July that Pakistanis all over the world saw their Prime Minister disqualified to hold public office and his family along with a number of accomplices held accountable.

I have, in my lifetime been witness to many events that shaped our destiny. I have seen, what can best be described as coups which began with promises and ended with long periods of autocratic rule; I have seen two wars, one of which dismembered the country and I am witness to the regrettable hanging of a Prime Minister. I watched in helpless silence as institutions mandated to lay down the law and punish the guilty, succumbed to the powerful in the land. Frustrated and bitter, I came to the conclusion that we as a nation had reached a point of no return – until now. Suddenly, my faith has been restored in the knowledge that there are a few good men with courage, integrity and the power to change things. This week’s piece is a tribute to these heroes and the institutions they represent.

I remember a time, which is nostalgically referred by me as ‘the Golden Era’, when the spirit of independence was alive and well amongst a large number of my countrymen. We had public servants, who had left lucrative appointments to come to a new land. These individuals had said good bye to plush offices and comfortable seats to passionately rebuild an infant state. Their work places were bare and devoid of furniture, so they used packing boxes and crates as chairs and tables. They had little or no stationary, forcing them to improvise with whatever they could find to get the job done. I remember one of my close relatives telling me that he used thorns in the absence of paper pins to hold his files together.

Leading this dedicated group of nation makers was the towering figure of our Founding Father, who led them through his awesome personality and self-example. Take for example the incident, when he chided his ADC Captain Gul Hassan for asking the keeper at a level crossing to open the gate and let the Governor Generals car through. The Quaid (and this term, in my reckoning, can only be used for Jinnah and Jinnah alone) ordered the gate shut with the words, “If I do not obey rules – who else will”. The highest public office holder in the country sat patiently and waited till the train had passed before continuing with his journey. On another occasion, he banned the entry of his brother in the governor’s house because the latter had got the words ‘Brother of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Governor General Pakistan’ printed on his visiting cards. Such was this man’s integrity that when asked whether tea or coffee should be served during a cabinet meeting, he replied, “Whichever of the ministers wishes to have tea or coffee should drink it before leaving his home or when he returns there. The nation’s money is for the nation and not for ministers!” Thereafter, nothing except water was served during cabinet meetings. In pursuance of his instructions that details of Government House expenditure should be presented to him regularly, a bill of Rs. 38.50 was put up to him, where he noticed that a few items had been purchased on Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah’s request. Orders were immediately issued that the amount was to be deducted from his sister’s account, while payment for the items meant for his own personal use, should be made from his personal account. This system continued throughout his stay in the Governor General’s House.

We and our leaders appear to have forgotten these stories. We know fully well that much of our legislature is crammed with corruption ridden people called ‘politicians’, yet we vote them into office election after election. Perhaps it is so because we too have been corrupted. A window has now appeared to rectify wrongs and the spirits of those that fell to fulfill or safeguard ‘Jinnah’s dream’ demand accountability irrespective of ‘who and where’. A thorough cleaning up of the system must be done and the guilty not allowed to flee. We as a nation stand doomed if we miss this opportunity.

 The writer is a historian.