It has been quite a while since our country had an element of tranquillity. However, since the caretaker Prime Minister and Chief Ministers have been appointed, there is hope all around.

A process of power transfer was initiated and has been completed almost gracefully. Confidence in the new setups in the centre and the provinces is oozing from all corners. Powers that had always been vested in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), but were never allowed to be used, are being exercised in a transparent manner. All political parties, including nationalists, are on board. Everyone is talking about holding free and fair elections and maintaining peace. A new beginning is on the horizon.

The VIP culture, ostentation and indiscriminate use of public funds have been a few of the most visible menaces that have plagued our elected democrats. Large gun-toting security entails at government expense have been a frivolous exhibition of one’s status, disregarding the extent to which it detaches the elected officeholders from the public they represent. Is the safety and life of a common citizen of any less importance? Such security measures have in any case proved to be more ceremonial than effectively preventive under the prevailing spate of determined and well planned suicide attacks and bombings.

One of the welcome first steps that the ECP has taken is to ban the display of arms. Subsequent to the first full five-year rule of democracy (though chaotic), the public will get some relief from such displays, at least for the next few months.

The parting shot of the outgoing legislators has been to enhance their own perks disproportionately to the prevailing financial constraints in the economy. Large sums of money have allegedly been transferred under various heads for political gains, leaving their successors to manage the national coffers that stand at critical levels. (In an unprecedented bending of the rules, banks were kept open on Saturday and Sunday to complete the last minute transactions.) Though the caretaker’s role may be limited to conduct elections, yet immediate financial management is imperative to curb the downward slide. A competent financial team must be put in place at the centre as the very first priority.

Many legislators have left unpaid utility bills of their government residences and even more have failed to acquire a National Tax Number (NTN) that is essential for all salaried or self-employed citizens. Personal assets are invariably under-reported and many have lied about their educational qualifications. Hardly brilliant examples to follow for the people they are supposed to lead. It is time all these wrongs are put right according to the verdicts of the Supreme Court and those found guilty are deprived of the opportunity to present themselves again to the public.

The emphasis of the last governments in the centre and the provinces has been towards constitutional reforms and grand development projects. Maintenance and improvement of the existing facilities have been at a lower priority, since they are less visible (though more beneficial to the public). The existing schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, irrigation works, public transport systems and entertainment places were allowed to deteriorate, while they could be upgraded with little expense. Likewise, art, culture, uniform educational curriculum, scientific and technical advancement, public utilities, resource generation and industry were almost entirely ignored. The caretakers have an opportunity to set these shortcomings on the right course.

The political culture has been acrimonious buried in squabbles. The nation could not be united to combat the menace of extremism, despite being in a state of war along one long border and being surrounded by hostilities both from within and externally. Financial discipline has remained a far cry and the public was left on its own to protect their lives and properties. The saving grace has been the resilience of Pakistani people that has been proved yet once again against all odds.

The citizens have patiently endured kidnappings, killing of innocent people by suicide bombers, a malfunctioning government apparatus, shortage of utilities and services, high inflation and erosion of the value of their currency - all for the sake of democracy. The people allowed the democratic process to continue to its logical end. Now they must prove the evolution of their maturity by electing leaders of high calibre and by discarding rogues and freebooters with sweet tongues and silly hearts.

Some would lead us to believe that all politicians, bureaucrats and people in authority are corrupt, incompetent and ill intentioned. If it were so, our country would have ceased to exist many moons ago. On the contrary, we have a huge reservoir of patriotic and talented men and women in all fields waiting to be tapped. The gruelling last five years have been a learning (sine) curve that has traversed its downward trajectory and is now on the rise after hitting the bottom. The country and our people have emerged from this training session wiser and fully conscious of their rights and the power of their vote.

The youth are into the third generation since the inception of Pakistan and constitutes over 60 percent of our population. They are moulded into the high technology of mobile phones, computers, internet and easy access to information. They are free of the tremors of 1947 that their ancestors faced and are gradually freeing themselves from the shackles of tribalism and feudalism. The independence of thinking that democracy introduces will galvanise them into a force that will claim their rights and will resist injustice. The government alone cannot accomplish much without the support, involvement and watch of the people. The vibrant youth must come forward and play an active role to set a new path to glory.

The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur. Email: k.a.k786@hotmail.com