To the brink

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As PML(N) Quaid was giving his agenda for improving the state of governance in the country, an assassins bullets riddled through the body of Salmaan Taseer plunging the state into undeniable religious turmoil that would be hard to negotiate. Mian Nawaz Sharifs charter of demands may not contain one about reforming the existing blasphemy law that has often been misused ever since its proclamation during the draconian rule of General Zia-ul-Haq, it has assumed alarming relevance in the wake of the dastardly act committed by a fanatic who has expressed no regrets. On the contrary, one has witnessed numerous humiliating scenes of jubilation over the killing of another human being. What are we celebrating? A heinous crime? Demise of reason? A nefarious attempt to inject more of obscurantism and intolerance into human behaviour? An effort to take away another persons right to express his opinion, no matter how unworthy it may be? A born-again predilection to stamp the despotic authority of the criminally-inclined over voices of moderation?

There cannot be any two opinions that the governors murder has highlighted an issue that, for long, has been pushed under the rug – an issue that delineates the charter of an honourable co-existence among people who may differ on the ways and manner in which they want to regulate their lives. One persons right should not lead to another persons disenfranchisement. One persons opinion should not be promoted by taking away the same from another human being. The deeper one goes into this unfathomable pit reflecting a total absence of logic, the more problems one creates for a society that is grossly torn asunder under the unwieldy weight of the ever-increasing religious and ethnic monstrosities. That is exactly what we are seeing happening in front of our eyes. The problem is that no one from the ruling conglomerate has the legitimacy and the courage to stand up and speak for the cause of reason. Instead, and quite true to prediction, some of the erstwhile loud mouths of the PPP brigade have been trying desperately to give a political twist to the gory incident, thus further incensing the embers.

The reform of the society, that is already long overdue, must begin at the top with the reform of the political leadership more so, of the ruling clique. The symptoms of violence have to be effectively addressed. Unless that happens, there would never be enough respect for any leadership by people hailing from both sides of the divide – a divide that is becoming more stark and dangerous by the day. Consequently, the 10-point charter of demands given by PML(N) could provide a good beginning to this process of reform a reform that must begin by looking inwards at ones own faults and taking the necessary remedial measures for correcting them on way to addressing the schisms that are demonising the society and its prospects for progress.

The demands encompass withdrawing the recent increase in the petroleum prices, announcing initiatives for general public welfare, controlling power shortage and inflation, implementation of all Supreme Court judgements including the one on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a cut in the government expenses, arresting corruption, re-constitution of the Election Commission, recovery of politically written-off loans, appointment of people of character and integrity as heads of public institutions, probing transparently the massive scandals that have hit the headlines and improving the state of law and order in the country. Most of these steps should have been taken a long time ago.

In fact, some of the ills that have spread infectiously should not have been allowed to infiltrate in the first place. But, that is hoping for a lot from the ruling elite resigned to the pile of its gross misdemeanours that has kept rising by each day that has elapsed since the advent of the current democratic experiment. A spate of accusations, both of a past draped in the black and a present that resonates with contagious stories, has been brushed aside with indescribable arrogance and impunity. That has not helped them go away. On the contrary, they have kept coming back with added bite. This has led to a complete breakdown of the writ of the state and respect for those who rule it. A comprehensive moral meltdown has enveloped the society.

The result is the emergence of petty fiefdoms and criminal mafias, each holding on jealously to its domain and proclaiming its own charter of obligations for those who want to live there. These mafias have direct access to the highest echelons of power. Every scandal that has hit the headlines in the recent times is traced back to the ones who nonchalantly proclaim their innocence. They are so deeply mired in controversies that it would take generations before the blotches are erased. But, there is no weight on their conscience as they continue weaving one devilish trick upon another to fill their personal coffers already overflowing with ill-gotten bounties. The state is rendered poorer and its people stripped of even their barest essentials.

A leadership corrupt to the core, a society riddled with religious and ethnic fanaticism, a people driven by the violence preached from the mardassah pulpits and a state deprived of its writ and benevolence make the times that we live in. It is neither a reflection of a past that one can be proud of, or a present that one can be comfortable with, or a future that one can have faith in. A combination of circumstances has pushed us to the brink. Is there any hope for salvation?

The writer is a media consultant to the Chief Minister, Punjab.