There are people who repeatedly say that, â€œthis country has gone to the dogs.â€ I, for one never agree with them because I feel that there is still light at the end of the long and dark tunnel. Yet yesterday, while roaming around the streets of Karachi at around 2 in the night, I saw the street filled with dogs who were running around and barking at any car that passed their path. Somehow, in an eerie way, I began to doubt my sense of optimism. I had become akin to believing the rumors that were widespread in the Urdu press that Koreans had a passion for eating dogs and thus they used to capture the dogs on the streets and make soup out of them. Now that the Koreans have left, along with the numerous other foreigners, the dogs appear to have taken over.
On a more serious note, we must examine the state of despondency that exists among the citizens of this country. In order to do that, all that one has to do is travel around the city of Karachi on any day. While roaming around the streets, I saw a rickshaw, some buses and even some cars emanating the worst form of pollution ever in terms of smoke that is not only toxic but can also be fatal. Noise pollution is another aspect that continuously hounds everyone in terms of blaring of horns at a very high propensity. Then, there are the policemen who roam around ready to grab hold of those poor people who probably earn 25 rupees a day and thus deserve to be made to pay 10 rupees to our law keepers. The potholes on the road also make for an interesting story. People do not need to go to amusements parks anymore since a car going into one of the big holes or cracks in the road can make up for a jolting and rocking ride for up to a couple of minutes duration. In the meantime, if one can escape safe and sound from the journey, one can consider himself/herself lucky for having survived the ordeal of a rough ride through the broken, dilapidated streets of the city. If one suffers from an injury, then one has to go through the hassle of treatment at the cityâ€™s already overcrowded hospitals that are scarce in terms of available facilities. During the journey through the streets of the city, one also sees the myriad high-rise buildings that have been constructed without any respect for the law. There is no regard for flying safety and other such regulations. But life goes on and one cannot blame the builders because after all people need a place to live and an over-populated city demands more and more housing everyday.
The biggest problem lies in the lack of available jobs for the numerous people who are not only qualified but also extremely skilled. Despite the fact that there is a sense of lethargy in this country augmented by the myriad holidays that take place throughout the year due to one reason or the other, this lethargy is in no way a reflection of the ability and skill of the workers, who have the potential to be efficient provided they are given more incentives. But that can only happen if the government gets its taxes. Coming to taxes and other such functions, the biggest problem in this country lies in the cancer of nepotism, corruption and red-tapism. To cite an example of red tapism, the Export Promotion Bureau a couple of months back issued a tender for supplies of fabrics to Iraq. The Export Promotion Bureau advertised in the newspaper that those who wished to get details should contact a certain person, whose name and designation was clearly specified. An enthusiastic small time exporter thought that he had the ability to qualify for this tender so he did his costing and prepared the details of the tender. He called up the person at EPB to ask about whom he should submit the tender documents to and at what address in Iraq. The person concerned first gave the names of other people who could potentially help out with this. After the exporter could not get any help from any quarters, he contacted this person again. This person scolded the exporter and told him that he did not know who the documents were to be submitted to, that he was not supposed to know who the documents were to be submitted to and that the exporter should just send it via postal mail to Iraq to whoever he wanted to. On reminding the person that his name was clearly stated in the newspaper advertisement, the concerned person said he did not care about that. The exporter missed the tender deadline since he did not know who to send the documents to and Pakistan lost potential foreign exchange inflow. People in Pakistan have now become somehow immune and indifferent to the diseases of corruption, nepotism and red-tapism, and these diseases appear to have become part and parcel of our society. The question one needs to ask is that how can there be economic development if the government does not get its fair share of revenue that is allocated in actuality to the area for which it was assigned in the first place.
Therefore, the state of despondency that exists in our country is not surprising. People register protests across the country, whether violently or peacefully. They may have religious, social or other aspects at the forefront of their protests, but what they are really protesting against is the lack of opportunity in this country. Mistreatment has become the norm and people are fed up of the prevalent impotence (for the past few years) in terms of reforms, development and justice. A country that has jobs available, has a buoyant economy is a country most likely to be peaceful, but a country that lacks those has the potential to breed violence. Religious bigotry, extremism and whatever other terms may be used to describe the growing frenzy of a part of the population, the basic elements that are missing from any equation designed to tackle this issue are the lack of education and a perpetual downfall in terms of economic aspects.
Education needs to be our priority number one. Those at the helm of affairs need to realize that education should be priority number one. If we do not educate our people, we risk declining into a savage society. More importantly, the educational system in our country is, to say the least, antiquated and archaic. We need a complete overhaul of the syllabi and teachers that embody a sense of liberalism and moderation in terms of societal and religious perspectives.
Despite all the problems in this country, my sense of optimism still exists. I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. If only the nation were to be as united as it is when there is a cricket match against India, we would do wonders for ourselves. Pakistan is at the moment at the crossroads. Today, we can either move forward on to the path of development or we can recede and plunge further into this endless pit of despondency. The first step in this new arena is molding the thought processes of everyone. A despondent thought process nurtures despondency that filters down throughout the length and breadth of the country.
The first step that every Pakistani must take is to embody optimism and to think positive. Islam also does not allow us to venture into pessimism. The second and most important step that needs to be taken is to act also and not just talk. We have this irritating habit of talking endlessly about how things are bad and how the governments have done nothing; but we rarely act upon our grievances. It is analogous to not treating a wound in its infancy and thus letting it develop into a major cancer. Third, power needs to be vested among the people through a process of sustainable development. This requires vesting power amongst people at the grassroots level. The government has made a sincere effort in this regard, but unfortunately they have not succeeded in vesting the powers in the hands of the people because they did not prepare the groundwork for this transition. Power rests once again with those power-brokers who have registered their presence in the Pakistani political arena for the past few decades. A leveling of the playing field is required before the game is commenced. Any ad-hoc approach to the situation without considering the ground realities is bound to result in recession into the same old and redundant power politics. Sustainable development requires an educated society, an educated voter base and a collective sense of reform amongst those who propose it and those who adopt it. Thus, we revert back to the fact that education needs to be priority number one while rest can all follow. Broadening the way people think, providing elasticity to our thoughts is what is required. Whether we can achieve that is anybodyâ€™s guess, but I for one feel that we possess the requisite capability to achieve all this. All we have to do is put our heart to it and as the founder of our nation said, â€œThink a hundred times before making a decision; but once you make a decision, stick by it like one man.â€ And to sum it all up, we all need to sincerely believe in the words of our ex President that, â€œPAKISTAN COMES FIRST.â€ And if all else fails, if the Urdu press is to be believed, we need to bring the Koreans back so that at least no one roaming around on the streets can proclaim that our country has gone to the dogs.