“ARE we there yet? Are we there yet?” My children never fail to torment me on any family trip by their incessant repetition of the mantra. It is as though reiterating the question would somehow shorten the distance and we’d magically arrive at our destination.
Anthems, flags, languages, dresses, food, culture, all come together in defining the face of a nation. However, it is the soul of a nation that sets the great ones apart from others. But, what exactly is it; we can’t see it, touch it, hear it, smell it or taste it. So where does this intangible soul get its being?
The last few months have seen the Pakistani media besieged with opinion-makers promulgating themes of transition, power struggle, political systems, dialogue, reconciliation, institutions, Constitution and justice — all elements of a viable and sustainable state. Although these go a long way towards establishing our political consciousness, the soul of the nation is still something quite different.
Rarely will one find unanimity in thought amongst the citizens of a nation, even those formed along religious and ethnic lines. For a nation like ours rife with disproportion, where we find a national language flanked by four provincial languages and several dialects to boot, economic disparity, low levels of literacy, a legacy of feudalism rooted in rural areas, tribalism, and religious sectarianism, prolonged unanimity in thought is theoretical at best.
The political parties are splintered with each representing a segment of society, catering to its electorate, oblivious to the needs of the whole. Given an atmosphere of free and fair elections, will one party win a clear majority and not have to rely on coalitions, forced into backdoor deals watering down its agenda?
Despite the odds, the diversity, the factions, something remarkable happened. A soft revolution took place, and although each group claimed responsibility for bringing about change, none stood on its own. The lawyers, political parties, prominent personalities, media, and the public all came together to force a change. The lawyers were backed by politicians, and the politicians were backed by the people.
The combination refused to be denied; none alone could have brought about a change so comprehensive. The result is unique, and I cannot think of many instances where the proletariat and the bourgeoisie have come together in forming a ruling coalition. The spirit of the nation has given birth to the soul. We came together and achieved because we looked at the whole and not our part of the whole.
We can talk all we want about institutions, policies, and systems, but unless we talk about each other as one, we are not there yet. Until the feudal accepts and fights for the rights of the peasant, we are not there yet. Until the businessman accepts and fights for the rights of the labourer, we are not there yet. Until the rich fight for the poor, we are not there yet. Until one tribe member stands up and supports one from another against his own, we are not there yet.
Until provinces fight for each other, instead of with each other, we are not there yet. Until we accept and fight for the rights of those with different religions, we are not there yet. Until we fight for the rights of those with different ethnicities, we are not there yet.
Far be it from me to denigrate our recent achievements, we have come a long way, and perhaps for once are headed in the right direction. As a nation we exposed a chameleon masquerading as a civilian president. We just have a bit further to go.
Courtesy: Daily Dawn, 25/4/2008