HOPE is this nation’s enemy. If it wasn’t for hope and its distant cousin, inshallah, Pakistan would be a very different country today — a better, more agreeable land.
Why, you ask? How Scrooge-like to turn on hope? The trouble with hope is that it delegates, leaving the real, hard work of getting things done to others. Hope is the black box in which we place all our problems and then wait for them to emerge resolved. With hope there is no need for planning, let alone a Plan B. God willing, Pakistan will be a democracy. We hope that CJ Iftikhar will fix this nation. We hope to provide kapra aur makaan to the people. Hopefully Pakistan will be a prosperous nation.
Innocuous, innocent, cuddly hope has infected this land for so long that, though we may not realise it, we are beyond hope, a nation of no-hopers dreaming of success and achieving failure. But if we were to do away with hope we would be left with nothing, right? Wrong. Do away with the romance of hope and what you will be left with is a will to succeed.
Nothing focuses the mind as knowing that there is no one to rely on other than one’s self. Tough choices would be made pragmatically and forthrightly, instead of shoving them in the hope box in the hope that answers will emerge. What our country needs is a hypodermic needle full of realism punched straight into its heart. For too long the placebo of hope has made us think that Pakistan will get better while its innards have slowly vanished. Not convinced?
The evidence abounds. After Feb 18, we hoped that a new day had dawned. Paeans to democracy were sung, the people’s will was admired, and everyone hoped that things would be better. Except the few who glanced at the numbers in parliament and then at Asif, Nawaz and Musharraf and scratched their heads and wondered how it would work.
Undeterred, the country rode the wave of hope. Then the cabinet split and the hope brigade was beached. Floundering in anguish, the hopeful have wondered why they have been betrayed again. We hoped that the politicians had learned their lesson, they cry. Yet, in their hearts they are still hoping things will get better.
The problem is that the politicians also drink at the well of hope and sometimes hopes collide. Asif signed the Bhurban Declaration in the hope that Nawaz wouldn’t pull the plug on a government that the League was a part of. When Nawaz did opt out, Asif had no Plan B. So he has decamped to Dubai and visited Turkey and Greece, no doubt hoping to come up with a new plan.
Nawaz is of course the purveyor of hope par excellence. What if Asif didn’t really mean to restore the judges by a parliamentary resolution, as many suspected. Well, good ol’ Nawaz hoped Asif would or else, well, he still doesn’t know because he had hoped Asif would do as he promised. So now we have a situation where the government is limping along and the cabinet is denuded while Nawaz works out whether he wants to remain a part of the coalition or not, no doubt still hoping that Asif will join him in the hope that CJ Iftikhar will return to vanquish Musharraf.
Or the epic monument to hope that was built by the lawyers’ movement on the back of the heroic resistance of CJ Iftikhar. All well and good, but few paused to consider if it was advisable to use a supreme court to try and oust a dictator when no one who mattered was listening. A million people outside the president’s front door would have been a more direct, and perhaps successful, attack against Musharraf.
The militancy crisis too has been infected by hope, with disastrous consequences. The politicians are hoping that the army will pull us out of the morass of militancy. The army is hoping that the Americans won’t attack us for our policy of distinguishing between Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban. And Musharraf authored that nonsense policy in the hope that the Pakistani Taliban would be nice to us if we gave them room and board.
There’s more hope. On the economic front, the operative paradigm is based on the hope that wealth will trickle down. It hasn’t, but there is no inclination to fix structural impediments, just the hope that more of the same will work. Now the government is hoping that the world will come to our rescue, banking on the moral hazard that we are too big to fail. It’s good that the Saudis don’t hold grudges — remember how we vilified them for interfering in our affairs when Nawaz was sent back to Jeddah like a chastened schoolboy last September? No one is accusing the Saudis of interference now that they have offered us six billion dollars. For that kind of money, we should be glad that they didn’t ask for our souls.
What would we do without hope? We would get things done. Look at any portrait of Jinnah. Does he look like a man who was lifted to greatness on the wings of hope? His austere demeanour suggests otherwise. BB wasn’t one for hope either. Determinedly working her contacts in Washington she dragged herself from political oblivion to the threshold of power. Yes, the stars may have lined up in her favour as Washington looked to tweak its Pakistan script, but she didn’t wait for luck to come knocking at her door. Make what you will of her politics, but she had a fierce spirit.
The indefatigable Shahbaz does not reek of hope, which is the secret to his success. A methodical, no-frills chief minister, Shahbaz sets about his work and soon produces results. If only other politicians learned from his example, especially Nawaz, the sinner-in-chief when it comes to hope. Shahbaz may look a little unsure nowadays, but anyone would if they didn’t know if they would have a job tomorrow.
So let’s stand up to hope, which for too long has seduced this country and held us in its deadly embrace. What we need is a slap to the face, a bucket of cold water over the head or a kick to the shins — something to make us sit up and take notice of our plight — rather than the generous libations of hope that have dulled our senses. Is there anyone to lead us out of the desert of hope? Step forward, brave one. You will have at least one follower.
Daily Dawn, 16/7/2008