Chants for change

Daily: The News
Date: 01.11.11

Addressing a huge rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on Sunday, Imran Khan asked his
audience to think and act independently, a critical trait Pakistanis have failed to develop so
far. No one can tell at this point whether the venue will prove to be the Tahrir Square of
Pakistan, but a second Pakistan is definitely in the making.

Pakistani politics is characterised by ethnic, tribal and clan loyalties, and increasingly by
political dynasties — all forces of the status quo. And then there is the corruption at the
political level, of which the bottom line is making money by any means for investment in the
next elections — for perpetuation of your own rule or for seizing power from your opponent.

After having continuously seen corruption for several decades, the Pakistani society seems
to have rationalised the existence of what in other societies is an evil to be eradicated. For
example, people will agitate against power outages but not against corruption, per se, or
against nepotism.

For instance, if an arrangement can be made to exonerate Chaudhry Moonis Elahi of the
NICL scandal, who is the son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, what is wrong with the PML-Q
condoning the corrupt practices of the present government?

And while anti-corruption slogans are raised at political rallies and at campaigns launched
by political parties, they never translate into any effort against corruption, and no one even
seems to notice, let alone mind. Which is why the accountability process is at a standstill,
with few political parties but Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf making any real effort to
pressure the government to implement the decisions of the Supreme Court.

Imran Khan has taken a Herculean task upon himself, and ending Pakistan’s colonial
hangover and making it a genuinely independent country is only one of them. The United
States’ sending of drones into Pakistan and other violations of this country’s sovereignty, in
open defiance of public sentiment and parliamentary resolutions, is a painful and repeated
reminder of the fact that we are not truly independent.

But any talk of our regaining our independence will remain so much talk unless Pakistanis
develop the culture of work ethic: “change your fate by working hard”, as they say. It is fine
to cite China, Pakistan’s “all weather friend”, as an example of how a once poor and
backward country transformed itself into a top global economy and a power to reckon with.

But Pakistan will be getting nowhere unless Pakistanis are ready to engage in the hard
work the Chinese put into getting their country where it is now. Therefore, Imran should
have urged the Pakistanis to learn to work hard to change the destiny of Pakistan.

Imran overlooked the fact that China was disinclined to extend loans or to then write them
off. China seems to be unhappy with Pakistan’s laidback habits which are a result of its
being pampered by the US.

There is another point Pakistan needs to learn from China which Imran forgot to mention in
his address: how to control the population. That is another secret of China’s progress and
development. The youth surge in Pakistan may pay dividends to Imran’s party in elections,
but given the rate at which the population is growing it is anticipated that the same bonus
may turn into the undoing of the country; Pakistan runs the risk of imploding under the very
weight of its population. But in the more immediate sense, unless Pakistan takes effective
measures — and now — to control its population the extension of the social security net to
the population will be a pipedream, regardless of the politicians’ unmeant pledges. It is
incomprehensible why no political party ever makes population control one of its main
electoral slogans.

Finally, the rally might have made the PML-N realise that dishonouring its pledge with Imran
to boycott the 2008 elections was a mistake.

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