The month of April has dawned laced with indelible memories of T. S. Eliot:
April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain
Eliot does not stop there. “The Burial of the Dead” has more to reveal:
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, And the dry stone no sound of water. Only There is shadow under this red rock, (Come in under the shadow of this red rock), And I will show you something different from either Your shadow at morning striding behind you, Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you, I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
These last few weeks have been difficult. They have bred immense pain, at times excruciatingly unbearable. Quite often, one felt it growing within the pit of the stomach to a point of bursting, and I would instinctively put my hand there to caress it. This pain is not related to any physical condition or a personal loss but, in certain respects, it is much worse than the worst of losses. It concerns my country.
Pakistan is bleeding profusely. In spite of some genuine attempts, it does not appear to be healing. The opposite may be truer: it is getting worse by the day. The polarisation that has been generated by mafias to save their loot and plunder and their political futures constitutes the core cause of this continuing deterioration. Everyone knows the reasons of the ailment, most of them know the prognosis also, but few are willing to engage in a corrective process that would rid the society of its grave present-day belittlements.
There is so much that I can say. There is so much that I want to say. But, then, there is so much that I can neither say, nor I would like to. It all remains internalised which intensifies the pain as there is no outlet, hence no relief. It concerns my country. It concerns its leaders. But, most importantly, it concerns its myriad people from a host of backgrounds. While a tiny minority of them hail from the beneficiary elite, excessively stuffed on their indulgence in employing illicit means to build their financial empires, the predominant majority of the underlings suffers on account of their masters’ lust and greed to accumulate more.
Along the way, and because of the pain that people have endured, their countless woes have transited beyond the bounds of description and cure. There is no one they would be able to share this with which accentuates their sufferance manifold. Over time, the society has been effectively divided into two distinct segments: the exploiters and the exploited with the former managing their engines of corruption and the latter busy seeking their morsels to survive another day. So, we have these tiny elite communities which have fathomed all resources within their grasp owing to their mountains of pelf and their positions in power so that they could continue exploiting and keeping a vast majority of hapless people captive.
They operate without rules and without constraint. They live in a world they control and command. It is their exclusive domain and they don’t brook any infringement. People have to subscribe to their whims to survive. Disobedience is punishable with whatever may attract the masters’ fancy. Operating in collusion with their cronies and bootleggers, they have brought shame upon an entire society as the country writhes under their unwieldy weight. The recent vote of no-confidence against the sitting prime minister, and the sickening manner in which it is being orchestrated, is a case in point which illustrates the myriad ills and sicknesses that this coalition of crime and corruption has assimilated and which it uses indiscriminately to force its way. In the process, the institutions of the country have stopped functioning and the collective conscience of the people has been compromised. Every facet of the state, encompassing the legislature, bureaucracy, judiciary and a host of state institutions, has been corrupted to the point of dysfunction. They have suffered because of indiscriminate ravages perpetrated by this criminal collective.
In the process, the country has regressed to unimaginably shameful limits. Here is a land where souls are sold for the din of coins and futures forfeited in the hands of criminals. Here is a land where right and wrong are mingled for the cause of profit. Here is a land where criminal bands have the institutions at their beck and call while the righteous perpetually struggle for survival. Here is a land where looters, plunderers and murderers are bailed out routinely and their cases stayed indefinitely, but the poor have to wait for generations even to be heard. Here is a land where the media fabricates stories disparaging of individuals and institutions, but those wrongly accused have no right to remedy, and where fictional narratives are concocted in aid of criminals with no regulatory checks invoked. Here is a land where judges take dictation over phone and where briefcases full of cash are gifted to sway court decisions. Here is a land where the accountability bureau sabotages the process to catch criminals and the election commission operates with blatant partisanship. Here is a land where a sitting judge of the apex court is insulated from punishment for failing to declare his family’s assets in violation of the law of the state, but nobody raises a finger.
Here is a land where the guilty are free and the innocent caged; where advancing personal, profit-based relations take precedence over state interests; where political parties are run as private limited companies amidst perpetual clamour for democracy in the country; where despotic and fascist spots are buried behind the veneer of democratic protestations, and where politicians operate as mafias and businesses as unchallenged cartels.
Here is a land where bureaucracy refuses to take off the apparel of the colonisers; where there is a judiciary, but no justice; where state institutions are used for desecrating the constitution, and where religion is exploited as a tool by obscurantist merchants to hold people hostage and indoctrinate them in the art of violence and extremism.
Here is a land where the state edifice is fast crumbling before the multi-directional criminal onslaught spearheaded by malevolent operators whose sole interest in life is advancing their own stakes. Vast is the spectrum of this malaise and deep are its roots. There is no easy solution to this grave crisis and there is no one who will have the sagacity and sensitivity to pay heed. They are all floating along the tide which is getting rougher by the day, but no one seems to care because they have their assets and bounties secured in foreign lands where they will run off once the going gets tough. Pakistan is only a stopover to be used and abused cruelly and then dispensed with.
Here is a land where the rich flourish and build their empires upon the bludgeoned carcasses of the poor and the marginalised; where the demand of the powerful is an order to be obeyed, but the anguished cry for help by the poor is met with disdain and hatred; where there is palpable discrimination separating the powerful from the weak and the advantaged from the downtrodden, and where chance of birth, not merit, ability or suitability, is the determinant for individual success or failure.
I can go on counting the ailments, but it has had little effect in the past, and may not have any in the future either. But time has really come to evaluate dispassionately whether the state can survive with its plethora of ailments which is becoming more gruesome with time, or whether something should be done before it is buried under the weight of its growing incapacities and inaction? This is the magnitude of the challenge which has brewed over years and which the state and those who are entrusted with the task of managing it are now confronted with.
But some say that the die is cast. The treachery is sealed. Some say that a dream has been sculled. But dreams never die. Each one will hold the light for the next. The path to salvation will be lit with an endless stream of twinkling stars which shall never fade away. Having seen the face of a proud, self-respecting and dignified Pakistan, it is the people of the country who shall decide which way to take it further.
For Imran Khan, it is no longer a question of merely coming back into power. It is a question of securing a wholesome mandate to change the system. Only that will provide the way out of this malaise as the system, in its existent form, will only perpetuate the inherent weaknesses and contradictions within its ambit.
Continued silence and numbness will not work. Change has to be stirred and sustained through the combined effort of the people like an endless stream of twinkling stars.