NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 08

Status quo vs change

Inertia is a “property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless that state is changed by an external force.” Status quo has its inherent inertia. It requires effort, persistence, perseverance and patience to bring about a change in the status quo.

The magnitude of the change determines the time and effort to fulfil the objective. The Prophets vied for revolutionary changes in the attitude and behaviour of an entire population. They challenged the most primary concern of the people, their religion. They were fiercely opposed, isolated, economically and physically tortured, murdered and crucified. The resistance to change is directly proportional to the qualitative and quantitative concerns of the majority. The politicians all over the world strive for power. It is a very legitimate ambition. They want power to serve the people. That is what they universally profess.

In Pakistan the politicians were no different. They came to power and went back as poor or rich as they had come until Z. A. Bhutto. Except for one odd blemish, which occurred perhaps by default rather than design, ZAB could also not be charged with corruption. After Bhutto the ball game underwent a metamorphic change. For the Sharifs power had an entirely different connotation. It opened new vistas for them to catapult the family business. Benazir might have acted like her father. But her marriage to Zardari was a cruel stroke of destiny. For Zardari, an upstart stuck in the midst of an opulent and all-powerful feudal elite, money and that also in abundance was the only potent means for enhancing his personal and family image. He went hell for leather, no holds barred. BB turned a blind eye to her husband’s atrocities. Commonality of ultimate objectives eventually brought Benazir and the Sharifs together in an unholy alliance through the “Charter of Democracy.” The apparent aim was to keep the political temperature cool enough to preclude third party intervention. The agreement was in fact a “Charter of Kleptocracy”, “you scratch my back and I scratch yours.” Therefore, despite all the tall claims no accountability was ever initiated by one party against the other.

This political culture continued for almost 30 years, firmly taking roots at all levels and in every sphere of public life. Those in authority looted unabashedly and the outsiders discovered to their glee that money could help flout any law and regulation in Pakistan. Money made acquisition of power easy. If you had money and power you could easily get away with murder, as appalling as that at Model Town.

Enforcement of any disciplinary regime started to appear as impingement upon human rights and liberties. The zest for personal freedom got confused with anarchy. The rule of law became an object of ridicule. Not long ago it was thought better to pay the judge than hire an expansive lawyer. The ability to flout the law became an indicator of power, the impertinence to challenge traditionally respected institutions was called moral courage and showing disregard to sensitive national concerns as liberalism of the enlightened and broad-minded. The malaise affected everyone with power of any kind. It was free for all in the Banana Republic.

The establishment of the “State of Madina” in the present-day Pakistan is a very tall order. It requires revolutionary changes extremely difficult to enforce in a slow and tedious democratic dispensation. The resistance is huge. The detractors are powerful and deeply entrenched. Wishing for a corruption-free Pakistan means stepping on the toes of all who wield power, small and big. For the bigwigs any departures from the status quo, means the end of the road, political demise. They would join hands with anyone and at any cost, as long as it promised an escape from the trap of the “Change.” The smaller functionaries would also cooperate or aquacise in favour of the status quo. The cleverly disguised departure of the Sharifs leaves a lot to ponder about. It does point towards a comprehensive manipulation involving a whole chain of functionaries in a noble profession.

For the change to be meaningful and enduring, it is important that the government and the military remain on the same page. It is equally important to take the judiciary, bureaucracy, media and even the like-minded politicians also on board. Imran Khan has undertaken a huge responsibility. It is impossible for the government alone to achieve the desired objectives. IK has to motivate and provide the much-needed leadership and inspiration to all the pillars of the state and sincere elements in society. It is also important for him to keep his calm and maintain his focus in the face of trivial provocation by the mediocre opposition. Coaxing will alienate other institutions. Motivation will make them join hands with him.

The judiciary has a revolutionary act to perform. It must be the first to firmly cast aside the invisible shackles of the status quo. It needs to reform the police and investigation mechanism, streamline and interface the entire system of justice. It might have to ask for legislation to ensure visible and speedy justice. Placing the police under politicians is a deadly proposition. It must be made independent like those of developed countries. The examples of the US, UK and Japanese police have plenty to learn from. The judiciary must play its role in pulling the nation out of adhocracy and “Might is Right” syndrome.

Justice is the panacea for all the ills of society. The Prophet (PBUH) himself has warned us about more powerful people before us who perished because they had different rules for the strong and the weak.

Let us all strive for a truly welfare state, with the concept of the State of Madina as our ideal.