Hardly anybody will dispute that the survival of Pakistan as a nation hinges on strong institutional democratic foundations. Failure of development of such institutions can be traced to the feudal values of unconditional submission and loyalty practiced by the people.
Unfortunately, the bigots - impervious to reason - in our society are myopic, blinded by their interests and are adamant about keeping people ignorant, under developed and thereby deny them the right to life.
Life is not simply working, eating and sleeping. “(It) includes all personal rights and their enjoyment of faculties, acquiring useful knowledge, (and) the right to marry, establish a home and bring up children, freedom of worship, conscience, contract, occupation, speech, assembly and press.” (Black’s Law Dictionary.)
By nature, human behaviour is strongly informed and influenced by self-interest. However, our excesses are kept in control through social, civil, democratic culture and legal means. Consequently, societies, over time, get accustomed to civilised patterns of life. Sadly, Pakistanis have failed to adopt such a course and hence are heading fast down the road to disaster, i.e. self-annihilation.
The people of Pakistan, on February 18, gave their verdict not only against the policies of President Musharraf, but also against the excesses of the “privileged and powerful elites” - an integral part of the ruling classes.
Pakistan is a divided society in every respect. This vulgar division is so conspicuous and striking that it reflects a chaotic environs in all spheres of our lives. The elite - higher echelons of bureaucracy, generals, wealthy businessmen, feudal, politicians and so on - have their own exclusive schools, housing colonies, healthcare management system, transport etc. They have kept intact the huge gulf, associated with the colonial era, between themselves and the majority of population of Pakistan. The institutions fostered by them are helping nobody except themselves - the elite.
Take the example of our educational institutions. The fundamental objectives of education are for individuals to excel in life, and more importantly, what those individuals can return to society. This latter philosophical concept of education is completely missing in our educational system.
Most of the old political players, on the basis of their power of ill-gotten wealth, have returned to the assemblies: they have billions in assets abroad and are in control of the destiny of the nation. They are benighted, lack vision, and do not possess the ability to understand the unfolding of events of national importance in the contemporary world.
One can fully understand all this based on their family backgrounds and the six decades of Pakistan’s political history. The elite are not much concerned about the problems faced by the common man or the urgent need to act without delay. Nonetheless, they are alert for their own advantages.
It will, therefore, be a fallacy to pin much hope on them that they can bring about the desired change. In their selfishness they remain busy among themselves.
This is evident from the empty package of relief by the present government. All we have had is just rhetoric which is not going to help our severely ailing society.
I was incarcerated for many years in several Pakistani jails during Zia’s martial law. For 12 months I was tortured and locked in a cage at Lahore Fort (the infamous Shahi Qila). I was not allowed to talk to anybody (the only person I could see was my guard), I had no reading material and no contact with anybody - even my family members.