Ever since independence Pakistan has faced direct and indirect existential threats. These have emanated from external as well as internal sources; and whenever these two have combined, as they did ominously in 1971, it has suffered irretrievable losses. It continues to fight one uphill battle for survival after another even to this day.

Currently, Pakistan finds itself caught in an inescapable vortex of multifarious challenges, each threatening to take it under.

The main threats are many and tangible. One, Pakistan has become the first real victim of global climate change. Although it is responsible for only 0.4 percent of the globe’s greenhouse gases, it is suffering disproportionately from the destructive effects of global warming. It is being battered by unprecedented melting of glaciers (GLOFs), rains and floods. The entire country is fully drenched with a third of it under water. The impact on human life, agriculture, livestock, infrastructure, businesses, and transport the whole economy has been catastrophic.

Two, Pakistan’s economy has suffered a severe body blow. Its main agro-based exports (textiles, rice, sugar, leather etc) are very adversely affected. The increase in the international prices of oil and gas has worsened Pakistan’s economic woes and caused runaway inflation (fuel, electricity, gas price hikes) within the country. The IFIs including the IMF have been rather stringent in helping create economic breathing space for Pakistan.

Three, the scourge of terrorism persists. Essentially emanating from Afghanistan, it continues to target Pakistan through random but cowardly terrorist attacks. Pakistan should have never agreed to talk to the TTP (A Monumental Folly, by this scribe, The Nation, 23 September 2013).

Pakistan ought to have learnt the right lessons from how the Sri Lankans eliminated the Tamil Tigers, the British demolished the IRA and the Indians attacked the Golden Temple to flush out the Khalistan Movement supporters. There were no compromises; no quarter asked nor given. They just moved in for their jugular, the kill. No considerations were more important than their respective national interests. Period. That must be Pakistan’s stance too!

Four, the worst and most critical threat, however, emerges from within, the destabilised inner front. It stems forth from the toxic political environment that has taken hold of the nation’s senses, sensibilities, sensitivities and sanity. If it continues in the same spirit, it will cause the entire political system to implode, collapse on itself and take the nation down with it.

The insatiable lust for power has become overpowering for politicians from across the spectrum. Fuelled by their relentless below-par rhetoric, their graceless media-social media campaigns, their lies, deliberate misstatements, fake news, mis-dis information campaigns, their pathetic name calling and shaming each other at public meetings and so on, their vicious harangues have polarised this nation as nothing else has ever done before.

They have not spared the hither-to-fore sacrosanct national institutions, our ostensible centre(s) of gravity, either. There, however, appear to be no-holds-barred in this rather ludicrous, self-serving, free-for-all, putrid slug-fest. Their interests seem to diverge from the nation’s current compulsions. In the process, all political supremos stand badly exposed to the public. Their disdain for the common man’s importance, intelligence and political awareness are egregiously demeaning, belittling and is turning counter-productive. Their respective credibility has stooped to its nadir and there is nary a concerned and knowledgeable citizen who genuinely believes their pronouncements.

The entire political spectrum is off-kilter. The toxicity of the political environment is endemic and divisive. It threatens to rent asunder the entire body politic!

One would have expected all political forces to temporarily suspend politics to concentrate solely on relief measures for the affected people. Ideally, they should have come together to forge a “whole-of-the-nation” response to this calamity. (Pakistan did that in 2014 in the wake of the APS tragedy). All their energies are, however, being dissipated at cross purposes to one another.

They continue to be consumed by their agendas, egos and mutual animosities. There seems to be no end to their frenzied, harrowing political battles. They seem to be callously oblivious to the perils confronting Pakistan as they go about playing their vile political games with gay albeit heartless abandon. The national political system seems to be drifting rather aimlessly in vacuity; with no well-defined strategic direction, end state or ways and means to get there, in sight.

Confusion reigns in our political scene—rampant, dominant, personified. The toxic political environment is not allowing a “whole-of-the-nation” effort to be successfully mounted. These political forces are quite liable to self-destruct and send the nation into an irrevocable, fatal tailspin.

In a normally functioning country/nation an All-Parties Conference would have been long called for and conducted. All political entities would have responded positively, their respective political agendas notwithstanding. A well-considered “whole-of-the-nation” plan of action would have by now been made and put into action. All elements of national power would have been applied in a comprehensive, well-considered, well-focused and conducted effort. The energies, faculties, capabilities, capacities, and resources of the entire nation would have converged to save, secure and rehabilitate the over 33 million of our brethren who have been devastated by these floods.

The diverse and uncoordinated relief measures of the various welfare organisations and individuals would have been by now woven into an all-embracing national effort to reinforce the government’s relief measures. A well-considered plan to revive our economy (the US $ 20-30 billion losses) would have been under formulation/implementation. A media and diplomatic offensive would have by now been launched to garner international help, perhaps a donor’s conference could have been organised by now. A compelling case for a potential debt swap would have reached the concerned quarters.

A genuine national leader would have since taken centre stage, captured the imagination of the nation, inspired, motivated and led it in dealing with this apocalypse. He would have ensured speedy rescue, recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation. He would have made certain that the nation emerged stronger, more unified and self-confident from this ordeal than ever before.

Alas! Pakistanis have been so flagrantly let down.