Pakistan has been blessed with everything a nation could ask for; an outstanding geostrategic location, all types of landscapes, tremendous agrarian, water, human, mineral and material resources and a very dynamic, intelligent, talented, youthful, enterprising, hard-working population amongst various other blessings. It presaged so much at independence; it has achieved and delivered so little thus far. It appears to be a tragedy of meandering, shifting priorities, aimless policies, lost opportunities, unfulfilled national promise, unsatiated ambitions, unachieved national objectives brought about by a consistently inept, spineless national leadership over the years.

Our governance system has been a disaster. It has been a hotch-potch variously of sham democracy, military dictatorships, religious-sectarian fanaticism, at times even a toxic concoction of all, that has not allowed the nation to prosper and carve out a genuine, unified strategic direction for itself as well as an achievable end state to pursue. We as a nation are still floundering about in perpetual vacuity with every would-be Bismarck compounding our troubles by leading us yet further astray. Pakistan continues to frenetically stumble on to an unknown, uncertain destiny.

This is not the Pakistan of our dreams!

Pakistan comes across as a nation which seems to be perennially at strife with itself, teetering constantly on the verge of implosion. In its formative years, it took almost a decade to come up with a universally accepted constitution. This gave non-democratic forces enough time and space to manoeuvre up the ladder of government and occupy positions that ought to have been the rightful realm of national politicians alone.

The internal struggle for power continued relentlessly and culminated in the irreparable loss of East Pakistan. Cut to size, mainly due to the inadequacies and shenanigans of the people in power, it lumbered on variously under civilian and military rule for the next four decades or so. Thereafter, ensued (and still continues) a supposedly unbroken democratic era which is again falling short of meeting popular aspirations and hopes. The military shadow in the background however has remained ubiquitous throughout.

Pakistan’s national leadership, civil or military dictators, has been its undisputed Achille’s heel over the years. Its biggest weakness lay in its inability to forge a pure, genuine democratic system. There has been no real devolution of power and this in turn has stunted the growth and emergence of good political leaders from the grass root levels upwards.

Pakistan’s national leadership, civil and military dictators, have all failed it in more ways than one. Personal agendas have repeatedly superseded national interests and objectives. Military dictators have always sought legitimacy for their reigns at both the domestic and international levels. This has come about, if at all, at great cost to the nation. The post-Zia era civilian governments, in particular, have been blamed outright for rampant corruption, money laundering, nepotism, favouritism et al. Their personal wealth, properties and businesses at home and abroad reportedly grew exponentially in this time period. Military regimes too have faced similar accusations.

There has thus always been a crisis of credibility, faith, belief and a yawning trust deficit between the leaders and the people. A leadership that cannot command the respect of the led, cannot succeed. The Pakistani nation is getting overwhelmed by this series of under achieving governments!

Yet, whenever the Pakistanis have put their minds to something, they have achieved wonders. In the 1960s they came up with a rolling five-year economic and development program that was the envy of most developing nations. They adopted and benefitted enormously from it while we somehow binned it. The end result stares us in the face today.

Confronted with an existential threat, when India acquired nuclear weapon status, it restored regional strategic balance by achieving that position itself; against all odds and in the face of opposition from all hostile regional and global powers-that-be. When challenged by foreign abetted terrorism it came up with a whole-of-the-nation resolve and response, defeated and banished it from its soil. It has successfully kept a very hostile and belligerent India, many times its size, at bay.

Be it natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, famines, pandemics etc the nation has always responded to these calamities as one and has overcome them comprehensively. Massive individual philanthropy helps the not-so-blessed tide over harsh economic times. One could go on. However, with all these positive attributes and more as a nation, where have we gone wrong? Why do we not come across as a solid, unified nation unless confronted with an unmitigated catastrophe or an existential threat?

The centre of gravity, wherein Pakistan’s greatest weakness has always lain, is its national leadership. We have repeatedly failed to elect a leadership that espouses all that is right, correct and legally kosher; something that ought to be a given in a normally functioning society and body politic. Pakistan needs a principled leadership that follows a distinct nationalist political philosophy and ideology. It must have a clearly defined strategic direction and end state to pursue.

Our leaders must be courageous, selfless, honest, have impeccable integrity, self-respect, pride and dignity, credibility, nationalism and must ensure justice, fair play and equal opportunities for all. They must never be found wanting on legal, moral and ethical grounds. Nepotism and favoritism must be ostracized and shunned by them. Genuine merit must reign supreme. They need to be competent; adept at understanding and tackling the vagaries and dynamics of domestic and international imperatives and politics. They must have the ability to inspire, motivate, galvanize and lead the nation to untold successes. Pakistan needs winners!

The cry, the longing for the real Pakistan, sprouting forth from each Pakistani heart, is fast becoming a scream. It is now getting more vociferous, deafening, widespread, monumental and poignant with every passing moment; it is resonating increasingly with the people at large. Pakistan cries out loud for the fulfillment of its destiny; for it to take its rightful, respectful place in the comity of nations.

This cry for Pakistan is reverberating nation-wide now and will not wither away as just another “cry in the wilderness”!