The Time

The future of this country no longer belongs to two families.

We live in a time of subjective truths. A time when strategic and personal interests trump human values. A time in which chil­dren die of starvation, a stone’s throw away from palaces of opulence. A time in which a young boy with a stone is a ‘threat’, and missile defence systems are ‘freedom’. We live in a time when Goliaths aggression is justified; David’s fighting back is terrorism.

We live in a time when the hypocrisy and deceit of proclaimed Western dem­ocratic values is impossible to hide, even though the most effective elec­tronic and print communication em­pire in the history of the world. And yet, this is a time in which all the hue and cry, the amputated bodies, the wailing mothers and wounded hearts, across the world, has been unable to embar­rass those in power, or prevent a sin­gle bomb from falling over Gaza. And the children, buried under the rubble, have been lost to the hope of an eter­nal prayer: “And when the girl child that was buried alive will be asked, for what sin she was killed” (Quran 81:8-9).

We live in a time of collective im­potence. A time where brute power is the only currency of legitimacy. Be it the killing fields of Kashmir, or the hospitals in Palestine, or throughout sub-Sahara Africa and the Shia-Cres­cent – from the banks of river Karun to the coasts of Beirut. We have seen cultures, dating back several millen­nia, incinerated by the horror of merci­less weapons. We live in a time where hubris has wiped out entire people. A time when greed of the few, consumes dreams of the many. And all the while, throughout this time, the callous world has rolled at the feet of the tyrant and pleaded for his approval.

We live in a time that seems bereft of courage; the courage to speak truth to power. A time in which leaders repre­senting 2 billion people (1/3rd of the world’s total population), with over 20 trillion (with a T) dollars in wealth, fighter jets, tanks, and nuclear capabil­ity, got together, last week, held a mini debating moot competition in Riyadh, got onto their private jets, flew home, and went to sleep. This, in a time when each one of those leaders knew, unam­biguously, in real time technology, that predominant majority of their constit­uents oppose tyranny of the Pharoah. And yet, we live in a time when not one of those leaders see public discontent as a threat to their claim to power.

At home, the times are no different. For decades – at least since the 1985 political project – Pakistan’s construct of political power has hid behind a fa­çade of democracy and charlatan lead­ers. Over the past forty years, we had been convinced that our political lead­ers (no matter how corrupt they may be) will respond to ‘public will’ and be corrected through it. We were told that State institutions, and bastions of the democratic electoral process (e.g. Elec­tion Commission) will stand guard to the protection and promotion of public will. And yet, we live in a time where the proclaimed ‘democratic’ parties were the first to oppose the holding of elec­tions on time, their Attorney General argued vociferously for delaying of the electoral process, and the honourable Courts allowed (facilitated?) this delay – even as every independent measure of public will demonstrated, unequivocal­ly, that (an overwhelming) majority of the people opposed it. And so, even as ‘public will’ was suffocated, democracy prospered in our land.

We live in a time of recurring night­mares. A time in which the democrat­ic ‘revenge’ of the 1985 political project has once again welcomed its prodigal son, with open arms, while ignoring ev­ery principle of constitutional and crim­inal law that our jurisprudence held dear. The fact that he did not enjoy the support of ‘public will’ was fixable; it was ‘buyable’. And so, we discovered that we live in a time where a hapless people, looted of their resources and energies, are made to drop rose petals from the air, on public expenditure, to welcome a man who was travelling from his humble abode in central London, to a small locality on the outskirts of La­hore, in service of the people.

In the Divine Scripture, the Almighty swears by the ‘time’ (Quran 103:1). Be­cause the time is always changing. And the great thing about the changing of times is that it happens silently, yet ir­reversibly. A changing of the time is not announced by the bang of a bomb. It is not celebrated through showering gar­lands from the air. It is not marked by any debating convention. Time is far too dignified for it. It changes silently; in rooms and corners, in tea-stalls and res­taurants, in schools and playgrounds. The moment that history turns a page is only evident in hindsight. Like Rosa Parks in that bus in Alabama. Or a street vendor setting himself on fire in Tuni­sia. Or a man incarcerated, against racial oppression, on Robben Island.

The future of the 1985 political proj­ect in Pakistan rests on one fundamen­tal assumption: that the times will for­ever remain like this. That we will forever serve at the feet of two dynas­tic families; that the scales of justice will always be judged by standards deter­mined by the rick and the powerful; that the meek will forever remain disinherit­ed from this earth; and the worldly cus­todians of divine decree will continue to serve the emperor that has no clothes.

This assumption, that Pakistan and her people are hostage to the interests of the few, is no longer true. And the house of cards, built around it, is about to collapse. We are living through that fleeting moment in time when the water balloon has burst, but the water has not yet fallen to the ground, held together by nothing but the memory of the bal­loon. This is not because of any particu­lar political party, or leader. It is not be­cause of any one judgment of law, or any one judge in chambers. It is not because of any one institution, or any one event. It is just the time – which has changed, incontestably, even as all currency of power denies it.

The future of this country no longer belongs to two families. It no longer be­longs to any institution or interest. All that is left, in this regard, is for historical myths to crumble, and the legacy of the 1985 political project to finally be over.

Pablo Neruda once famously said, “You can cut all the flowers but you can­not keep spring from coming.” In Paki­stan, the spring is upon us. A new gener­ation, unjaded by the weight of history, has moved on from the political relics of the past. It has learned that power is not a thing of inheritance for just a few. That we all have a stake in our collective fu­ture, which cannot be trusted to closed door concessions.

A generation that has relearned from the legacy of Karbala that truth, when spo­ken honestly, has the power to lay asun­der indomitable forces of worldly power. Welcome to this new and truthful time.

Saad Rasool
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at:, or Twitter:

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt