The young man was talking sense. But he was not looking at the full spectrum of things. I had to remind him of the importance of objectivity in any sensible argument.

Me: I agree with you. The truth sets us free. But what if my truth is different from yours? Would our respective truths set us free respectively or do I have to follow your narrative of freedom? Don’t you think we should be grateful to Almighty Allah for blessing us with an independent country?

He: Sir, I don’t want to be disrespectful but do you think Pakistan is an independent country? Leave aside the fundamental rights and provision of basic amenities by the State to its individuals, are you independent of foreign influence? I am sorry but we are being ruled by the local elite and foreign donors. We are digging graves for future generations by taking additional loans.

Me: Depending on the need, everyone takes loans. Any idea who is the biggest debtor of the world? Do you know that by the end of 2021, the US Federal Government had more than $ 28 trillion in federal debt? Almost every house owner in North America has a monthly mortgage to pay. What are you talking about? Yes. I agree the loans need not be pocketed by the powerful and instead be spent on development projects. But that relates to bad governance and it can be broached and rectified.

He: Being the biggest debtor did not preclude America from being a superpower. In any case, two wrongs don’t make a right. Bad governance? Come on, Sir. In a country where the past leaders, rulers, administrators, parliamentarians, judges and media have so meticulously, assiduously and sincerely been delivering goods for the people of Pakistan, we should have been the most peaceful and prosperous country at least in the South Asian region. Conversely, we see our country on the brink of an unprecedented economic collapse and under perhaps the most uncertain period of our political history. That our foreign policy is also in tatters, would be an understatement. Something went terribly wrong somewhere along the line!

Me: I haven’t interviewed all these people to know about their success stories. All I know is that good and bad people are everywhere. That doesn’t make a country good or bad. In any case, ills of certain people must not apply to the future of nations. If there were bad governors, there were good governors as well. The problem is with the continuity of policies.

He: One does not have to meet face-to-face with all of them to know the worth of their success stories. Facts speak for themselves. If their success stories are factually correct, why does Pakistan find itself in the predicament that it is presently in? After all, it was their responsibility to provide for the masses. They were the rulers of Pakistan, weren’t they? If they didn’t rule us, who did? Angels from heaven?

Me: People get leaders after exercising their right to vote. You get what you deserve. The problem is with our choices not with the country. The issue relates to setting our priorities right. Not the foreign conspiracies. Secondly, Mao or Mahathir or Lee Kuan Yew didn’t make China, Malaysia or Singapore singlehandedly. Takes two to tango. They had a committed team with them. And then the people responded positively to the calls of their leaders. The problem is not incompetence. The problem is morality, honesty and sincerity. People want to wholeheartedly follow a selfless leader who makes their welfare the foremost priority. Unfortunately, for self-proclaimed leaders, giving longevity to their rule becomes the foremost priority and they perish leaving behind an inconsequential debate. But that doesn’t mean Pakistan has no future.

He: Is it by design or by default? I mean seventy-five years and you could not come up with an upright leader? And what about corruption? Do you need an incorruptible leader to curb the menace of corruption? This is an endemic problem. All of us are corrupt. No exception. Only the level and degree vary. If that is the case, we are doomed, Sir. Look at Finland, Denmark and Sweden. Zero corruption. All happy.

Me: Scandinavian countries have their own set of problems and social issues. And happiness has hardly anything to do with money. How many millionaires have you seen claiming they are happy? On the other hand, have you seen a daily-wager East African laughing his lungs out at almost everything happening around him? Being happy is a state of mind. Yes, money is important but it is not a recipe of happiness. And I don’t agree with you. All of us are not corrupt. But all of us are not incorruptible either.

He: Come on, Sir. I have no idea which Utopian world you live in. Let me know what Pakistan has produced in the past seven decades except for that Magnus Opus Atom Bomb and a few billionaires in US dollars? Any idea how your nuclear programme will help in arresting inflation or increasing the GDP? Any idea how would you bring the so-called looted money back in the Pakistani exchequer? I tell you, Sir. There is no future for Pakistan.

Me: Let us not mix oranges with apples. Our nuclear programme is an effective deterrent against the enemy’s nefarious designs. It is not to fix your fiscal deficits. Find me a way to shift Pakistan to Scandinavia and then discuss the relevance or otherwise of our nuclear know-how. Geography is one of your sterling advantages. But it is one of the worst disadvantages as well. Unfortunately, past rulers could not cash in on Pakistan’s geographical advantage particularly after 9/11. The looted money? Well, first of all, tell me if Pakistan’s money was looted by Indians or Israelis? Did they hail from Pakistan? Weren’t they Pakistanis? And why do you think the donors have stopped favouring us with loans anymore? So, is it Pakistan or a few Pakistanis who should be blamed for looting the country?

To be concluded.