It is a common practice in western countries to set resolutions for the upcoming year. This practice is seeping into our part of the world as well. Setting a resolution is sort of taking a pledge or recommitment of a person to change an undesired attribute or conduct and to carry out a goal of improving one’s life. With the new year of 2020 upon us, it is to reflect on the past year and how one can improve their life in the coming year.

New Year resolution is not a new custom. In 1894 BC people of Babylonia used to make promises to their deities at the start of each year, that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Romans began each year by making promises to their god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of each year to reiterate their loyalty to gallantry. This tradition has many religious parallels as well, but the concept, regardless of doctrine, religion or creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually. The start of a new year does not have any specific celebrations or acts of worship attached to Muslims. However, it is a praiseworthy act any time of the year to engage in self-reflection, to feel proud and grateful for our good deeds and to acknowledge where we may be falling short and in need of improvement. Making resolutions can help pinpoint what we want to achieve, thus making it easier to come up with plans to reach these goals.

The intention is something to keep in mind when making resolutions, regardless of the time of year. Intentions have a significant role, and in Islamic law, there are different degrees of making intentions to do things. Oaths, for example, involve a person saying out loud that they swear by Allah to do or not do a certain thing, and an oath is a promise made before some institutional authority. Vows involve a person saying out loud that they swear that if the desired event happens, they will perform an act of worship. Vows and oaths, since they are laid out loud and involve swearing to Allah to do something, are considered legal binding and entering into a kind of contract with Allah. If a person breaks their vow or oath, they are required to pay expiation for it, which varies case by case. What do we have in our constitution regarding breaking oath or vow? Maybe nothing, therefore our politicians promise and brag very conveniently.

In fact, when making a resolution, it is important to make sure that one is not entering oneself into a vow unless one is sure that one can keep it. While feeling excited and motivated about self-improvement plans are admirable, sometimes people get overly enthusiastic and set goals for themselves that are unrealistic; this is not in reference to towering claims of our PM. Most of our politicians fool us with such impractical and naïve fantasies. When people try to take on too much too quickly, or without a strategy in place, they may get discouraged and give up on their goals altogether. A survey report says that 35% of participants in the survey failed their New Year’s Resolutions admitted they had unrealistic goals. Another 33% of participants didn’t keep track of their progress. And 23% forgot about them totally because they had too many resolutions. Again this is not about lofty claims of PM’s cabinet. This can be avoided by following the advice of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as mentioned in this hadith: Choose goals that are not too difficult and can be done regularly, and stick to them as best you can.

Common resolutions of an individual level are to eat healthier, start exercising, quit smoking, be polite to others, care personal hygiene, repair environment, attend underprivileged, avoid time stealers, have gratitude, be positive, get confident and the list goes unfathomable. Beside individual level resolutions, there are national-level resolutions that the leaders set. At the beginning of 2019; the first New Year of the present government, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted “Our New Year resolution is to wage jihad against the 4 ills of our country: poverty, illiteracy, injustice and corruption. InshaAllah 2019 is the beginning of Pakistan’s golden era.”

Nevertheless, it seems that sand is gliding out, as Mr Nawaz Sharif went abroad, and Mr Rana Sanaullah came out. Anyways, Mr PM is found speaking that 2020 is the year of progress for our country; every Pakistani wishes this to happen! Here are some pertinent questions to ask that might help sitting government shaping resolution 2020. The first set of questions is related to foreign relations. As Kashmiris are imprisoned in IOK for more than 145 days, are we going to side nations who raise voice against Indian oppression on Kashmiris? After refusing KL summit, should we expect preferential treatment and advantages over India from our alliances through a new policy of foreign manoeuvring? The regional political intimacy is much needed, so do we anticipate making a course correction by improving relations with Russia and visiting Moscow? Are we planning to get out of the US influence or support the anti-dollar campaign in 2020?

To come out of American stick and carrot pendulum, do we foresee a rapid and exponential development on Belt and Road Initiative and emerge from economic crunch? Have we internally and externally fixed the complications before presenting our case in FATF? These few questions represent a national confusion, and ought to be addressed through a firm and clear resolution. The second set of questions is linked to internal policies and programs. As Mr PM has categorically said that 2020 is the year of progress for Pakistan, should we expect social, political, legal and economic uncertainty ooze away?

The parliamentary system of democracy has plagued and afflicted our country, so are we going to witness a movement to replace it with a system of direct presidential democracy, as a remedy? The claptraps in the public institutions have damaged our social fabric drastically, so should we wait to amend them on war footings? These few questions represent a national frustration, and ought to be addressed through a firm and clear resolution 2020; not to repeat the tradition but a vow for action.

The writer is a PhD, Assistant Professor at a University, and a Broadcast Journalist. He can be reached at mali.hamza