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A muddy palette (An Independence Special)

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By: Yasmeen  Ali

The vibrant hues; the reds, blues, yellows, sundown orange, turquoise, marigold yellow are all mixed up on an artist's palette to form a muddy indiscriminate color one cannot fathom . Though each color in itself and separate will be clear, vibrant, soft or luminous portraying a mood of its own as does the right mix of more than one hue with another. The vision of a nation much resembles the artist's palette of colors. Each objective (color) must be well thought out, each color (objective) clear in its purity and if a mix is envisaged; the quantity of each color and the choice of color to be mixed must be made keeping in mind a pleasing and satisfactory result, not a muddy palette.

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Jinnah and those who struggled with him to get us Pakistan had a vision. The vision was a country for Muslims where they could live freely and live according to the tenets of their religion. However, the vision did not end there. The circle of religious independence becomes complete only with allowing exactly the same religious independence to the religious minorities in Pakistan. Their importance is not just expressed in the Constitution(s), but also in the national flag of Pakistan; the white representing the minorities of Pakistan. Human rights, individual freedom of expression and choice of work and living, governance within a framework of law were just some of the pillars within the vision Jinnah had for Pakistan.

Yet how do we measure our country sixty six years down the road since its creation? It will be unfair to state that Pakistan is a failed state as many political pundits are fond of stating. At the time of creation of Pakistan even the socks of our army jawans were made in England, Pakistan having not one factory to produce them. It was such a very under developed country that there was nowhere to go but up! Industries boomed, production of goods of all kinds went up and up.  On May 28, 1998, Pakistan became a nuclear power when it successfully carried out five nuclear tests at Chaghi, in the province of Baluchistan. From industrial growth, to population explosion to now; something went abysmally and horribly wrong. Initially, it was not so much about economic development initially. It had more to do with increasing corruption, low quality of leadership lacking a firm direction and vision, a confused foreign policy that was not in the best interests of Pakistan, growing religious intolerance and growth of terrorism; including both homegrown terrorists and foreign terrorists seeking refuge on our soil. The role of Army as a governing power of the country was the result of some of the existing problems, not the cause. Nonetheless, they added to existing issues and were definitely part of the problem, not the solution. With these primary problems came a myriad of secondary problems. They included security issues; misusing of huge funds from the state treasury, lack of firm policies to address issues, ad hoc method of addressing problems. These different degrees of mismanagement eventually led to economic mismanagement; a steady downfall from everything we had achieved over the years.

Large military spending, trade imbalance, loan repayments eat through whatever meager resources the country has. There is less to spend on social uplift issues, educational and economic programmes. The latest figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics show that the out-of-school children (Source: UIS database, 2012) in Pakistan is the second highest in the world after Nigeria. Linked to a high level of illiteracy is the fact that a large portion of Pakistan's population lives below the poverty line.

At the core of our issues lies the issue of poor leadership. Each leader as they came had a different "vision' for Pakistan. Each time, Pakistan was yanked at the chain and pushed in a different direction. This has led to lack of direction and social polarization. Overriding threat and cascading impact of terrorism has made foreign investors shy of putting their money in Pakistan. Energy problems of the country have mounted. Circular debt and line loss issues have not been addressed pragmatically; easy solution of increasing cost per unit and passing on the buck to the consumer has been followed making inflation rocket sky high.

Other examples are the lack of necessary measures to divert impact of yearly floods causing havoc and the recent jail break at Dera Ismael Khan that exposed the gap between intelligence giving and implementation of steps on ground. This is not even the tip of the iceberg.

There exists to-date no anti-terrorism policy. First, we were in a state of denial for years, denying its existence. Yes, Pakistan has become a playground for proxy wars for world powers. However, it is unfair to blame other nations for looking after their regional or global interests. The only ones we can honestly blame are ourselves for ignoring our own interests. There are no "friends' fair-weather or otherwise in international relationships, there are only strategic partners. These strategic partners can and do change with time.

Our leaders need to pause and do their most basic homework. It is also the most difficult: to develop a vision for the country. Only once this vision is developed can the steps, both short termed and long termed be chalked out and put in motion to achieve the stated vision. Lurching from one day to another, from one aborted programme to another aborted programme is self-defeating. It will be an arduous journey but let the common man know and see that its rulers are cutting back too on their expenditures and lifestyles, let them see a sincerity of purpose, a focus of direction.

Khushwant Singh , in a riveting book, "Delhi' comparing an India ruled by the British and an India ruled by the Indians offers the following comment, "We planted slow growing, long living trees which will give shade to our great-great grandchildren and their grand-children. They plant quick-growing  gul-mohars  and  laburnums  which blossom for a fortnight or two and yield neither fruit nor shade. All they want is something to show in the shortest period of time. They have no sense of the past or the future."

Let our leaders learn from the past of our country and build on our strengths while addressing our weaknesses. Rome was not built in a day. But neither was it built with a muddy palette!

Pakistan Zindabad!

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, "A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.' Her twitter handle is @yasmeen_9



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