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June 22, 2017



Beyond the dream

For a few magical hours      on Sunday, Pakistanis – in the country and around the world –lived at the heart of a dream as they watched their cricket team defeat India in an exhilarating encounter at the Oval. So few had expected this win that celebration – and, with it, inspiration – soared high, reminding us of how sports can be powerful uniting force and why it matters as part of a nation’s identity and its sense of pride.


But with the game over, even as the sense of triumph continues in posts over social media, we have returned into the less beautiful world of reality. The JIT’s verdict lies ahead and the circus that this investigation has become is a reminder of the dysfunctional nature of a state apparatus that has gone astray.

The WhatsApp call, the leaked photographs, the hacked computers, the argument over the recording of proceedings and the bizarre allegations against major organisations of the state have created a new sense of chaos and made it quite obvious that, like others before it, this inquiry may go nowhere. The degree to which it has been politicised – with all parties playing their own games in the process – makes any quest to hunt down corruption almost irrelevant. Certainly, this no longer appears to be the thrust of the entire affair.

Even if the prime minister and his family are damaged by the judgment and all that has transpired, the obvious mishandling of the inquiry by the JIT will simply lead to more friction and a possibly dangerous situation. In no way has the purpose of democracy or accountability been served. It can only be served if there is a genuine effort to develop a system that can target corruption no matter where it exists and which institution that it stems from.

The fact that some institutions and organisations are completely immune from any query into their actions makes the entire exercise against politicians rather futile. Just as is the case with a rusted steel structure, it is not possible to simply remove the rust from one small portion and ensure that the installation itself will not remain in a precarious state. If we deal with the lack of transparency and issues involving the misuse of power in all spheres in our country in an equitable manner and without bias, we will be able to move any further along the road to solve these crippling problems.

As the run-up to Eidul Fitr begins and the country moves into holiday mode, there are also other things to question. We are told in reports produced by the Global Hunger Index and Oxfam that 40 percent of cooked food in the country goes to waste – the bulk of it at parties and other large gatherings. As entire plates of food are dumped into garbage piles, we have families which believe that they have no options left in life. Just days ago, there were reports of a mother near Lahore who threw her two small children into a well and attempted to take her own life because she was unable to buy them new clothes for Eid.

When we speak of hard facts, some of them are almost never presented to us among the long litany of statistics that are so often blared out on television screens by anchors who are fixated on political developments and the most meaningless actions of the political leadership. Among these hidden facts is the fact that 50 percent of children in the country are stunted – a harsh reality which is not spoken about often enough. This is a huge problem. It is far more pressing than the whisking away of money overseas into secret bank accounts.

Another concern is the fact that 43 percent of people in the country are food insecure – uncertain about where their next meal will come from or, if it will come at all – while 22 percent are malnourished. These are not encouraging figures for a country which possesses sufficient resources to feed its entire population – provided it could work out a way to divide wealth and food in a more equitable fashion.

It is unfortunate that there has been little focus on schemes to achieve this. The same is true of many other countries in the world. In the UK, the cutbacks on social sector funding over the years has resulted in more people who desperately poor. Food banks have cropped up everywhere and enabled people to take home material to prepare a meal. In India, at least one pioneering restaurant has set up a system where food is prepared using leftovers abandoned on tables after customers have been served and fed. The food is placed in a giant refrigerator from which anyone can access it or take it home to families. Other eateries have begun to follow this practice in some cases. Who will be the first to do this in our country? The season of lavish iftars – when the rates of consumption are higher in all Muslim countries – should be a time to think about this matter.

There is also a great deal else to think about. The encounter on the cricketing field showed the warmth between Indians and Pakistanis as former skipper M S Dhoni cradled Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s baby. The short address by the losing captain Virat Kohli also reflected a true sense of sportsmanship, with no excuses made for a loss to a team that he said was better on the day of the match. Politicians need to learn from this. The message applies perhaps most of all to India. But Pakistan also needs to consider why its regional relations are in a shambles and what it can do to build better friendship with all its neighbours. The current tensions have placed it in an extremely precarious condition.

People within the country live precarious lives too. Over the last few months, at least two young domestic servants have either been killed or critically injured as a result of physical abuse by their employers. Others are not safe in their workplaces. Many workers who live without shelter or without adequate support across the country are also not safe.

We have shown our ability to excel in sport. We need to expand this success and turn a victory on the cricket field into a real achievement by working for the benefit of people in the country and bringing them the necessities of life, which can sustain them and their families. It is an achievement in this field that would count as a true victory. The task is far harder than winning a cricket match. But perhaps, taking inspiration from the spirit we saw at the Oval, we can at least aspire towards this ideal and hope to attain what should be our dream of turning our country into a place that offers all its citizens opportunity and hope for a better future.

At present, the vast majority of people have been denied hope and the sense of light that should belong to people who have for decades suffered under a malfunctioned system. They are, therefore, the main victims of the system’s many inadequacies.   


The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.

Email: [email protected]