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Opinion

August 1, 2018

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A toxic combination

It does not portend well for a state if its vital organs compete with, or fear each other. A state, like an organism, owes its survival and healthy development to the functioning of its organs and a high level of cooperation among them.

The entire body suffers when an organ fails to provide sustained support to other organs. Cooperation is always driven by a higher purpose which makes it quite natural for organs to embrace one another without ‘preconditions’ or demand for preferential treatment by any organ.

This natural order of excellent cooperation in organisms can hardly be found in entities (states and organisations), precisely because of the multiple identities and varied levels of consciousness that are at play. In the case of individual organisms, all organs are controlled by the brain, which is assisted by an extended nervous system. A communication breakdown and/or any damage to the neurons in the brain can cause paralysis. But unlike organisms, which are products of nature, states and organisations are social constructions replete with many imperfections.

One of the key causes of non-cooperation among socially constructed entities is the absence of a higher purpose (collective conscience) — a moral compass that generally transcends immediate benefits and instant gratification or a sincere attachment to it. The purpose reflects something more aspirational and gives people a sense of meaning and direction. Leaders have to communicate the purpose with authenticity and constancy through their actions more than slogans. A disconnect with the higher purpose or lack of its genuineness means paralysis of the entire system.

In Pakistan, by default or by design, the system of governance seems to have lost its contact with a higher purpose and almost all institutions are, in essence, in a state of disarray. They work as if they do not belong to one entity that has an overarching objective. The three vital organs (legislature, executive, and judiciary) are engaged in turf wars despite clear demarcations of their powers and functions in the constitution. There is no problem in theory, but in practice, institutional interests take precedence over what is envisaged in the constitution.

Pakistan, though not yet a failed state, has all the symptoms of a weak state. We have yet to set our country’s direction right in terms of reconciling its ideological roots with the demands of globalisation, balancing various competing institutional forces and, most importantly, working on a new blueprint for social harmony.

For Pakistan to cut itself of its roots would be as pernicious for its physical health and wellbeing as is living aloof from the outside world. Similarly, the constant tug of war among state institutions has the potential to cause irreparable damage to the country as an integrated and viable entity. The recent accountability process and the way issues of national importance are being sorted out amply demonstrate disunity to the core.

Both accountability and unity are undoubtedly essential for dealing effectively with the current and emerging challenges, but this requires sagacity and sincerity. Instead of going public with statements which could provoke anti-state sentiments, it seems more prudent to discuss vital issues inside parliament and other forums in an environment of trust and mutual accommodation with all stakeholders on board.

In World War II, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, who were ideologically poles apart and ruled powerful countries, joined hands to fight Nazi Germany until it was ultimately defeated. They did not allow their egos to come in the way of fighting a big threat.

The horrifying scenes witnessed before the July 25 elections were a tip of the iceberg. Pakistan’s youth bulge, coupled with poverty and illiteracy is going to bring out more such horrific incidents in the days ahead. More unfortunate was the behaviour of our politicians, who played to the gallery and never tried to properly educate the public on how to respond to extraordinary circumstances.

Our leaders, running various institutions, at all levels, should be prepared to stop defending their turfs and fiefdoms for the sake of saving Pakistan from sinking. Populism, politics of hatred and institutional confrontation constitute a toxic combination for any country to endure.

The writer teaches at the SarhadUniversity.

Email: [email protected]

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