Jan 1, 2012

Over the top

Masood Hasan So 2011 has slipped away without a trace. An entire year gone over into the abyss like a large ship that is one moment on the horizon and then slips over the rim and is gone without even a wake. Today is the first day of yet another year and it has become increasingly hard to call it by the usual ‘Happy New Year’ tag that we were once used to. What has really happened? Is time actually flying or are we getting senile? And why is it that when you look back on an entire year, 365 days and all, it is but a blur? Yes you remember the highs and the lows but for the rest of the many days that make up the year, there is not much to hold on to. Life is time passing, is it not? And in the words of T S Eliot with those evocative lines that open Burnt Norton ‘Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in the future,/And time future contained in time past,/If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable’. In our own lives and in these days it is the growing realisation that time past is not redeemable. Thus a feeling of loss and a brooding sense of pessimism pervades. An American friend of mine with a wicked sense of humour used to say about Pakistan, ‘The situation is hopeless but not serious.’ While it almost always evoked laughter I have often thought what these clever lines really meant other than the obvious cynicism they reflected. I don’t really know. All I do know is that it somehow, aptly describes the human condition that afflicts Pakistan from end to end. And that is sad. There is not much to be cheerful about. The mood that grips us is much like the gloom that descends on our cities when the sun absconds after a fruitless battle all day. The gathering dusk and creeping shadows overpower, with few lights to challenge them. There is no sunshine here. It’s gone. Vanished. In these days of eternal gas, power and water cuts we are just about existing. We are a depressed nation. No songs of joy here. Those bleating about the promised ‘change’ do so for such obvious motives that even a log of wood would see through the charade. The downside of all years gone and the promises that were never kept have shaken to the core even the most diehard ones. This is not what we came here for? This is a parody. We have missed the bus, the last train out, the departing ship. The sense of squandering opportunities prevails now like the fog on the motorway. In terms of lives of nations, maybe 60 years is nothing but a mote in the eye but what have we really done with these years is shameful. First the many leaders who have climbed to great positions of power most undeservedly and once there have systematically plundered the country and its assets assimilating wealth beyond belief. Then the generals who have always held sway, backed by an organised and armed self-serving system. The ‘servants’ of the people who have robbed us day and night. The police, a world full of criminals deadlier than the criminals they seek. The rank and file of society out to make a fast buck, stab everyone on the way and live beyond the reach of the law. We all love money especially when there is plenty of it. We pray to it because it is the only god we know, but how much can you accumulate? Among thousands of instances of gross corruption shine many nauseating gems. Some time back reports emanated that the current prime minister’s spouse who didn’t bat her professionally made-up eyelids cleaned out the inventory at London’s Harrods store. The VIP loot, crates of it, arrived and were whisked away in special trucks from Chaklala to her favourite city infested by poverty, flies and beggars. No one raised an eyebrow heaven forbid. Other stories abound. There are reams about the president, endless ones about the clout-wielding brass and conniving civil servants but relax. No heads are rolling or ever will. But she is not the only one or the first one. Literally everyone has done the same and worse. We have some of the most enviable laws crafted by mankind but neither do they exist nor ever practiced. We carry out the most shameful acts while shamelessly swearing our utter commitment to such laws. When the laws aren’t suitable, they are simply broken or cast aside. Tinpot dictators, insincerity dripping from every pore in their bodies trashed the Constitution, a serious offence yet they grew even more powerful. That line of our rogue’s gallery is a very long one and just about most of those the Almighty thrust upon this hapless nation have come and gone leaving Pakistan, in worse circumstances. Today we don’t even have the basic necessities that are the bare minimum requirements of any society – but perhaps this is not a society after all? Even if it is an apology of one, what right has any group of individuals to stay in power, make stupid speeches, lie daily and do nothing tangible in the way of this basic duty? That is of course a very silly and naïve question because we all know what is what. Between that great commando and the current dispensation and 15 precious years, we are starved of power. It is a matter of great shame. This is the year 2012 and we could well be in the Stone Age or thereabouts. What are the people expected to do to fight the cold, cook food and survive? Burn fruit crates? Cut trees down? But nothing shakes the capital and the focus is that this vile set-up must complete its five years and Inshallah, they will. Hallelujah! Revenge is the best democracy indeed! But this is an old story and it is a poor variation of a bedtime story where the prince eventually arrives, kills the giant and rescues his darling. Unfortunately this princess will soon be an ugly hag. She is already over 60 and time hasn’t been too kind to her. Those rallying to rescue her need to be first rescued themselves. But no one is going to pull Pakistan out of the terrifying mess it is now. Every ill that besets any society now has its death like tentacles over everything – touch anything and you see it is rotten to the core. Rules don’t apply, principles don’t matter and the illiterate roughnecks have the day. With ill-gotten money they have raked in and rake in all the time, they are ensuring their offspring, perhaps louts today with money to throw around, will soon be at the learning centres of the world, acquire sophistication, return and marry into other power wielders. The die is thus cast. You need a revolution but most of us cannot spell the word and those who can, don’t have a clue what it is all about. 2012, please go away.

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