The way to the future
The writer is a freelance columnist and former editor of a newspaper.
Things look rather bleak for Pakistan. Despite attempts by the State Bank to control inflation, with some success, and a change in government policies on a number of issues, there is still a lack of stability and certainty in the country.
The degree of division in the country was witnessed ahead of by-elections in Punjab, with scuffles and abusive language exchanges reported between the two parties ahead of the poll. But this is of course not our main problem. We need to look a little beyond the immediate politics and think in terms of ideology and leadership. Until there is a clear direction in which to go, we will get nowhere but only end up bickering between political parties playing their distinct roles in our political hemisphere and advancing their own agendas – which are all remarkably similar.
We need a new party that can offer something new. This process may, of course, take time given the deliberate depoliticization of people that began primarily under General Ziaul Haq but has continued in one way or another since then. But we have no more time to wait.
In a recent talk show, examples were presented of countries such as Colombia, Mexico and even France where ordinary people such as teachers chose to run at the polls and offered an essentially socialist program, mimicking in a to some extent the kind of policies that we see working so effectively in Scandinavia, and in other northern European countries. It is a landmark in itself at a time when fascist tendencies in the form of Donald Trump and Narendra Modi are taking over the world. We also have our own Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, and its own right-wing fascist extremism, which so many people follow with astonishing commitment, judging by the number of votes. Of course, we can’t be certain that these vote counts are accurate, but there is certainly support for the TLP, its leader, and other far-right religious leaders in the country. It is an ideology that continues to exist in our territory.
The question is: how to offer people an alternative. The decision they make about what they choose is up to them. It is interesting that a socialist like Bernie Sanders can win so many votes in a country like the United States, where people like Donald Trump and a harsh anti-communist agenda have been pursued for years. But if Bernie had run for the Democratic leadership in place of Hillary Clinton, he might have garnered enough popular support to take over the nation’s presidency. The leaders who stand in the middle have really achieved very little despite their pretense of liberalism and their desire to help people. Bilawal Bhutto, Barack Obama, Rahul Gandhi and others are among them.
Putting forward a left-wing agenda may not be as difficult as it seems. Although the comparison between Colombia and Pakistan is not perfectly precise and not entirely accurate, the fact is that the people of our country face a similar situation, with the elite consuming most of the national wealth and leaving very little to the poor who are malnourished, have no access to education and no access to opportunities. The elite and those who hold real power in the country have known this for years, but are unwilling to do anything about it. It is therefore more ordinary citizens, journalists, lawyers, teachers, activists, workers or farmers who will have to act.
A person who aspires to lead a country does not necessarily need to be highly educated or to graduate from an Ivy League school. His job is simply to build a team that can design policy and solve problems. The leader needs charisma and ability to convince people that their life need not continue as it is today forever and forever into the future and beyond.
So how is it going? First, we need a group of people, or a vanguard, that can make people more aware of their ability to effect change through voting. This first requires a fair and unmanipulated vote. Ensuring this in itself will be a difficult task, but one in which people can again play a part, perhaps by creating committees of citizens who are uninfluenced and well respected in their own localities to review the polls and help to establish an equitable and violent climate. number of free surveys whenever possible. More daunting is the task of persuading people that a move towards a more socialist trend change could benefit them immensely by ensuring more equitable education for children, better health care for those who cannot afford hospitals facilities and basic facilities for those living in slums, where there is no sanitation and certainly no access to clean water. Indeed, the majority of the country’s inhabitants cannot obtain safe drinking water. The most basic necessity of life is denied to them.
So how do we go about what is a colossal task? This will not happen all at once or in a single campaign round. Effort must be built slowly and with devotion. A charismatic leader who can influence people like Bhutto did in our country or Peron did in Argentina would be of immense benefit. People must be convinced that the Maliks, Nawabs, Sardars, Nawabzadas and others who form the highest level of the country’s elite, including those who wear uniforms of one type or another, do not necessarily need to rule forever.
They must also be convinced that as citizens they have rights that are being stolen from them and taken away piece by piece and wholesale by those who are more interested in developing hotels and building societies or investing money in places where it is of no use. to benefit the poor or those who cannot even afford to buy a house that costs a few hundred thousand rupees. They also have no access to bank loans or other sources of money to acquire this sum and must live generation after generation without a shelter they can call their own.
There are groups that are already working to change what our reality is. To them is due enormous credit and enormous praise for their courage and dedication. Especially since many of them could have taken advantage of cushy jobs in the West, but chose to return after higher education to try to improve the future of their own country. We can only hope and pray that they succeed and can take us forward even if it is one step at a time.
The effort must start at the grassroots level by persuading peasants, farmers and lower income workers that things can change if they want them to change. It has happened before in other countries and it has happened in our own country as well. It is time for this to happen again before the gap between the very rich and the very poor widens further.
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