“2011 belongs to Obama and cahoots, for they have relentlessly made all efforts to destroy and punish the Muslim world; logic was overcome by might.” Raja Mujtaba

By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

One may find somewhere hidden under or inside the global headlines of the great events of 2011 (perhaps in a much smaller print than one wishes), a small kernel of hope for Pakistan. Born during this eventful year in a land where hopelessness and despair have raged for decades, this small hope springs from the possibility that perhaps time has come for Pakistan to finally become a land not beholden to the feudal lords of Sindh or the not-so-Sharifs of Punjab, both of whom have over-spent their time in the public domain. What may replace them and their style of governance is still not completely clear, but one can see the outline of a new kind of governance through the emergence of a new generation of leadership.

The Sharifs and the not-so-Sharifs have already made enough money to last them and their progeny until the end of their time on earth. It is in their best interest to simply leave the stage to the new generation. How one wishes that there was a compulsory retirement age for politicians! Imagine a country free of all these nauseating faces which have crowded the print and electronic media for years! Imagine the daily routine of a nation without the unending sickness of political dramas! Imagine a country breathing in the fresh air of a political climate of trust and respect!

The small print one hopes to find in the chronicles of 2011 will not mention any real change in Pakistan, just the possibility of such a change, and that in itself is enough for now. It will perhaps take the entire 2012 to see anything real happening in Pakistan, but the fact that the winds of change are blowing is comforting.

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Elsewhere in the world, protesters have overthrown entrenched autocracies, dictators who thought they will never be challenged; a devastating earthquake and tsunami has thrashed Japan, a new country was emerged in South Sudan, the European Union has come on the verge of financial collapse, and as usual, famine in the horn of Africa has devastated that land. But all of this has remained beyond the consciousness of Pakistani leadership: events in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen have been as if on another planet. One cannot even lament this; such is the level of current political leadership of this country.

The change one hopes to see during the next year is not a dressing up of the old in a new wrapper; Pakistan needs fundamental shifts in the style of governance; the extra-time given to the old-style Raj governance has finally come to an end and there is no more room for plunder and perks on public funds. The entire structure of governance needs to be radically changed and it is not an impossible task if political leadership has the vision and the will.

Fundamental services need to come out of the hands of brown babus and into the technological domain of ease of use and efficiency; the long lines in front of banks to pay bills, hundreds of human hours wasted every day to get one piece of paper for one’s land or home, and the administrative structure of the nineteenth century government inherited from the British Raj needs to go in one big sweep. It may take five years to overhaul the system, but at the end of those five years, Pakistan will have enormous human energy available for constructive purposes.

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Education is the key. The current educational system, a remnant of the Raj needs to be discarded; instead of issuing meaningless degrees, educational institutions need to produce thinking minds, skilled workers, and capable civil servants imbued with the desire to serve, rather than rule.

Pakistan’s foreign policy needs a total reconfiguration; it has been flawed since its inception. It came into existence in the post-World War II rift between the two super powers and it remained centered on pre-Partition communal, religious, and racial strife which existed in the Indian subcontinent. All of this gone now. The world is radically different from what it was in the 1950s when Pakistan’s foreign policy was framed. In the world of the twentieth century, there are economic, rather than ideological blocks and countries which are in the forefront of economic development are those where governments are single-mindedly focused on generation of resources, rather than selling of raw material.

The new century has opened up numerous new areas for generation of revenue and foreign interest in building infra-structure. A new kind of thinking is required to harness the potential of Pakistan’s relatively youthful population. The new generation of educated Pakistanis need to be given opportunities to participate in national reconstruction, rather than leave the land due to hopelessness and despair.

Pakistan’s North and Balochistan have huge potential and both geographical areas are enormously important for the future of the country. Their strategic importance cannot be overstated. They need special attention in terms of their political discontent and development plans. The Balochs have been disenchanted with the federation since the 1970s when ZA Bhutto unleashed brute state power against them. They need to be given their share in the national affairs and most of all, they need to be respected and brought into the fold of nation-building. This is not an easy task for any government, but it needs to begin somewhere.

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The winds of change are bound to gain intensity in the coming months across the country. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s present political scene is dominated by mockery and personality cults; even Imran Khan is continuously blowing hot and cold and targeting individuals. This is extremely unhealthy for a man who can certainly go beyond these cheap rhetoric and, instead, present ideals and dreams to a generation sick with seeing the dirty show of politicians.

Nation building requires instilling of hope in the hearts and minds; not mud-slinging. Time has now come for Pakistani politicians to leave behind the habit of washing their dirty laundry in public. If they do not mature and rise to the occasion, the budding hope will simply vanish, leaving behind broken dreams and shattered hopes.