Pakistan: An Optimist’s take


Pakistan: An Optimist’s take

Hasnain Iqbal

I don’t know what worries me more. My own future or that of Pakistan. But I know for sure that I am because Pakistan is. There is definitely a lot to whine about and the pessimists seem to outnumber the optimists. Anyone will rattle off the reasons. The economy unravelling, lawlessness ruling, the population exploding, power outages increasing, governance crashing, the Right rampaging and the Left dying. Is it a bad dream? Do we ever get to wake up and see dawn breaking? I seethe against God for being so unkind. And then comes the epiphany. Change is wafting all around, engulfing us slowly but surely. Perhaps it is the unleashed media bent on unveiling the rot or the magically touched bourgeoisie flexing political muscle or perhaps, a nation finally beginning to rein in the demon of extremism. I feel the balmy breeze caressing my face. I smell the fragrant spring though can’t see flowers blooming. We are living in exciting times and witnessing a beneficial confluence of forces that is threatening to overthrow the status quo.

Operation Zarb-e-Azbis possibly the best thing that could have happened as the army goes about a radical paradigm shift in the national security and foreign policy domains. The all-out war against terrorism is the reversal of a worldview that had been carefully crafted and entrenched over decades. Convoluted at best, the imagined Indian bogey and the strategic depth doctrine saw Pakistan plunge into the bog of blood and violence threatening the very fabric of our society, in fact the existence of Pakistan itself.General Raheel Sharif, the soldier behind the operation to save Pakistan, is blazing an unprecedented trail, boggling the naysayers with his clarity of thought, commendable restraint, valour and impeccable integrity.

TheChina-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)may prove to be the biggest blessing of all. Chinese ambition can potentially drag Pakistan out of the cesspool and transform it in a matter of two decades. Even the cynics agree that the Chinese investment in the starved regions of Pakistan will bring stability through economic emancipation, which in turn will halt radicalisation. Consider. The slew of rail, road links, pipelines, power plants as part of a grand tapestry woven across Asia, Europe, Africa, facilitating trade, the movement of people and cultural intermingling on an unprecedented scale. China will be connected to Central Asia, Europe and beyond via the Silk Road with Pakistan playing host to massive infrastructural development and commercial activity. That said, Pakistan will have to bend over backwards to harvest the windfall by charting a course unshackled from the sins of the past.

The emergence of the PTI as a third force has broken the stranglehold of the two-party system. This effectively means more choice for the people.Imran Khan’s portents of a tsunami may have faltered but he has worked up enough urban froth to pressure the competing stakeholders into better governance. Imran was able to politicise inert segments of society that had a history of sitting on the fence. Support for the PTI is an authentic case of the middle class itching to wrest back its rightful political space. Imran’s kiss of life and social media have morphed the 35 million-strong middle class across Pakistan into a monolithic grid with far-reaching implications. Urban youth’s and women’s participation in the electoral process has made it more inclusive and representative. Increasing women footfall in elections has ramifications that go beyond politics and will positively impact the family as the building block of our society.

Unlike the fabled mirror from Snow White, our media has been a ruthless reflection of the pain and disease infecting Pakistan. It is now playing a critical role in shaping public opinion, in bringing accountability to the rulers and most importantly, in changing an amorphous nation into something with distinct contours and edges. Yes, the media is also afflicted with sensationalism, greed to rake in rankings and the self-righteous demeanour of an all-knowing entity. But for all its faults, it remains a torchbearer trying to undo the stasis.

We are not doomed after all. An independent media, a population shaking off political slumber, the war against extremism and the CPEC, all indicate convalescence. How these developments interact with one another over the next decade will perhaps define the future of Pakistan. Yes, chaos too will hitch a ride on this bumpy journey. But I remain hopeful. There is so much more to my Pakistan. We have seasons. Hot summer fades into glorious winter, spring beckons autumn and the romance goes on. We have rivers, verdant meadows, deserts and mountains. Above all, we have a land that is our own. It will be what we make of it. Pakistan is here to stay.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2016.

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Courtesy: The Express Tribune  

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