“The rare moment is not the moment when there is something worth looking at, but the moment when we are capable of seeing.” — Joseph Wood Krutch
A moment could be interpreted as just an insignificant, transient period in time but, in its meaning, substance and relevance, it could transcend a whole expanse of life.
The significance of this one moment has been so eloquently illustrated by Albert Camus: “The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But, it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious.”
Such was also the moment when Imran Khan took oath as the 22nd prime minister of Pakistan. One was fortunate to have witnessed it which signalled the demise of decades of plunder and misrule and the advent of a period when advancement of self would be separated and rendered subservient to the paramount interest of the state, when the emphasis would be on good governance and delivery to the poor and the marginalised communities instead of perpetuating the unjust stranglehold of a few over so many.
Alongside immeasurable hope and expectations which this one single moment has generated, it also resonates with a host of challenges that await Khan to face and overcome. These past years of uninterrupted pillage has rendered the state vulnerable, be it in the annals of economy, security, foreign relations, continuing radicalisation, social and societal deprivations, joblessness and, worst of all, a feeling that individuals of all ilk, hues and shades, have an unquestioned right to promote their interest and agenda at the cost of the state. This narrative has deep roots in the national psyche.
“There was no artificiality in his narration and no hint of lack of resolve in facing it head on. What made it really different was that his heart seemed to be where his mind was. This consummate performance, this master-class evocation was contagiously genuine”
So, in its entirety, it is not just a mammoth challenge. It is a monumental crisis.
How to reassert the supremacy of the state and its institutions, and how to inculcate a high level of sensitivity among people that we are there only because the state is there, and defending and furthering its interests is an equal responsibility of all its citizens, no matter how privileged or deprived they may be? I am reminded of OrianaFallaci who, while comparing the governance styles of the sub-continental leaders with others said that while the former thought that they were the state onto themselves and that the state shall perish if they were not in command, the genuine democratic leaders believed that the state was paramount and would prevail while leaders would keep changing.
It is a top-down narrative: the leaders at the helm, by assuming the mantle of the state, have indulged in unchecked ransacking by striping it naked, and, in doing so, they have considered themselves above accountability. The trickle-down effect has infected the ones through the lower echelons. Not only they have taken recourse to similar indulgences, they have also demanded immunity from prosecution. This is a viral that runs through the veins of the whole nation with everyone showing signs of capitulation before inducements of varying kind.
o, it is an infected society that Khan has to deal with and, somehow, convince them that what they have been doing, or what they have been guided to doing, has been all wrong and there is no provision and reason for continuing that now. It is tantamount to changing the very manner this nation has thought all along. Simply put, it is not an easy task.
Each day is important. There is no room for a faulty step. Every move has to be comprehensively deliberated, well-directed and effective. The objectives, the strategy and the team — every component has to be articulated for the people to stand with him through these trying and testing times as he undertakes to transform the very way people think about governance and their own role in it.
Understandably, some of his early decisions have been subjected to criticism which has been unjust at times. But this is what he should expect as there is going to be much more of the same. Primarily, this is because he has set high benchmarks for performance. Therefore, if his own selection does not measure up to those benchmarks, there would be noise.
As we were taught during our early days, one must try to make it right the first time. That would require a greater level of introspection, multi-faceted appraisal and then some more introspection. Yes, there is little time available, and people are going to be impatient. There is also no room for faltering as that would not only make things more difficult, it would also dent people’s hopes and aspirations which would be a greater loss and may result in depletion of support.
But, hearken to the other moment — the prime minister’s first address to the people after being administered the oath of office. Every word that he spoke, every gesture that he made showed that here was a person who not only knew what ailed his country, but was also sensitive about sorting it all out. Alongside the grave economic issues that the state confronts, the very mention of juvenile rape cases, easement for widows and disabled persons, taking full responsibility for the street children, revamping the national police system, empowering institutions, ensuring uninterrupted accountability, facilitating education for every child, remedying environmental challenges, initiating civil service reforms, planning sports grounds, launching a clean Pakistan drive, improving the state of the hospitals and introduction of health cards — there was no artificiality in his narration and no hint of lack of resolve in facing it head on. What made it really different was that his heart seemed to be where his mind was. This consummate performance, this master-class evocation was contagiously genuine.
He knows the problems. As he embarks on this most difficult journey of his life, he must realise that he needs the very best brains to do this with him. There is no dearth of determination on his part. He has shown it on numerous occasions in the past. What will matter are the people that he reposes trust and faith in to do what is assigned to them, and do it well. Are they up to it?
Institutional reform is the other key component to the implementation of his agenda. Without credible and accountable institutions supporting him, he would not be able to address this monumental challenge of (absence of) governance. His predecessors perpetuated the liquidation of institutions to strengthen the stranglehold of individuals so that they could indulge in loot and plunder without any fear of the dragnet of justice. He wants to reverse the process, so the prospect of protest, even violence looms. He is aware of it and will require the support of the people and institutions to blunt the assault.
All in all, engrossing times are in the offing. His reform agenda, his unflinching resolve, the people in his team and the institutional support that he would be able to garner are the key instruments to the advent of a new Pakistan.
It better be as, otherwise, there is the deluge!