Aik hi saff my kharray ho gaye Mahmood-o-Ayaz

Na koi banda raha aur na koi banda-nawaz

These famous words from Allama Iqbal reflect a subtle reality; the paradox of power and the reality of life. We accumulate power in manifest and hidden ways; Money, education, social and political status, etc. As power increases, corruption in hearts begins to subtly follow the same trend. Years of possession of power lead to what researchers call “hubris syndrome”. Clinical symptoms include a lack of empathy, arrogance, a loss of reality, and ultimately a ruthless display of incompetence. For this reason, our religion calls for prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimages to address our weaknesses in harnessing the power of free will. But in our Islamic republic we see a pharaonic attitude of the rich and powerful towards the rest of society. What is the reason for this irony and what can be done about it?

The accumulation of wealth and power leads to an unnatural state of a person in which the abd is given the position of malik. This change affects not only the “anointed” but also the vast masses who are beginning to become their “followers”. So, politically, we see a nation transform into a mass of jayalas, youthias, and patwaris who will unquestionably support their respective “anointed” leaders. The submissiveness of the masses and the illusion of power is a deadly combination for a humble Abd caught in his own hubris. The long time in power continues to trap the prisoner in quicksand and his family and friends do not wait long to jump into the tempting vortex of power. In our society with low upward mobility, these elites ossify into permanent features that stagnate a rushing flow of a young, energetic nation into a piercing cesspool of decay and waste. So the best minds in such societies wander towards the blue ocean of imagination and independence. The conquest of a country by the elite becomes so strong that even if the youth choose a revolutionary tabdeeli, the same wealthy uncles and aunts will return to haunt us back to the next nightmare.

What is the recipe of a real tabdeeli? In my opinion, the country needs to change its political system that empowers, educates and transforms the youth. Our country’s parliament must represent what we really are – a young, dynamic nation, not the same political faces that we have seen over the past few decades. We have to limit power in time so that our political system does not become senile and colonial. Our parliament must be like Silicon Valley, where ambitious, radical ideas are celebrated and failed strategies are quickly assessed and rejected. We need to promote a culture of transparency and accountability. Parliament should have a website with each member’s property profile, records of public work and accessibility are listed. Leading members are promoted quickly and the corrupt members are brought to special courts. Therefore, our political system must evolve from the rigid Mughal hereditary system to the dynamic Rashidun caliphate system in which political power depends on just and moral authority.

The old power addicts led our country through the wilderness of poverty and humiliation. Can our youth take us to the promised land of milk and honey? Only time will tell and that is the beauty and paradox of free will endowed by our Creator.

Posted in The Express Tribune, October 25, 2021.

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