The year 2022 passed into obscurity leaving, in its wake, a depressing telltale of political polarisation; economic meltdown; unprecedented inflation; ravages of flood; apathy of the federal and provincial administrations; heavier burden of public expenditures; pilferage of precious resources; mutilation of laws; suppression of expression by gun and gold; deafening silence of the people over miserable conditions they live in and their intriguing resignation to sufferings, sufferance and regression. We have chaos and anarchy in almost all the pillars of the state from the Parliament down to the Provincial Legislatures, and an ominous contest among institutions for supremacy over and above their constitutional mandate. Will the year 2023 bring any change in our pathetic condition? The change is brought by leaders we have the chronic dearth of; the vivant societies free from tribal shackles and armed with education and consciousness; the marching public protests ever willing to challenge political waywardness, social and economic asphyxia while upholding the rule of law and the supremacy of constitutional, judicial and legal norms; the think tanks and civil society; the honest intellectuals and scholars; the professional journalists. With a society reduced to a disinterested crowd of people unable to look beyond their nose; we have lost the sense of collective wellbeing in our selfish race to serve our nests to the peril of our fellow citizens. What change will a society of this character bring about? We have long absolved ourselves of education, healthcare, municipal services, protective policing; security of life and honour; justice-rendering judges and courts; responsive administrations at all tiers of governance, anti-graft watch dogs, merit in admissions; recruitments in public service, transfers and postings; fair division of resources between the federation and the provinces; provincial finance commissions. Public representatives take billions of development funds every year and no development is sighted anywhere in their constituencies; their invulnerability to accountability has overtaken the administrative officers posted in their constituencies at their behest. The recent discovery of mega corruption in the motorway funds in the two districts of Sindh by the district administration did not come to the people as a surprise but a norm of life in this mindless society. Surely, these officers were not alone in swindling billions from the public exchequer. They could not have this amount of temerity. The political bosses were hand in glove with them. But no political boss has been arrested so far. Who should arrest them? Their party is power. They are masters of the province, its resources and the people. We have fragmented our polity into castes, creeds, sects, ethnic and parochial segments ever ready to slit each other’s throat. The state has been taken over by the elite, mafias and powerful. There is no limit to our obsession for gun and gold; political gerrymandering, charade and trickery; economic and financial extravagance; shameless begging; talking big and denying unwelcome truths; taking pride in small successes and finding scapegoats for big failures; shutting our eyes to the unendurable inhumanity in our society, gender discrimination, religious and sectarian intolerance, violation of rights of the people, children and minorities. We nurture violence and patronize militancy or robbery. The robber gangs in Sindh and Punjab have more sophisticated weapons than our police. The state has no concern how they get this arsenal of lethal arms and ammunition. We have fragmented our polity into castes, creeds, sects, ethnic and parochial segments ever ready to slit each other’s throat. The state has been taken over by the elite, mafias and powerful. Their lust for power and wealth is unbounded. No institution however powerful dares challenge their writ. They behave like a state within the state.They temper with the Constitution, alter the laws, tame the bureaucratic administration, manipulate constitutional institutions, intimidate courts to save their necks, power, perks and wealth. The mask of deceit they wear is transparent and the people can see their malicious intentions and show signs of trepidation but keep silent – a deafening silence being perpetuated by a fast growing sense of fear, insecurity, helplessness and hopelessness. We could not overcome our profligate habits. We have an economic emergency with a bloated size of cabinet with perks and privileges. The country needs a fresh start and we procrastinate to have elections; the political gerrymandering is galore with political parties undergoing an emergent exercise of revamping or scrapping with some provincial governors displaying audacious courage to punch the bag more than what they are constitutionally mandated. As the half truncated parliament inches to the end of its term, the seasonal political birds patiently wait and watch the swing of the powerful stick. The Balochistan Awami Party is unraveling and the factions of an ethnic group in Karachi are coming together. Is all this done as pre-poll rigging or to bring about political stability? When shall we stop burying our head in the sand believing that the world does not see us? We had dreamed of a liberal, democratic and progressive country. We never thought of turning it into a pathetic theocratic or garrison state overtaken by the minuscule elite class in league with the bureaucratic and military leaders reducing the teeming millions to crumbs. Over decades, we have become prisoners of our innocent and fanciful optimism and our facile disregard of unwelcome realities. The unwelcome truths we are shy of facing as a nation are obvious: our failure to build a nation; uphold the constitution; rule of law, equality before law and representative rule at all tiers; protect life and honour of citizenry; ensure education and healthcare; fair distribution of state resources; political fragmentation; religious intolerance; economic restructuring; crippling imbalance between the political and democratic forces if any and the security establishment. Bismarck’s do emerge – but from societies proud of their land and ancestry, tired of chaos and determined to change and assert themselves as a nation of honour and dignity. The modern state of Germany owes a great deal to Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Our wobbling ship can be steered to the safe shores by a builder of the capacity of Bismarck, Lee Kwan, and Deng Xiaoping if the nation rises from the ashes of its failures with a new vigour and determination. We need a national charter for revival. The author was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books.