As a nation, we are at a crossroads. We face a perennial threat to our existence. Our economy is on the cusp of collapse and the politics are in disarray. The state institutions are at loggerheads functioning for cross purposes. The Constitution is losing its sanctity. The populace is in misery overwhelmed by disillusionment and despondency. There is no sign of course correction. We don’t have any hope for some daring minds to rescue the nation from its current torturing and dangerous predicament. Henry Kissinger has said that “the best determinants of a society’s fate are neither its national wealth nor other conventional measures of power but rather the quality of its people and the vision of its leaders”. We have remained deprived of both, unfortunately. The nation was systematically reduced to a disinterested crowd by the ruling elite (feudal, big landlords, political and spiritual dynasties, civil and military establishment, industrialists, business and media houses and selfish upper middle class) depriving it of education, healthcare, and security livelihood, social and economic justice, rule of law and equality before law keeping the overwhelming majority on crumbs in a patron-client political system. The state resources and national wealth was captured and plundered by the elite each segment of which has emerged as a mafia over and above the law of the country masquerading as the saviour of this besieged nation. They are found in every corridor of power – cabinet and parliament with their sons and nephews filling the ranks of the elite and lucrative public services, corporate and financial sectors at the federal and provincial levels. The nation was systematically reduced to a disinterested crowd by the ruling elite We are an agrarian society. The agriculture sector with 22.6 million hectares of cultivable land (out of a total of 79.6 million hectares) contributes 22.67% to the GDP. The feudal and landlord class that clusters in every political party and the parliament since the inception of the country possess over 50% of the cultivable land. They earn millions, live an aristocratic life with numerous palaces and SUVs with their children receiving education in elite schools in the country and earning their graduate degrees from prestigious foreign universities. They pay no income tax. They are, an overwhelming majority in the legislative Assemblies and influence legislation to safeguard their interests. They have no concern at all for the misery of the common man. In the last days of the PTI regime, the United Nations Development Programme released a comprehensive report on the economy of Pakistan revealing shocking facts reflecting the callous plunder of the state resources by the elite. It stipulated that the country’s resources of Rs. 26.30 trillion are squandered on the perks, privileges and subsidies of the elite with the corporate sector including feudal, political class and establishment taking 6% of the state revenue. Sometimes, the powerful class takes more than its determined share by exercising its influence and power. The corporate sector’s share is comparatively bigger estimated at 9% of the economy or Rs. 7.18 trillion as contrasted with the share of the affluent class ranging within 8%. The report further revealed that the feudal and landlords forming 1.1% of the population own the major chunk of the cultivable lands of the country with a substantially powerful representation in the parliament manipulating legislation according to their vested interests and that the middle class was just disappearing leaving the society with the affluent and powerful class at the summit of the pyramid and the teeming millions at the bottom with an unending social and economy asphyxia. The report claims – and rightfully so – that the affluent class never had any difficulty in living an ostentatious life. It is the middle and lower middle class and the teeming millions of the populace that have always faced the brunt of economic hardships and poverty. It is widely apprehended that the conditions being imposed by the IMF will trigger an avalanche of inflation breaking the back of the populace without affecting the extravagance of the elite and the privileged class. The IMF has given its draft Memorandum for Economic and Financial Policies to be followed by the current regime – justifiably called a lame-duck administration by Senator Mushahid Hussain and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The regime is fully prepared to introduce a mini-budget taxing commodities of daily use and enhancing the rates of utilities. The apprehension of the economists of the country apart, the Associate Director of the International Human Rights Watch has expressed his serious concern that the IMF conditions will plunge millions of Pakistanis into social and economic misery simply beyond human endurance. Maybe, the IMF programme will help us overcome our present economic predicament but we shall remain mired in a sick and vulnerable economy. With a current lot of leadership, we have been rapidly losing all the qualifications of a nation. As far back as 1963, the Singaporean leader – Lee Kuan Yew – had said that “a nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people, and the quality of their leaders which ensures it an honourable place in history”. Let us be honest with ourselves that today we lack all these qualities. Sadly, we failed even to become a nation. This reflects the monumental failure of our leadership in nation building than any lapse on the part of the people. The people of Pakistan have every right to ask the rulers what they are going to do with the perks, privileges and subsidies of the elite class and how they are going to stem the plunder and pilferage of the state resources by the corrupt mafia and what structural reforms they are contemplating to put the economy of the country on a firm foundation. The charade of patchwork we have been indulging in will no longer work. It is time to take the bull by the horns if you dare do so. The other honourable way is to hold elections and hand over power to the leadership that emerges with a new public mandate. The author was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books.