So much ink has been spilled in the first month of the Imran Khan government that I really did not want to write anything about it. Saner people have commented, and I hope their pleas have been heard. But amongst those petitions, I want to add that of a historian, because, as it so happens, our discipline asks us to take a long view. When politicians think from election to election, bureaucrats from posting to posting, and news people from one channel to another, we tend to take a slightly extended view. For us, the nineteenth century was just a few days ago, the early modern era still in memory, and the middle ages not an age forgotten. No wonder the faculty in Oxford used to call itself the ‘Faculty of Modern History,’ until recently, where ‘Modern’ meant history after about 400AD! Together with the long view, historians also tend to understand and comment upon the long-term impact of policies and decisions. Often the short term, populist and easy route, is the most dangerous and destructive, and so historians often come to the fore to warn about it, since history is hardly a linear affair and tends to repeat itself with annoying consistency. So what can a historian add to the current debate? The auction of the cars of prime minister’s house — from a corolla as old as me, to the Mercedes Mayback I can never afford to buy in a single lifetime, to the opening up of Lahore’s Governor House to the people (rather, its lawns), and even the selling off of half a dozen cows which ensured that the residents of PM house receive pure milk, it seems that the French Revolution moment of Pakistan has arrived! Of course there is no storming of the Bastille since the Governor himself opened the doors, but the omnipresent litter, stealing of fruit and vegetables, and the general destruction of the lawns, does give the impression of a mini uprising by the people — lets loot and plunder whatever we can get our hands on since its from our money, one brave thief seems to have declared in Lahore on Sunday! But then alas! Just like the French Revolution was a mirage, and brought in its aftermath more death and destruction, this mini experiment, is also bound to fail. It is not because helping the poor, equalising the difference between the rich and others, is not a laudable task, but that this is certainly not the way to do it. The ‘Trust Deficit” of the public which these moves are touted to bridge, will not contract simply because they have been given a chance to plunder the Governor House one day, or the knowledge that the Prime Minister and his family also have to drink processed milk like most of us. The ‘Trust Deficit’ will only disappear when both sides, the voter and the elected, create a bond, a social contract, upon which they act together for the betterment and prosperity of the country. The electorate which (in most cases) votes the politicians in is as responsible for their accountability at the ballot box as is NAB, the courts, and other agencies. If people keep re-electing corrupt politicians then it is misery they have brought upon themselves, and it is only they who can rid themselves off it too — again through the ballot box (assuming a free and fair election). Therefore, the empowerment of the people comes through their involvement, ownership and even their own accountability. Now coming to the buildings. The buildings this government is hoping to alienate are not personal properties of the politicians, but are state buildings and state assets. The Governor House Lahore, for example, is not the sole purview of the current governor but carries with it a legacy which dates back to at least 1849! Dozens of governors, from Sir Henry Lawrence who first lived in this building, to Sir R. Francis Mudie who raised the Pakistan flag here on August 15, 1947, to the last governor Rafiq Rajwana, this building is above and beyond the political and personal affiliations of the people it houses. The Governor House therefore does not represent the person it temporality gives shelter to, but the Government of Pakistan, and with it go its grand construction, lawns, and stature. Changing its current role therefore would amount to changing the nature of a part of the body politic of the Government of Pakistan. Just like the French Revolution was a mirage, and brought in its aftermath more death and destruction, this mini experiment, is also bound to fail Our very neighbour, India, was very hesitant in using the grand buildings of New Delhi which were specifically built in the interwar period to demonstrate the invincible power of the British, but then decided that it could not make do without them. The imposing Viceregal Lodge, sitting atop Raisina Hill, still is the largest government residence in the world, with over a thousand rooms. The sheer size of the Viceroy’s bedroom so scared the first Indian occupant, C. Rajagopalachari, that he began to sleep in one of the guest rooms, thereby starting a tradition, which I think is still kept. Similarly, Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister took over the house of the British Commander in Chief of India. All round New Delhi, the new ‘Government of India’ simply renamed and reworked the buildings erected by the British, with a large number retaining their original purpose. When Pakistan also became independent, it too could have broken the umbilical chord. The Quaid-e-Azam was never a big fan of fanfare, but he knew the importance of form, of the dignified role of the state and its institutions, of the grandeur which the state of Pakistan must exude to give confidence and courage to its people. Therefore, on the morning of August 15, 1947, Jinnah mimicked the Viceregal procession in Delhi, took oath from Sir Abdul Rashid, the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, who wore his scarlet robes and full bottom wig, and took his seat in a specially carved Governor-General’s chair. He also lived in the palatial residence of the former Governor of Sindh, now dubbed Governor-General’s House. It is very clear that closing down the Governor’s House or selling off the cows of the PM’s House, will not have any impact on our many woes. The cost cuts, if any, will be miniscule, and the transition, even more expensive. But two things would have happened: First, the people would have been given a false sense that their ‘Bastille moment’ had arrived. Not only would this be a delusion, it would retard the little democratic development we have had until now. Secondly, it would have led to a mocking of the State of Pakistan, which would be denuded of its historic and valuable buildings and institutions. Every state — from the smallest to the largest, the weakest to the strongest, needs to maintain a certain degree of pomp and circumstance, stature and dignity. Ripping it off like this will only lower the state in the eyes of the outside world, and, more dangerously, its own people. The present government can of course do what it wants, but I hope it gives decisions which will have a lasting impact a good rethink. If one is to sell or reimagine state buildings, at least it should be done through the parliament in the form of an act so that a majority of the elected representatives of the people back the changes. Political governments come and go, but Pakistan will stay, therefore let us not make hasty decisions which will indelibly change the dignified image of our state. The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of ‘A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.’ He tweets at @BangashYK Published in Daily Times, September 21st 2018.