“Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing – I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So, the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” S. Eliot: ‘East Coker’ When one is young, there are dreams which are nurtured through teenage exuberance and fascination. These dreams need to be fostered through years of labour and they either come true, or they go wrong, leading to more dreams, and yet more. But there comes a time when these dreams refuse to be resurrected and one is confronted with an empty palate with no colours to fill up the growing void. So is the case with the history of nations. The dreams of creation cannot be eternal. These need to be constantly rejuvenated and supplemented with achievements which provide the rationale to aim for more, while a few disappointments along the way become the impetus to remain resolute through difficult times. The problem arises when there is little to go by way of achievements and the pit of disappointments grows virtually bottomless. That is when questions begin to arise with regard to the rationale of the state. Among a plethora of crippling existential issues, the promise of change had come like a whiff of fresh air that people wanted to cling to in the hope that there may, after all, be better times in their lives. According to some doomsday proponents, the veneer has begun to come off rather quickly and, once again, the hopes and aspirations of the people are likely to be washed away in a rather familiar avalanche of dismay. In the midst of these debilitating projections, is there still a prospect that this transitional phase may cultivate space for hope to linger, or is this how things are likely to be in the future with little to distinguish it from a sickening past? But, what is it that has made a section of the people think that the promise of change may be just another mirage that they have been accustomed to mistaking for real? Why is it that there are unsavoury rumours circulating that members of the beneficiary elite, who were awarded sentences by the courts after going through due process of law, may find a way out in a repeat of a cycle that is all too familiar and nauseating? Is the state so weak that it cannot sustain the burden of continued incarceration of criminals who inflicted immeasurable damage on it? Is it the absence of political will to deal with crime in a manner that befits a credible leadership? Is it the duplicity of the judiciary that it changes its colours from one regime and one court to the other and from one chief to the next? Is it the institutional incompetence, lack of capacity, even complicity of the accountability bureau that jeopardises deliverance of justice? Is there a dearth of national resolve to handle crises so as to erect a wall of deterrence to effectively block the way for any further transgressions? Or, may be, it’s a power game which is being enacted beyond the scope of these constituents and considerations, and over which they have little to no control. And, as and when another pantomime is validated, its strings would inevitably be pulled by powers that are not visible to the naked eye. The question that arises is whether a state which becomes inherently discriminatory is left with a sustainable rationale to survive? The answer is an emphatic no. So, the choice before the incumbent leadership is simple. For it and the state to remain solvent, it must proceed with dispensing justice without any distinction, and without a fear of consequences. The strength of the state will emerge from the act of doing justice, and not from a display of fear in the face of challenges And what role a palpably partisan and agenda-driven media, whose illicit funding sources have been drained and whose operatives are forced to work at reduced emoluments, is playing in perpetuating the malaise of disinformation which is a major contributing factor to creating an environment of despondency, doubt and despair? And why is it that the media is acting the role of the judge, the jury and the executioner put into one in damning the government? I am not one for spreading gloom, but am constrained to point this out simply because there is so much confusion and, consequently, unbridled speculation. Some senior functionaries of the government are aggravating this state by offering confusing narratives. Therefore, everyone has a theory which is allegedly traced to first-hand inputs of what they consider is about to befall the fate of the Sharifs, Zardaris and the sundry. While the Sharifs have been incarcerated for a while now through conviction by the accountability court, the Zardaris face huge challenges which could lead to prolonged confinements for the clan and their associates, aiders and abettors. It is being speculated that the Sharifs want out and an agreement to that effect is on the anvil. The exact contours of such an arrangement remain a matter of speculation, but the very thought that the state may not have the wherewithal to punish its criminals is repugnant. Lurid details of this eventuality are being projected with serious questions raised about the incumbent government’s resolve to ensure accountability. So, should one surmise that it is back to square one and the beneficiary elite’s tentacles are far too deeply dug in for any prospect of accountability to be institutionalised? Without taking anything away from the enormous influence that the beneficiary elite wields, further accentuated by a frenetic, often misleading hype that the media has generated to serve its own myopic interests, I don’t believe there is any possibility of a deal. However, if this were to occur wrapped in a shroud of mystery, it is the credibility of the government that would be dented beyond repair and the trust of the people in the fairness of the state would be mortally jolted. The incumbent dispensation was elected on the promise of incorporating fundamental reform in the operation of the government and the system that gives it legitimacy. A failure would be tantamount to telling the people that there is nothing that can be done by way of providing them justice on a par with the beneficiary elite and that they would always remain less equal than some others. This would highlight the unjust character of the state as being unable to deal with its people in an equitable manner and having to go by dispensing justice commensurate with the stature that an individual may or may not command: the ones who are powerful will get away with murder of the most vile kind, while those who are not so will have to bear the brunt of the state power at its most brutal. The question that arises is whether a state which becomes inherently discriminatory, and which cannot dispense justice to its people equitably, is left with a sustainable rationale to survive? The answer is an emphatic no. So, the choice before the incumbent leadership is simple. For it and the state to remain solvent, it must proceed with dispensing justice without any distinction, and without a fear of consequences. The strength of the state will emerge from the act of doing justice, and not from a display of fear in the face of challenges. Much is at stake for the state to come good on its promise of being a fair arbiter. Any other dispensation will damage its credentials irrevocably and it would be but a bruised and battered fabrication perennially gasping for breath: “And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about.” The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute – an Islamabad-based think tank Published in Daily Times, February 10th 2019.