Everyone and everything eventually gets tired and retires. The substitution fills in the shoes and the life goes on. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif both created their political parties in the 60’s and the 80’s respectively. Significantly, our history remembers them both for their vision and the role they played in achievement of the goals they set. Benazir Bhutto was an able and charismatic leader and could have carried on the vision of her father. If she had survived Pakistan could have benefited from her clear understanding of the concept of democracy and what it takes to become a democratic leader. Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, was a circumstantial leader and today if we are considered by some as a country that betrayed its promises than the three-time elected prime minister cannot absolve himself of the role he played in that ultimate betrayal. After Benazir, her husband tried to fill her shoes. A polo-playing showman and an utter political disappointment, Zardari is best known around the world not for his politics but for being ‘Mr 10 Percent’. Bottom line — today Bhuttos and Sharifs are this country’s struggling and tired political dynasties and believe it or not they have already been substituted. The thrust of this article is not who substituted them but why they got substituted. If no one has noticed our politics is rotting away. E J Dionne, a columnist for The Washington Post wrote in one of his columns in 2017: “Great nations and proud democracies fall when their systems become so corrupted that the decay is not even noticed — or the rot is written off as a normal part of the politics.” The failed political tenures of our major political parties have created a rot in the politics. The children of these families are now doing nothing else but trying to reinforce failures. I say that because unfortunately many of our political stalwarts are facing corruption charges today, and such has been their fall from grace that common people can hardly draw any distinction between them and criminals. Make no mistake, they may blame others or plead innocence, but they are responsible for our, theirs and this country’s current state of affairs. Today they raise a political hue and cry on issues that they kept on the backburner when they were in power and want to misguide the public individually and from the platform of PDM through a narrative that is interesting and compelling, but selective, incomplete and partial. While in power they forgot who we were and what we could become as a nation. They only thought about themselves and that is why I call them the ‘islanders’ and us the people as the ‘ocean dwellers’. They live peacefully on their islands yet leave us, the people, to deal with ‘our seas of troubles’ in the ocean. What happens on the islands that they live in (whether home or abroad) is quite different from what happens to us in the sea of troubles that they have created for us. And the irony is that none of them repents or is apologetic, in fact, they contest the ‘purity of their politics’ and the miseries it gifted to our country. What was termed a noble profession by Aristotle — i.e. politics — has been converted by them into a sport. The loud, polarised and partisan voices that the politicians daily raise on the media to defend themselves and their parties are unfair, unreasonable and bad-tempered ‘political contests’ that seek only to win the day’s game. They are not worried about our political system that has collapsed; and it does not matter to them that our values are suffering deep erosion. I am convinced that the ‘island dwellers’ have lost the plot. They no more feel our pain. All their politics seeks is to drive our behavior and they can go to any length to pressurize, manipulate, influence and twist their impoverished people and bring about a change in their behavior that suits them and their politics. These ‘island dwellers’ are the exploiters of our history, who have hardly anything new to show and all they do is consistently trumpet the accomplishments of their ancestors. All that we the people associate with them and their kind of politics is building wealth, make profits and reclaim this country’s precious land to build their own artificial and manmade islands. Yet they want me and many of us to believe them. How can they be the tacklers of our problems when we are the ocean dwellers, and they live in a separate world on their own islands? Deal makers, game fixers and trouble creators — how can I look up to them to restore our lost national prestige, our traditions and our very way of life? They confuse us about this vision and that vision, about the lost and the newfound ideologies, yet they hold no progressive ideas, and we continue to stick to the point from where we had begun our journey as an independent country. Critics will question why I don’t accuse our military for the woes we suffer. I remember President Eisenhower’s open-top limousine visit and Jackie Kennedy’s visit in 1963 to this country. We were alright as a nation at the start of 70’s. Thereafter, if General Zia and General Musharraf faulted, they could not have done so without a thoughtless, inapt, tactless and selfish politics. The dictators have always relied on political support, and politics, since the last three decades, has rendered it to them most thankfully. The 400 million gallons of untreated sewage that today pours out daily into the Arabian Sea has got nothing to do with the military. The vigilantes that murder people involved in the blasphemy trials in broad daylight (32 people have been murdered in the last two decades) have got nothing to do with the military. The election reforms that politics never initiates when in power has got nothing to do with the military. All politics has done in this country is never carry out self-analysis and only accuse the military. But now that the hardcore politics of the status quo has finally been substituted, their manmade islands may finally merge with the deep ocean of problems in which all of us live. In this is hope for this country as now both the ruler and the ruled must swim or drown together. The writer is a member of the faculty of contemporary studies at NDU Islamabad.