Our fate appears to be similar to the fate of John Keats’s knight-at-arms who fell into the snare of an enchantress in a dream only to find himself empty of energy and vitality. Our political existence starts from a dream in 1947 of a future promising a bonanza of progress and prosperity which we felt was not possible by living with other religious and ethnic groups of un-divided India. It took us 8 years to cobble together a constitution, which was scrapped within the next two years. Later two more constitutions followed. Our subsequent experiments with different forms of governments even failed to set the course of our polity as we alternated between civilian and military rules, losing half of our country in this rough journey due to our failure to maintain political cohesion as one Muslim entity. Bengali nationalism took precedence over religious identity and negated the raison d etre we supposed was the basis of the creation of our country. On the other hand, India framed its constitution soon after getting freedom, held regular elections every four years and evolved a strong parliamentary party system, which has taken roots in their society. India being more than four times our size and six times our population has eight times healthier GDP, has exports 12 times more than Pakistan, and have foreign exchange reserves 21 times more than those of Pakistan. Most significant strides have been made by India in the field of education. According to a comparative estimate released by the UNESCO and the World Bank in 2012, India despite a population 6 times that of Pakistan had less than 3 million out-of-school children, compared to some 7 million in Pakistan. India spends over 3.4 per cent of its GDP on education, while Pakistan barely spends 1.8 per cent. It is therefore not clear why we should expect the world to help us raise our level of education when we are not even prepared to spend as low as two per cent on education. India excels in many areas of science and technology in which Pakistan doesn’t contribute anything. In the field of higher education, India produces 10,000 PhDs every year, while Pakistan produces just about 800 PhDs which indicates that India produces more PhDs every year than Pakistan has produced in the last 20 years. Thus our standing against India is fairly gloomy which shows that all is not well in the state of Pakistan. A comparison with India can only truly reflect our achievement because with her we share common bonds of history and culture and our journeys as independent nations also started at the same time. “O what can ail thee Knight-at-armsAlone and palely loitering? The sedge is withered from the lakeAnd no bird sing.” In some other social evils, we reign supreme in the world. Drug addiction is endemic among our people. About 6.7 million people use heroin which is the highest level in the world. Corruption is rampant. According to a survey of Transparency International, Pakistan ranks 127 out of 175 countries. Tax evasion is another major problem with less than one per cent of Pakistanis filing their tax returns. So one is led to ask what has really gone wrong with us which has brought us to this pass? There are multiple social economic and political factors for this decline. As an independent nation, we suffered from the illusion that the fruits of freedom would automatically follow without any effort. After freeing ourselves from interreligious hatred and differences, we cultivated the same feelings of hatred and bitterness with our co-religionists based on racial sectarian and tribal differences. Muslims, having ruled India for a fairly long time, had already earned the distinction of being a lethargic nation and were regarded as no better than “hewers of wood, and drawers of water.” In an environment of self-complacency and lack of competition other social evils like sectarianism, obscurantism, bigotry and superstition crept into our system which made us shun objectivity, and reason etc. In the golden era of Islam (circa 8th to 10th century) tolerance and a spirit of enquiry were the two dominant features which made the Islamic world a citadel of knowledge. Now we scrupulously avoided these virtues and were thus sucked into the web of confusion, chaos and ignorance. Intolerance to other people and ideas has prevented us from creating a pluralistic society that could allow us to expand our knowledge of the world through interaction with other cultures. The result is that we are reduced to the status of an international pariah, a condition that our immigrants to other countries acutely experience during their interactions with other people. Obscurantism has become our habit of mind which keeps things vague and confounded not allowing us to see the reality of things as they are. Instead of looking into the present, we tend to be conservative and reactionary in our thoughts and become opposed to reform and enlightenment. Coupled with these attitudes are our sheer economic deprivation and a general lack of education from which all other vices proceed. Thus it is is no surprise if we failed to achieve our desired goals. Lack of true and sincere leadership is another bane of our political existence. After the Quaid, we have sadly lacked true leadership. The greed of power and money of our political elites has led to the strengthening of a few groups or individuals at the cost of the masses. No stable economic institutions have been created and the ones working efficiently (like the P.I.A., Railways and Local Government etc.) have been nearly destroyed. The rulers have failed to provide the bare minimum necessities to the people due to which the state is already close to touching the level of a failed state. The portents of a ‘failed state’ must be very grave. On this question, my readings of some of the latest commentaries of some eminent Western scholars as also my recent discussions with Prof. Shabbir Ahmad Khan, a PhD from West Virginia University helped me greatly in understanding the genesis of a failed state which was part of his studies in the US. We also discussed its consequences and choices before Pakistan in the event of such development. There is nothing unusual about states and empires falling or collapsing with the tide of time. We have seen in the past great empires like the Roman, Ottoman, and British empires collapsing. In the recent past Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia etc. have collapsed. Prof Norman Davies, in his book, “Vanished Kingdoms,” has recounted the history of 15 European states which disappeared. In ‘Why Nations Fail’ by two eminent political scientists of Harvard University, and another book ‘Failing State: Causes and Indicators’ by Prof. Robert Rotberg, recount the factors present in a failed state which are nearly the same which we witness in Pakistan, like the growth of criminal violence, turf wars of criminal gangs, arm and drug trafficking, flawed institutions i.e legislature becoming a rubber stamp, and wrong and misdirected priorities of public expenditure etc. But despite that, they see Pakistan as a ‘Fragile State’ close to being rated as a ‘failed state’. Every time they study our economic statistics, they do not clear us from the scare of a Failed State and keep us on the grey list. The reason why despite all the weaknesses of the state-craft, Pakistan is still regarded as impregnable by most think-tanks is its nuclear capability and highly disciplined and well-equipped armed forces. But the physical force alone is no guarantee against the disintegration of the state from within due to internal strife and divisive centrifugal forces. Thus, internal unity and harmony between the constituent provinces are essential. It is the primary duty of the Federal government to treat every federating unit as one and equal entity with the rest which is only possible if all the provinces are justly and equitably treated and given an equal share of political power and resources. Pakistan faces a new challenge that no state had hitherto faced. Today the world community is unified against religious extremism while a nuclear Pakistan internally riven by terrorism, and criminal violence linked to religious extremism is seen as an anomaly. In this background, it has to be seen if a nuclear Pakistan with its extremist image would be acceptable to the world? The answer is No. In the 21st century, an ideological nation in possession of nukes and facing extremism has no place. In this situation, we have only one option to start behaving like nuclear power and modernize our political and social institutions to become partners of global forces instead of becoming their rivals. If we fail to do so, we will be equated with the club of African nations like Somalia, Sudan, Guinea Bissau and Ethiopia etc. In other words, the choice with us is between a modern, progressive, secular and stronger nuclear power, or a conflict-ridden tribal and conservative society with extremist leanings. History’s lesson for us is that nations or states collapse only when they refuse to change and insist on being foisted to the moorings of a decadent and eroded social and political order. The writer is a former member of the Provincial Civil Service, and an author of Moments in Silence.