Am I free to write what do I want to – including what I have in my mind or what I have in my heart – notwithstanding many apparent restraining factors – religion, morality, the sensitivity of the state and state institutions, intellectual honesty, precincts of good and bad for my nation, for my society and my new generation? This means my path is strewn with thorns; my pen shackled; my hand manacled; my thinking restrained by self-discipline and self-abstention; the fear of the coercive power of the state and the wrath of its institutions; the aggressiveness of religious and sectarian zealots; the blasphemous and defamation laws; the opprobrium of the society and its moralist brigades. “Man is born free but everywhere is in chains,” said Jean Jacques Rousseau. No power has withstood the power of the populace. I observe what happens in my country, society, community and city – some sweet and pleasing, some bitter, despairing and depressing things. Every day, I traverse a river of sorrow and pain watching glaring instances of poverty, misery, disease, injustice, and repression perpetrated on the weak and powerless of my society by a minority elite and institutions controlling the state’s power and resources. They behave as owners of this land. They are above law; state institutions are hostage to their whims; their loyalties, their wealth, their palaces; their children are located somewhere else; they are in transit here; their heaven is not in any part of this land. Their commitment to this land is transitional and lasts no longer than the sun of their power sets in. They are marauding plunderers – worse than medieval Mongols, Sultans, Arghuns, and Tarkhans. I wonder how oligarchs have impelled the populace to resign to this injustice, inequality, and misery, taking it as their destiny from generation to generation. The populace – being ignorant of their collective power; their force to move mountains, change the course of mighty rivers and build skyscrapers and pyramids – can rise one day like a phoenix from the abyss of powerlessness and throw these blood-sucking lot into the Arabian Sea and regain their freedom, their ownership of this land taking their destiny into their hands. Can the people fight this fight? Yes, they can. No power has withstood the power of the populace. Their will is restrained by a cobweb of superstitious and divisive factors woven skillfully by the oligarchs for centuries in a sinister design to keep the populace in a stupor, depriving them of all the means essential for the enlightened and conscious life – the dawn of education and provocation of thought – in league with their collaborators – spiritual and religious leaders – in feudal social and economic structures. They use the state laws and institutions, enacted and built for and geared to safeguarding their wanton plunder, to create awe and fear and promote a mindset of slavery, resignation, suffering and sufferance. The cobweb of this fear and the superstitious beliefs is to be unwoven. The gun has been a source of power since medieval times. Through reforms of law enforcement and justice systems, empowerment of the populace and promotion of education, democracy, and awareness, this gun culture has been greatly suppressed, though not eliminated, in civilized societies. However, we continue to suffer from this feudal tradition. Our society did not have the blatant display of gun culture before the 1980s. The Afghan war gave it an impetus. Now we have flourishing security companies providing security guards for personal safety, financial institutions, shopping malls, and jewellery shops. The so-called elite, politicians, their acolytes and minions saunter in their SUVs with a horde of armed guards. This shows the utter failure of the state. The political parties have their armed wings. When some of them grew bigger than their shoes, they attracted the attention of the premier powerful institution of the country. A member of the National Assembly of a fascist political group confided to me that they had hundreds of sharpshooters with heaps of lethal weapons. Some of these weapons were discovered and confiscated in operations when this group spiralled out of control and was banned. Until then, the powerful were looking the other way for reasons known to them. Another political party is known for creating gangsters and patronizing police officers using them for the suppression of political foes and killing people in fake police encounters. We have a religious-cum political party keeping an army of baton-wielding volunteers with a particular uniform and drill all drawn from the seminaries under it. Another political party has grown into a mafia challenging the chambers of justice, threatening law enforcing agencies and blackmailing the premier powerful institution naming the names. It gets away with all this. The state is found nowhere. One does not know where the fault lies! This unfortunate country has been ruled directly or indirectly by Generals, autocracy and oligarchs since its birth. The people have been fed with democracy, national interest, national harmony and crumbs thrown to them condescendingly by the clever rulers. All the elections, government forming, legislation, administration of justice, and growth of political parties with their electoral wins and losses have been a controlled process, and a saintly cloaked means for the insatiate ambitions of Generals, greedy and corrupt politicians. Notwithstanding a thorough survey of our political landscape, I could not figure out a single undisputed general election and a single Prime Minister completing his mandated tenure. For the insubordination of a Prime Minister, the hapless country is crudely punished. We encounter one political crisis after the other for seven decades. We have a long catalogue of traitors, foreign agents, secessionists, subversion and parochial or anti-state, anti-Islam elements. The country has been the locus of religious factionalism and sectarianism; the target of religious militancy and hostage to foreign pressures for decades. Once again, the country is tottering under an extreme political polarization created by none other than those who matter. Their itch for political reshuffle is incurable. The cost is to be invariably borne by the country and the hapless nation. The author was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books.