Written By: Gauher Aftab
A hundred years from now, historians will look back to this period as a moment when the world slid from the grasp of an established order and changed into something unrecognizable. The spiral into chaos has begun, and a vortex of instability and entrenched conflict threatens the status quo all around the world. One thing history can reliably predict is that all empires decline and recede, all civilizations fall prey to decadence, neglect, and overreach, and that all power, however magnificent, withers away with time.
The current global order is crumbling and the writing is on the wall for anyone to see. The old world’s engine of neo-colonialism and free trade policies self-destructed catastrophically in 2008, and the shortsighted response of Western governments has since de-linked value creation, employment and growth from the illusion of wealth creation or ‘progress’. Let us waste no words on Trump but to say that his government is an early manifestation of the many authoritarian and exploitative regimes set to rise across the Western world. The assets of declining empires shall be divvied up behind closed doors, and the majority will exert its tyranny over lesser subjects till the veneer of civilization is entirely stripped away. As the sun sets on the 30 year reign of a single global superpower, and the nascent multi-polar world has only archaic conventions and toothless institutions to navigate the inevitable conflict. The Chinese dragon stretches its wings much further in South Asia than ever before, and has its sights set on connecting the world. The Russian bear stirs from hibernation, and though still a pale shadow of its former greatness has begun expanding its sphere of influence.
Closer to home, the Middle East bleeds like a gaping wound, with millions of people ready to welcome any ‘savior’, even ISIS, who can make the killing stop. The Al Saud dynasty totters under the weight of its contradictions and hypocrisies, with what could be its final scion to hold power. Their only legacy will be a strain of puritanical nihilism masquerading as Islam, and a Muslim consciousness cauterized along sectarian lines. The seat of Sunni leadership lies vacant, and a contender has yet to step forth.
Another inalienable truth is that periods of decline are always followed by a cycle of rebirth. The vacuum of power creates room for new actors, alliances and narratives that define a new world order. However, the globe does not experience history uniformly, and our part of the world has already been through decades of chaos and destruction. The West may have just opened its eyes, but we are already on to the messy process of rebirth, and unfortunately the form of our future incarnation is terrifying.
Our schools teach sycophancy and exclusion, our pulpits preach hate, employment is akin to servitude, and the corridors of power are a winding maze of nepotism. But it’s worse. The murderers of children are treated like state assets, their patrons are beyond untouchable, and our elected leaders manage to claim their share as both ruler and victim. Our children grow up angry, hating their fellow citizens for crimes of thought and belief, willing to maim and kill rather than die hungry. Far from presenting a unified face in hard times, this dysfunctional family is at risk of having an irreconcilable falling out.
In many ways, this should be Pakistan’s moment to take to the stage of global affairs and stake a claim to being a major world power. The keys to the future of Afghanistan, of the Middle East, of global Sunni leadership, of peace or war amongst the Muslim Ummah, all lie with Pakistan. And believe it or not, the strategic balance of the new world order could one day rest upon a single land route that happens to wind its way through our sovereign territory.
What is in the past can no longer inform or infect our vision for the future. Glory is not a holding pattern, nor is maintaining the status quo an achievement. It is time to put aside the demons and false myths of yesterday, and embrace a new purpose for our nation. The time to dream of a greater Pakistan is not tomorrow, it is today. A final solution for Afghanistan is imminent, and we must consider our role and stake our claim. The Middle East needs a neutral Muslim nation as arbiter, and there is simply no one else. There are millions of people around the world who need a place to call home, and Pakistan defines itself as a nation with ideology, not ethnicity, in mind. To even begin to aspire to such lofty heights, our house needs to be set in order with massive social reconstruction and a shared national direction. The foundation must be rebuilt strong enough to bear the weight of 200 million dreams, as well as lighten the burdens of millions more.
So will we go meekly, silently into the night, or will sages one day tell of the moment in history when we finally came of age? If history is to be believed, we will find out soon enough.
The writer is the author of ‘Paasban – the Guardian’ comic series, and can be reached at