COMMENT: Surmounting the challenges —Tammy Swofford - Sunday, February 27, 2011

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It is imperative that international leaders gain a sense of proportion. Each nation facing restive populist uprisings cannot be viewed as an individual feature, a mere geographic locale supporting the regional story

My thoughts always question the conventional wisdom. What sounds and looks good must be shown to work in all cultures, across all centuries, interfacing into all technology to be deserving of the word ‘wisdom’.
The current state of affairs in the Middle East with restive population movements in flux allows for distinct hinges of thought. It is interesting to see words spring to life and occupy three-dimensional space with individuals pinning their future on grand concepts such as ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’. But where is the abode of wisdom? It is time for all of us to roll up our collective sleeves.
The commentary and public consumption statements of President Obama’s administration subsequent to the Tunisian revolt and similar movement in Egypt have primarily embraced the aforementioned concepts of democracy and human rights. This mantra rings out like the average sixth grade civics lesson. I am a bit embarrassed. Things are quite a bit more complex than the cheery chirps being sent out from our centre of power. In actuality, democracy is a concept collapsed into a political algorithm. It requires an order of operations. Democratic fervour activated within the spirit of man does not move as quickly as a buraaq (mythical steed) when it comes to implementation. There is not a wing on either of the sides. No speed of lightning. If democracy is cast in animal form, it most aptly resembles the lowly ox.
Perhaps Americans have forgotten. Our bellies have been full for so long and we are well past the stage of a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. For Americans residing in a generational manner under the shadow of democracy, the way of life is a matter of the heart, a thing of sentiment. We scarcely think of the cost paid to attain such freedom of choice.
In examining the conventional wisdom being offered to nations in turmoil, a small fact remains. Human rights are the grandchild of human need. At this defining moment in time, the leadership of Muslim-majority regions find themselves solidly confronted with a crisis of human need. It is the ignored plight of multiple decades in which citizens have been afforded less regard than the young Oliver Twist. Suddenly, citizens are rising up with porridge bowls in hand to demand as opposed to supplicating their untouchable leadership. In doing so, they are becoming inadvertent consumers and raiders of commerce whilst seeking reform.
It is imperative that international leaders gain a sense of proportion. Each nation facing restive populist uprisings cannot be viewed as an individual feature, a mere geographic locale supporting the regional story. The story of Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Bahrain, etc, is of a different scheme than mere boundary lines on a map. The individual uprisings are merely the advance echelon of what is to come and what will continue to be the new norm as populations begin to define what they consider minimal standards of governance. They will take their cues from each other and tactics will continue to evolve. The cure for populist unrest is good governance.
Good governance best resembles a double-yoke of oxen when it comes to policy. The stronger of the two oxen involves itself in urgent policy matters. This is the executive branch. Prompt decisions are expedited with alacrity to avert short-term disaster. The strength of this beast is in the shoulders.
The slower of the two oxen deals with the intricacies of long-term policies. This ox is the parliamentary body. The primary strength of this beast lies in the hooves. It plods along managing the policy convoys moving forward in endless manner, ploughing the furrows of governance. Both oxen are necessary and complementary; both are used to plough the issues of state. The yoke itself is the judiciary. The encumbrance of the judiciary is to provide adequate restraint upon the two beasts of burden. Without this balancing and driving mechanism, the oxen will stumble. At present, this responsibility falls under the direction of your Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Issues such as the status of Raymond Davis, fall to the encumbrance of the yoke.
For policies to be viable, they must be developed to enhance generational strength. Again, your national treasure is the citizenry. Without them, Pakistan lacks a reason to exist. In my own mind I view the generations in three categories: conception to productivity, productivity to wisdom, and wisdom into the arms of eternity. Policies which direct the majority of concern to the first two categories become tasked with a lesser burden for the third. But it is the conception-to-productivity category, which requires a large-scale focus for Pakistan to move forward.
Things such as prenatal vitamins and maternal nutrition are important. Intrauterine health and early childhood nutrition have life-long implications. Compliance with immunisation schedules to the best of national ability is important. The sturdy children of today become the dependable workforce of the future. Quite a few of these basic needs for maternal health and early childhood intervention can be met if Pakistan will open its doors to greater NGO and charitable organisation access. It is available. The stonewalling must cease.
Productivity-to-wisdom? Pakistan faces juggernauting competition from nations such as China with one billion mouths of their own to feed. What job market is available for your own indigent and poor? Sadaqah (charity) which converts from seasonal to generational becomes entitlement. But harsh reality notes that those in the category of miskin (deserving) are in a worse state than the poor. They are immobilised by their total lack (Abu Hanifah). How are you addressing these issues? Do you endorse legislative oxen or legislative parrots?
The good news is that when policy strengthens productivity, benefit trickles down to the aged in the population. They are free to take their native wisdom and invest in the lives of their grandchildren.
Pakistan faces both urgent and intricate policy revitalisation issues. Can you surmount the challenges? All things are possible!

The writer is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves. She is a Nurse Corps officer who resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has written articles and book reviews for the Marine Corps Gazette, and Op-Ed commentary for the Dallas Morning News

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