Thou Shall Do—Software Update

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Andleeb Abbas

It is hacked. It is hung. It has crashed. It has a virus. These are all terms from the world of computing technology. These describe the messing up of the system. Such computers are then sent for repair. Such computers are then scanned with detectors and run with software to make them virus free. Such computers then re-install new updated software to cope with the changing system requirements. Complex as it may seem, the machine does become updated and reusable. Machines are controllable. Humans are not. This is why when the term software update is used for changing human behaviour it is qualified with cynicism in a sarcastic tone. You can fix machines but fixing human beings is much tougher. Machines obey your command. Humans may or may not. They have a choice.
Today, Pakistan is undergoing seismic change. This change is in its society, its economy and its politics. The majority of Pakistan is under 30 years of age. They have gone through the shocks of a global pandemic. They have been asked to change and adjust dramatically. They have experienced work from home, school from home, games from iPhone, no socialising and extreme economic hardships as the world went through soaring price hikes. And then the political upheavals. The ruling party vs all the other parties in game of thrones. Such volatility has brought about a collection of reactions and emotions in Pakistan that if not channelised properly, can break down into chaos. Change is inevitable. Change is permanent. But it requires anticipation, understanding and adaptation. With the current political scenario reaching a climax, it is mandatory that 5 “software commandments” are required in the major stakeholders to convert this uncertainty and chaos into stability and progress:
Thou shall not trespass- The promise of the military not to interfere in politics is treated with smirks and contempt. Too many times, it has been said and too many times, it has been done with even more intrusion. For a real update of the software, the structure and system have to change. The military espionage wings need to be overhauled. Painful. But compulsory. Laws and rules should be changed to ensure backdoor entries are detected and deleted. Public accountability of the assets of armed forces officers should be made mandatory. A grade 22 officer should be just as accountable as any public office holder. This software update is going to face the natural resistance of rejection, suspension and retraction that a new software faces when it is first introduced in the system. But without this, in today’s minute-by-minute exposure to the social media world, there will be no hiding place for the virus injectors. At stake are not just the perks and the addiction to make or break governments. At stake are the sanctity of the institution and the security of the country.
Thou shall not be influenced-The state institutions need to rethink their role. They need to rethink their credibility. They need to redraw their performance. Justice is a luxury only the rich indulge in. The ability and courage to uphold laws have been severely damaged by an almost numb reaction to the assassination of Arshad Sharif; the targeted shooting of the Ex-Prime Minister and the gravest of human rights violations in the Azam Swati case. This is obviously due to the baton influence.
The system needs a top-down update on case handling and a bottom-up prioritisation of giving justice to the man on the street. The men in the courts need to save themselves–not from a fall from the chair but a fall in grace. Similarly, other institutions, particularly FIA and ECP, need to be respected and regarded on their own. Their present status is almost embarrassing. It is time for the rules of appointing heads and people to redesign to minimise biased entries.
Thou shall not seek help-And if anybody is to be blamed for all the trespassing and the undue influence in their territory, it is the politicians themselves. They are the ones who make the powerful more powerful. Politicians, who are compromised themselves, will always compromise with the institutions. They seek their help in the elections; in the vote of no-confidence; in getting their crimes laundered; in getting their cases NROed, and in getting their irregularities regularised. That is the toughest software update. The thirteen parties in the government, which means 95 per cent of your political top brass, have been flagrantly and blatantly seeking this facilitation for decades. The one party that is in opposition has taken a stand against all influences. But this taking on should not be compromised on a tradeoff but lead to a final retreat of all stakeholders in their respective domains. The best way to do that is to focus on public welfare and come through free and fair elections. It is only when politicians indulge in scams, and their governance and performance are bad, that they hold secret meetings with the midnight jackals.
Thou shall fight the Might-The media business is dangerous. Money and easy money to spread narratives has been the norm. Media for decades has been fed on the same programming that has become stale. To sustain their businesses, media houses, instead of innovating to win over viewership, rely on government spending to earn revenues. In return, they tow their line, no matter how far from the truth it is. That worked well in the past. With the advent of social media and TikTok, they are sadly out of touch. They are huffing and panting for viewership as the public switches off the TV and switches on Youtube. These eight months have shown the power of viewership. Some media channels under the baton threat were compromised and lost audience. For the media industry and media houses to survive, they must update their antique business models or they will turn into various shades of PTV.
Thou shall speak and stand- The young speak and matter. The biggest update that has happened in the last nine months has been in the self-belief of the people of Pakistan. For long, the cynicism of the earlier generations that the seat and the baton will rule the rule of law held firm. The 17th July elections smashed that mindset. The public saw that all the power, resources, 13 parties and the government could not stop the public mandate from overcoming all these forces. The smartphone generation must remain smart. They must not go for blind party loyalties but force political parties to be transparent and accountable to their promises.
These are the winds of change that are blowing. They are forcing all stakeholders to stop business as usual and think and behave differently. The unusual has to triumph over the usual. The trespassing of authorities, the belligerent hounding of the unafraid, the merciless killing of the uncontrollable, and the horrific humiliation of privacy are all matters of shame. And, let us hope, matters of the past. Let the software rewrite this shameful script. Let the software, for a change, work on the script of dignity, equity and integrity.