Taken hostage.

The decade of the seventies was tumultuous for the republic. The eastern wing, under the leadership of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman, became Bangladesh, while Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) the most popular leader of the Western part assumed control of what remained of Quaid's Pakistan. The establishment was bruised and cornered. In August 1973, in addition to the unanimously agreed constitution, major reforms were undertaken to rebuild the country with participation of the masses. The right to travel was granted.

In the United States, one of the oldest constitutional democracies of the world, such rights of the citizens were enshrined two centuries ago. It is the only country where people can leave the country at will, no exit stamps are needed. In the communist bloc and the establishment-controlled former colonial states, free travel was not allowed. Taking advantage of this liberal travel policy, thousands of Pakistanis left the country in search of greener pastures all over the world. It is this prosperous expatriate community that sustains the country with their foreign exchange returns.

Unfortunately, the periods of freedom for the people of Pakistan have been limited. In the first decade (1947 to 1958) there was a struggle to establish the rule of law and constitution, which was hijacked with martial law in October 1958. The second democratic honeymoon was also short-lived (1971 to 1977).

Perhaps with the exception of the Prime Minister (PM), there is no one willing to fight for our liberation from colonial leftovers. Most civilian institutions have become non-functional. The judiciary, which once provided relief to the common man, is now overwhelmed with cases of executive abuses.

Transparency and accountability are non-existent with rampant corruption at all levels. While ground realities remain grim, government departments like the Board of Revenue (BOR) Punjab are printing front page advertisements in praise of their performance which is nowhere to be seen or felt by the public; it is indeed like sprinkling salt over open wounds. The PM has rightly stalled all promotions in the senior bureaucracy without public inputs though such a feedback mechanism does not exist.

I once visited the passport office with my father. He operated through Butt Sahib who sold forms and then helped in their submission. In those days, this was a common sight outside most government departments like Post Offices etc, where facilitators were available. While handing...

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