‘The tray of expectations always returns empty’

  • Nizamuddin Khan
  • Oct 11, 2023

In the Pashto language, there is a proverb that essentially says, “The tray serving expectations always returns empty.” This saying is often wielded in households to describe an individual from whom much is expected but little is received — usually a child burdened with unrealistic expectations.

In Pakistani politics, there’s an all-too-familiar rhythm to the claims of political parties. It’s like watching a theatrical performance. When in the good graces of the establishment, parties proudly proclaim their positions, backed by a seemingly unshakeable force. But when that same establishment pulls its support, the very same politicians transform into revolutionaries, claiming to challenge the very powers they once leaned on.

It’s a cycle of convenience. While under the establishment’s umbrella, there’s bravado and confidence in their stance. But once outside its protective shade, they don the cloak of the underdog, calling for change and resistance. But here’s the catch: this ‘revolutionary’ spirit lasts only until they find themselves back in the establishment’s favour. Then, it’s back to business as usual.

This dance is not just predictable but also detrimental to the genuine aspirations of the people. When political agendas are driven by the whims of power dynamics rather than the true needs and desires of the populace, it’s the nation that suffers. The pressing issues, the real challenges, and the grassroots-level needs become secondary to the ongoing power play.

In this game of musical chairs, principles often take a backseat. Allegiances shift, promises are broken, and the narrative is constantly rewritten to fit the current scenario. It becomes less about serving the people and more about maintaining a favourable position in the larger scheme of things.

The stagnant political environment that we witness today has its roots deep within the system.

Pakistani political parties have often either neglected or consciously steered clear of grooming talent from the grassroots, preferring to maintain a status quo they vocally criticise but discreetly sustain. This approach, though in exercise for the past seven decades, might not be sustainable anymore. Disturbingly, there’s myopia in their vision, seldom extending beyond the next five years.

Such short-term perspectives are grossly insufficient for a country aspiring to craft a future course spanning decades and centuries. It is also heartbreaking to see how the word youth is often misused. While everyone realises the youth bulge in these conditions is only a ticking time bomb, the only thing they are doing is waiting for someone to cut the wrong wire.

Youth in Pakistan is already witnessing the erosion of its hopes, and given the present course, it is anybody’s guess what will happen to them watching conflict, radicalisation and divisions of every kind all around.

Amidst this unending political dance, a fundamental question emerges: Instead of constantly seeking approval and alignment with figures outside the system, why can’t politicians come together for the real stakeholders — the people? After all, it is the people who truly hold power.

Why not set aside past grievances, forgive past transgressions, and unite for the collective good? Why ask for truth commissions at convenience? Why speak partial truths just to play with emotions? Probably everyone involved in statecraft and politicking is so distant from reality that they don’t realise the room for experiments has shrunk to nothing.

Or is it too much to ask for, like the tray that serves expectations?

Nizamuddin Khan Salarzai

Nizamuddin Khan

The writer is Editor of HUM News English. He posts on X as @salarzai_

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