Two men were offered plots on which to build their family homes. Each was given a choice – you can have a plot of sand today, or you can have a plot with a level stone and fertile grounds but for this you must wait some time. The first man said he could not wait, that he had suffered enough living under the open sky and he was tired of feeling the heat and the cold and the rain. He would take the plot of sand and build his house immediately.
The second man thought for a moment and decided that he will wait for the plot with the level stone and the fertile grounds. This man watched as the land was slowly cleared, and the stone leveled and smoothed. While the work was still being done, the man grew old and bent over. The first man came to him and laughed, “I always knew you were a fool! You are an old man now and will be dead before it is ever possible to build a house here!”
The second man smiled and looked at his son holding his grandchildren. “It’s okay, my old friend. I will be gone soon, but I will never be forgotten as my grandchildren will raise their children and they their children in a safe and secure home someday.”
Fifty years later, both the first and second man were long gone. But neither man was forgotten. The first man who built his house on sand was cursed by his family who suffered in an unstable home that was prone to constant shifting and collapse every time the wind blew the sand a different direction.
The second man was revered by his family who recalled his name in their prayers. His grandchildren and even the children of his grandchildren also grew healthy and strong in a house that was strong and secure from both within and without. It had taken many years, but when the work was complete the house provided a sturdy shelter from the elements that even the strongest winds could not blow over. The second man’s family was able to grow and prosper for generations.
If we want the a strong and secure home, we must have patience. There may be faster options, but the results will be like the first man’s house, built on sanding and shifting with every wind. Naqvi explains this perfectly when he advises us about ‘learning to live with the chai-wallah‘.
The point then is that dictators — even well-intentioned enlightened dictators — build on foundations of sand. When they go, their achievements tend to go with them. By comparison, democracies work slowly and fitfully. The achievements of a democratic regime are built on foundations of stone. What a democracy builds tends to stick around for a very long time. Or in other words, so far as political reform is concerned, democracies and dictatorships have the same relationship to each other as the fabled tortoise and the hare.
Lasting change does not come quickly. Just as one cannot take a pill and speak a new language or become a skilled musician, it takes time to build a strong foundation to support a strong nation. Therefore, which will you choose for Pakistan? How will you have your grandchildren’s children remember your name? As one who chose the foundation of sand or of stone? The choice is before you…