“All the assets are safe” came the TV news headline amid a smouldering Karachi airport on a sizzling afternoon on June 9. “The aircraft and airport were mostly unharmed”. What about our image and dignity? Does that matter?

Wise men in newsrooms and talk shows lamented that we didn’t learn from the assaults on the Peshawar airport and Mehran Base. Did we learn from the first Afghan war?

As for image, Pakistan ranked among the 10 most unpopular countries in the US according to Gallup’s 2008 World Affairs survey. In a 2009 BBC World Service global survey on popular perceptions of powerful or newsworthy nations of the world Pakistan came among the five least popular nations in the world.

A study by the Reputation Institute, released in September 2011 and measuring public perceptions of 50 countries around the world, found Pakistan at the lowest bottom. Further to our image come reports like ‘The State of Pakistan’s Children 2012’, the annual report released in June 2013 by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), according to which Pakistan ranked second in the world with most out-of-school children or the Global Gender Gap Report according to which Pakistan ranked second lowest among 136 countries in gender equality.

Speaking of gender equality, our recent achievement of stoning/beating (to death) a woman in front of dozens of ghairatmand (honourable) spectators, including policemen, at the doorstep of one of the highest courts of law earned us well deserved daily coverage in international media for days, halted only to make room for the Karachi airport attack stories. The police, meanwhile, were bent on investigating the character of the murdered woman Farzana Parveen.

This all makes realistic sense. Farzana Parveen was a common citizen of this country – just like the 29 pilgrims murdered in Taftan, the fallen foot soldiers, officers, workers and the seven people burned alive in the Karachi airport cold storage crying for help and mindlessly expecting it from the provincial government.

As long as our common people remain common in this country they will suffer – especially in the city of Karachi where seven people were also burned alive in a garment factory torched in Ibrahim Hyderi area on December 28, 2007 by ‘mourners’ ‘grieved’ at Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi.

Karachi has remarkably evolved since then. Feudal democracy’s revenge has veritably turned it into a lawless goth (village) withering under feudal myopia, the myopia that withstood and repulsed Japanese attempts to rebuild Karachi Circular Railway and no dharna (sit-in) or rally was staged against that. This is the feudal revenge that through a quota system and political appointments has inducted into the police, government and semi-government offices in Karachi those who seem to regard the city as a place to plunder rather than to serve. No dharna or rally was staged against that.

The mega metropolitan of 20 million plus population and a dying cosmopolitan culture cannot be run by deputy commissioners and ruled by feudal avarice. This country needs Karachi to have its independent local government chosen by its people as is done in the civilised world. This country needs a definite decision to eliminate all armed elements operating against the people and the state, with a surrender-or-perish approach against them once and for all.

This country needs the confidence to ask the international community loud and clear to stop aiding terrorism on our soil. This country needs to change the mess of a system sinking us to new lows of ignominy. For that we need to face the fact – which can be covered, condemned or contorted but not changed – that this country is made up of regions that have been part of vassal/dependent/mercenary states and fiefdoms and that their people never for most of the known history ruled or ran an empire or a country.

Vassal regions offering submission and services to the powerful, the empires and invaders in return for local power and pelf created an upward to downward local culture of material over character, greed over honesty, money over dignity, rhetoric over deeds, the culture with no concept of self respect for the individual and the state, the culture of suppressing the weak and submitting to the strong.

Through centuries that culture has evolved into the collective genetic mindset of the people who now live and run this country, who can sell rat meat samosa or this country for money.

Our ruling class tries to impress the world by BMWs and saris rather than by genuine leadership and original ideas. It prefers money in Swiss banks over a name in history. It tries to build the nation with flyovers and laptops without building its collective character befitting of an independent self-respecting law-abiding nation.

We need to change, however. Such change takes centuries to mature. And, being short of time, we may perhaps have to force ourselves to change.