One step forward two backward


Pakistan’s is one messy political setup and we are the ones responsible for it


Some political analysts in their frustration call Pakistan a banana republic as rule of law and direction of policy is arbitrary rather than following any defined principles. I disagree with this branding as when a banana is peeled there is fruit to be had to satisfy the hunger. We are more akin to an anion republic where all of us are engaged in peeling off layer after layer of ethnic and sectarian divisions; opportunist and elitist politicians that went to same school, compete with each other for prominence; and every policy initiative is pulled around by all kinds of commentators in every direction. When we finish peeling this onion we don’t get anything but tears and regrets.

Historians have reported to us that military dictatorships of Field Marshall Ayub Khan, General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf were damaging to the nation and took us backwards rather than forward as a society. Ignoring these lessons from history once again some of our political analysts and op-ed writers are calling out to the military generals to intervene to save the nation. They think their views are more important than historians’ analysis.

Opposition politicians that do not get tired claiming they will never do anything to harm the democracy are busy creating an environment of chaos and confusion. This could ultimately lead to a situation that people will prefer anyone that can guarantee some form of normalcy even if he is wearing a uniform with a cigar in hand. The politicians in opposition are not thinking of the people but are rather salivating to eat the carrot of forming a future government that is dangled in front of them. In the end they will not get anything but a life of remorse like those before them that distributed sweets when martial laws were imposed in the past.

On the other hand, politicians that are in power are running the country like monarchs and elite aristocrats, emulating the long departed British Raj. The police is an instrument of exploitation by whoever is in power. They stood by when a lone man made a mockery of rule of law by vandalisig private vehicles.

Dr Tahirul Qadri has publicly stated that he wants to initiate a political movement to abrogate the constitution and destroy the existing system of democracy. He has recently published a manifesto that reads like a wish list of a day dreamer. The sole purpose of this wish list seems to be to throw dust in the eyes of the people and to use them as fodder in the name of revolution. Dr Qadri does not provide a roadmap by which he can come to power to implement his political manifesto. We cannot question the intentions of a person but if the past history is any guide the intentions of Dr Tahirul Qadri is nothing but greedy to gain access to political power by hook or crook. His alignment with the PML-Q is only natural as Chaudhrys, who have lost mandate in the last elections and have become irrelevant, need someone that has the potential to initiate street movement. Pervez Elahi was quick to lay blame on Punjab government for police action in Lahore but conveniently forgot that he was enjoying bhangra in Islamabad when innocent lawyers were killed and burned in Karachi on May 12th.

We cannot become a progressive and stable nation until each stakeholder is forced to remain within their constitutional boundaries by the civic society, and that includes activists, journalists and lawyers. It is interesting that many opinion makers are suggesting that credit for Zarb-e-Azb military operation should be given to the military leadership. Their objective seems to be to create political goodwill for generals as majority of the people supported this operation. But in the process they are raising questions about the legitimacy and constitutionality of the operation because generals have to follow orders of the civilian government that has the constitutional authority. Newspapers that are publishing these opinion pieces are actually supporting an unconstitutional act and becoming part of this campaign to create a division between civil and military leadership. They are also contributing towards creating an imbalance between these factions of the state. They forget that nation’s admiration for soldiers is not a political mandate for the khakis to rule over them.

Another factor that is a hindrance in evolution of stable political order is the absence of institutional political parties. PML-N operates like a family enterprise where all key positions are occupied by the family members. There is no organisational mechanism in the party where policy debates are held before adopting a course. Parliamentarians that are largely municipality level representative joined PML-N because it was expected that they will form a government and allocate them development funds. They have no interest in learning the ideological position of the party or worry about losing next election in their constituencies for supporting a wrong policy. The situation is not much different in PPP, ANP, and JUI-F.

Jamat-e-Islami (JI) is the only institution but their political message is based on a dogma rather than popular politics and their membership restricted to a small group of about 25,000 nationwide. This restricts their ability to gain popular mandate. PTI has ingredients of becoming an institution but major decisions are made in complete disregard of the party constitution by a small group of people that have formed a circle around its Chairman Imran Khan. In the current political crisis majority of PTI members support movement for electoral reforms and are not much interested in forming an alliance with Dr Tahirul Qadri and PML-Q. Chairman Imran Khan has to remember that his earlier mistake of supporting referendum of General Pervez Musharraf is not forgotten by the nation and he had to publicly apologise for it many times. Now if he aligns himself with former Musharraf allies, PML-Q and Dr Tahirul Qadri, it could result in a backlash within the party as well as undermine his goodwill before the nation.

We have to stop experimenting with our nation and repeating the cycle of military dictatorship followed by an elected government. It is true that our politicians have proven to be incapable of delivering good governance to the people. This outcome is our own fault because we do not force political parties to become institutions in which people rise through the ranks from local government officials to become MNAs, ministers and prime minister. There may be rigging in general elections but at the same time the candidates on the ballot paper are not selected through an institutional process rather are the loyalists of families that control the parties. We are by nature a nation of monarchists and loyalists rather than self-respecting and dignified individuals who will not accept chairmanship of a 25-year-old who has no experience of politics. Or allow one family to control the governing party. Or allow a celebrity to dictate policy for the party. We have to force these party leaders to respect the constitution of their own parties in making decisions that are based on inclusive debate and discussions.

God advised us that He does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves. Iqbal advised us to build our khudi so much so that we don’t have to subjugate ourselves before any individual regardless of his position in the society. In the absence of adhering to this advice, we can’t emerge as a stronger nation and will continue earning the label of a banana or onion republic.