A classic case of rising to the stature of one’s office

0
83

An abominable paucity of leadership owing to lack of credible legacy

 

I must begin by reproducing a French poem by Ketty Nivyabandi in full that adequately reflects the smallness and pettiness of the people who rule us today. Titled “Little Men”, the poem has been translated into English by David Shook:

Animals no longer speak

Drums refuse to beat

Tanganyika slowly retreats

From her shores

Bloodied by the nightmare of men

Whose pettiness pierces

The deep slumber of the ancients.

Little men with the hunger of giants

They talk, they talk endlessly

In the name of simple folks

Whose names and afflictions they ignore

But who nonetheless

Stare at them with the disdain of countless curses

They erect statues of dust

In their homes aglow with shadow

And tracked with muddy footprints

They talk, they talk endlessly

In the name of a people

Whom they mercilessly loot

It rains wounding, belittling words

From the mouths of their six-headed bellies,

Cold and sterile words

Who flay the flesh of a choking land

With their long, forked nails

Who savagely suck her withering breasts

For a few blood-red drops of life

Animals no longer speak

Drums refuse to beat

The sun mourns its glowing rays

Ever since strange men

Men of small ideas

Men of small actions

Men of small ambitions

Men empty of imagination

Hoisted each other on tiny shoulders

And from the crest of their wreckage

Blindfolded a small land

Shadowed by the tint of dusk that,

Once upon a time,

Dreamed of becoming great.

My dear friend Dr. Zafar Altaf once narrated a story to me about Justice Nasim Hasan Shah. Throughout the hearing of the Bhutto case, he always appeared favourably inclined to his cause and was conspicuous for even making comments to that effect. When it finally came to casting his vote that would decide Bhutto’s fate, he sided with the prosecution. It was Dr. Zafar Altaf who, in one of his more eloquent moments, commented thus about the judge: “He has finally risen to the stature of his office”.

So is the case with the chief minister of Punjab. He is reported to have commented that “once Allah’s lions wake up, women would be denuded of their ‘surkhi’ and ‘powder’ (read make-up)”. By commenting generically about the women folk, he has degraded himself beyond what words can describe. Dr. Altaf’s classic rendering fits him perfectly, too: Shahbaz Sharif has deservedly ‘risen to the stature of his office’. Shame on you!

So is the case with the chief minister of Punjab. He is reported to have commented that “once Allah’s lions wake up, women would be denuded of their ‘surkhi’ and ‘powder’ (read make-up)”. By commenting generically about the women folk, he has degraded himself beyond what words can describe. Dr. Altaf’s classic rendering fits him perfectly, too: Shahbaz Sharif has deservedly ‘risen to the stature of his office’. Shame on you!

Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter and heir-apparent who, possibly, uses more of the stuff than all the women gathered at the Islamabad sit-ins, had earlier used undesirable and threatening language against those raising the “Go-Nawaz-Go” slogans. They were advised to desist from this as, otherwise,“they would not be able to find a place to hide themselves”.

Aitzaz Ahsan, wearing his customary, trademark smile, had warned the Sharifs a couple of days ago that they and their other party leaders should refrain from attending public gatherings for a while as, otherwise, the “Go-Nawaz-Go” slogan would chase them and would leave behind an irremediable psychological effect. I believe that Aitzaz’s prediction is coming true even earlier than he may have anticipated. These statements along with many others coming from PML-N leaders of all hues and colours speak volumes of a deep imprint that the viral slogan is leaving on the psyche of the party leadership so much so that they have literally degraded to issuing threats to those speaking the contagious words. Reportedly, cases have also been registered against those accused of wall-chalking the slogan in Gujrat.

The ‘stature’ that the chief minister has ‘risen’ to has less to do with his physical height and the artificial ornament that he covers his baldness with. This has much more to do with the lack of decency and etiquette that he has repeatedly demonstrated during his ill-conceived diatribes against his political adversaries and generally all those who do not agree with his megalomaniac disposition. This is not a rare phenomenon in Pakistani politics. Principally, this degenerative trend emanates from an abominable paucity of leadership owing to lack of any credible legacy that we could refer to. People with criminal histories have entered the profession of politics which does not require an expertise other than carrying a disposition amenable to crime and adopting all that would fit under the umbrella of corruption and corrupt practices.

Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter and heir-apparent who, possibly, uses more of the stuff than all the women gathered at the Islamabad sit-ins, had earlier used undesirable and threatening language against those raising the “Go-Nawaz-Go” slogans. They were advised to desist from this as, otherwise, “they would not be able to find a place to hide themselves”

The malady is further compounded by the incapability, incapacity and unwillingness of the political leadership to learn from their mistakes. Without exception, they irremediably suffer from a propensity to point a quick accusing finger in others’ direction for their very own failings and shortcomings. This finger should, in fact, be pointing inwards, at themselves, in an earnest effort to delineate the reasons behind their failure to deliver at the grassroots level where it matters the most and why their policies and projects do not reflect the inherent requirements of the poor and the underprivileged.

Why, for example, in the Punjab, no one bothered to even read through the flood commission report and its recommendations. Result? Worse devastation than ever before in most of the Punjab and, on top of that, continuing waste of the precious asset of water that could be utilised to improve the volume of agricultural produce as well as tackle the worsening energy crisis in the country. But, then, in the absence of any credible accountability mechanism and the systematic liquidation of all state institutions by resorting to interim appointment of paid cronies and sycophants as their heads, what other results could one expect? This has been a debilitating tradition through decades and there appears no realisation, consequently no move to reverse the illegitimate process to facilitate the induction of a minimum level of accountability into the working of the state apparatus. This will not be because the government works exclusively by a policy of patronage that is rooted in promoting incompetent and corrupt individuals to positions of power so that they could be easily manipulated to advance the nefarious interests of the family fiefdoms that these political mafias have erected through illicit gains of their official positions.

The ‘stature’ that the chief minister has ‘risen’ to has less to do with his physical height and the artificial ornament that he covers his baldness with. This has much more to do with the lack of decency and etiquette that he has repeatedly demonstrated during his ill-conceived diatribes against his political adversaries and generally all those who do not agree with his megalomaniac disposition. This is not a rare phenomenon in Pakistani politics. Principally, this degenerative trend emanates from an abominable paucity of leadership owing to lack of any credible legacy that we could refer to. People with criminal histories have entered the profession of politics which does not require an expertise other than carrying a disposition amenable to crime and adopting all that would fit under the umbrella of corruption and corrupt practices

The rulers’ refusal to learn has assumed alarming proportions as people leap forward at a breathtaking pace, imbibing the political lessons learnt from the PTI and PAT sit-ins in Islamabad. The contagion has now virtually spread to the entire country as people bask in the awareness of self-esteem and their capacity to do things which were hitherto confined within the domain of the undoable. After holding large gatherings in Lahore, Karachi and Mianwali, PTI is threatening to take the movement to other cities of the country. In the meanwhile, PAT has also announced its transformation into a political party and its programme of protests in Faisalabad and Lahore which will then be taken to the rest of the country.

So, on the one hand, we have people being unrelentingly exposed to realising their true potential while, on the other hand, we have a bunch of the traditional political mafias who are forever engrossed in thinking of devious ways and means to keep their ‘subjects’ deprived of their most basic constitutional rights and powers. The challenges for the ruling conglomerate are increasing by the day. They have not only to contend with increasing criticism and chants of “Go-Nawaz-Go” slogans. They also have to think of crooked means to keep the electorate deprived of their legal options. The charade of discussions that the government so vociferously and so grandiosely initiated with the protesting parties was meant to be stillborn because it was never serious in pursuing any of the proclamations that it went public with. They would agree to a commission which is toothless and which would not even have the powers to implement its own findings. They would want an election commission that would, by and large, remain subservient to their will and whims. They are absolutely unwilling to implement any meaningful electoral reforms that would deprive them of their ability to continue manipulating the election process to their advantage. They are not agreeable to conducting a vote audit and are taking shelter behind one excuse or the other. They are unwilling to initiate a genuine enquiry into why certain decisions taken before the holding of the elections were not implemented including the one about the use of quality ink enabling the activation of the thumb-verification option. In fact, because of their complicity in the crime syndicate and that of some other key functionaries, they are eager to protect the criminals who conspired to holding a fraudulent election.

But, it is because of the increasing pressure generated by the widespread protests that the ruling political mafias are becoming unnerved. There does not appear to be any easy way out for them any longer. They are getting increasingly immersed in their own sick juices as they desperately gasp for breath. The threatening language is their newest ploy to drive the protest away. That will not be. Whatever else the PTI and PAT sit-ins may or may not have done, they have definitely scored one victory: they have driven the fear factor away. People are now eager to demand their rights and fight for it, too! This is the cardinal change that has occurred, and there is no way it can be contained any longer. It will spread. It is spreading. Every new household that this realisation moves to is one less for the ruling political mafias. One can count the days!

But, it is because of the increasing pressure generated by the widespread protests that the ruling political mafias are becoming unnerved. There does not appear to be any easy way out for them any longer. They are getting increasingly immersed in their own sick juices as they desperately gasp for breath. The threatening language is their newest ploy to drive the protest away. That will not be. Whatever else the PTI and PAT sit-ins may or may not have done, they have definitely scored one victory: they have driven the fear factor away. People are now eager to demand their rights and fight for it, too! This is the cardinal change that has occurred, and there is no way it can be contained any longer. It will spread. It is spreading. Every new household that this realisation moves to is one less for the ruling political mafias. One can count the days!