Politics of megalomania


Candid Corner


  • With the opposition licking its wounds, the challenges remain


“In the days when hyenas of hate suckle the babes of men, and jackals of hypocrisy pimp their mothers’ broken hearts, may children not look to demons of ignorance for hope.”

– Aberjhani: “The River of Winged Dreams”


The multi-party conclave that was held in Islamabad ended with none of the much-trumpeted vows turning into any sustainable activity. The exercise has been accorded many names, but none would suit it more than being dubbed a ‘congregation of the corrupt’. It actually was a gathering of a host of leaders who have either been convicted, are under investigation, or against whom charges are being framed by the Accountability Bureau.

Primarily, this meeting was the brainchild of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who had failed to get elected to the National Assembly during the last polls. Ever since then, his preoccupation has been to dub the electoral exercise ‘rigged’, threatening repeatedly to launch a violent movement to strangle Islamabad in a bid to force the government out, paving the way for another visit to the booths. When his clamouring became absolutely unbearable, the other parties, with their own list of grievances, agreed to convene a gathering to deliberate the options. The result was neither a bang, nor even a whimper. More than anything else, it was a sad reflection of the vast gulf that separates the political parties in their respective agendas as also the mechanisms they would prefer to employ to achieve them.

Reportedly, the Maulana proposed a lockdown of the capital to force the government out. He also wanted to use the instrument of religion against Prime Minister Imran Khan which was shot down. The proposal that all parties resign from the assemblies was also turned down. In the end, after having failed to take any substantive decision, and in a desperate bid to save face, they announced the observance of a black day towards the end of July and to vote out the chairman of the Senate. A committee was also constituted, entrusted with the task of nominating a consensus candidate to become the next Chairman.

From the threat of a lockdown of the capital to the formation of a committee to devise a way forward, it has been a humiliating comedown for the opposition

From threatening to not letting the Assembly pass the budget to jamming the capital to contemplating a host of other measures to dismantle the government, the naked reality that emerged in the end was that a large quotient of the political elite of the country had passed on the mantle of leadership to a person who is not even a member of the national legislature. This, incidentally, is also his consuming grouse against Prime Minister Khan and his party. So, instead of being a movement for a cause that would be conducive to strengthening the foundations of democracy in the country, convening this huddle was the ultimate that these leaders could generate to by way of demonstrating political bankruptcy.

It should also be noted that since he entered politics, this is the first time that the Maulana does not have a seat in Parliament. This is also the first time since the commencement of his political career that he does not have a home in the ministers’ enclave as he remained a part of all governments led by Musharraf to the PPP and the PML-N. As head of the Kashmir Committee, he enjoyed the status of a federal minister, but if one ever asked him what he had done during his prolonged stint to promote the cause of Kashmir, he would often lose temper and respond with absurdities like “Do you want me to attack and conquer Kashmir?”

Why does it appear that the entire political opposition is suffering from this megalomaniac infatuation to get rid of Prime Minister Khan so much so that everything that he undertakes by way of ridding the country of the scourge of corruption is rubbished peremptorily, without a thought given to accountability being one of the key pillars of democracy? With a bulk of these political leaders having enjoyed the illicit fruits of power for decades, there was virtually no attention given during their tenures to eliminating this menace. On the contrary, all of them made the most of the opportunities in fattening their respective coffers, while those of the state kept depleting to the verge of bankruptcy.

This is the kind of country that was bequeathed to the incumbent government less than a year ago. It was like a patient suffering from cancer, inhaling his last few whiffs of oxygen. The writ of the state had been compromised because of rank economic captivity, over-indulgence in the parlance of corruption and a culture of exhibitionism that was degrading.

When there is nothing in the exchequer with the burden of debt increasing with every passing day and further loans needed to pay off the interest on previous borrowings, the process of recovery is bound to be long, strenuous and painful. That is the predominant challenge which the incumbent government has been confronted with from its first day in the office. Nobody wants to talk about why the state had been defrauded so remorselessly and why it had been reduced to its last, scanty covering. A narrative of shameless denial pervades. Everyone only wants to know what this government has done in these past few months to put things right.

The government may have floundered through the initial steps that it needed to take on the road to recovery, but it is on course now. While hard decisions need to be taken to free the state of the stranglehold of debt, the one thing that is coming through is that it is not letting political expediencies come in the way of formulating policies that may create some short-term difficulties for the people, but which promise long-term relief. Most importantly, these will create an environment not for furtherance of interests of the ruling elite, but would principally focus on provision of relief to the poor and the marginalised communities of the country.

The challenge is Herculean which, alongside promulgating pragmatic and future-focussed economic policies, also requires a beneficent heart to understand and alleviate the sufferings of the ones who have languished on the periphery of life for generations. They need to be cared for. They need hope for a future that would be different from the one they have been fed in the past. More importantly, it is their younger generations which need to be given opportunities to become part of the medley of life and enjoy its benefits like everyone else.

From the threat of a lockdown of the capital to the formation of a committee to devise a way forward, it has been a humiliating comedown for the opposition. A movement nurtured by megalomaniac indulgences is a stillborn phenomenon. But for the senseless noise that may still be raised, they would be struggling for space to lick their wounds, as would the battalions of corruption-apologists who have been the direct beneficiaries of their dole-outs.

But, that does not diminish the monumental challenges that the government is not only faced with, but it has to surmount to get the country moving toward redemption. There is a dire need to press on relentlessly with the reform agenda, ruthless accountability being a key component of that.