Politics and its poisonous fallout


Candid Corner


  • Loyalty to self-undermining the interest of the state


“There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. The innovator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old system and only lukewarm defence by those who would gain by the new system.”

– Machiavelli

Pakistan seems to be caught up in the tentacles of a transition. It is showing unmistakable signs of being more comfortable with what it has endured through decades than what it is on course to experiencing in the future.

Using politics as a business tool, the manipulators in politics have learnt the art of wrapping everything up in the colours of what may have an appeal. There is no instrument which could measure the extent to which this commodity has infected every debate, every decision that is critical to facilitating the transition. Instead of looking at things in their objective context for evaluation and appraisal, these are being viewed within the divisive parameters of partisanship along pre-determined lines and motives.

In the process, even an abominable act like corruption attracts a trail of supporters who are seen justifying it on numerous counts, each more reprehensible than the other. In the process, they blame the executive for its vengeful conduct, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for being the product of a dictator, the judiciary for its dubious role and the military for being the power behind the alleged shenanigans.

In blaming the executive, they are gravely influenced by what has been traditionally practised by rulers in this country. They have been accustomed to contriving governments that worked by oaths of allegiance administered to individuals rather than the rule of law and justice. The strategy worked by sharing the spoils among those who contributed in varying measures to augmenting the stranglehold of authority as also its cruelty and venom. Along the way, it also impacted the working of the institutions which became subservient to the diktat of the ruling oligarchy rather than the writ of the state. Thus, the demands of justice were compromised as also the need for allowing the benefits of democracy to filter down to the grassroots. Instead, the ones who already enjoyed a surplus of benefits accumulated some more.

Having been exposed to such practices for decades, with some of them having received their due share of spoils also, they refuse to believe that this government would not work by the long-established and conventional yardsticks. It simply does not penetrate these minds that leaders could think and act differently and that they may actually believe in the supremacy of the state over interests of individuals, irrespective of their avowed power and influence base and pretensions of allegiance.

There is a need for rubbishing the talk of a deal with the convicts and criminals. A compromise at this stage would doom the state of all hope that may have been generated in the last 15 months of love and labour. In the event of that happening, there would be but a downward plunge taking us to the very bottom of the abyss

The next target is NAB for being a dictator’s creation. There are even arguments that national progress and NAB cannot survive together, and that the institution should be abolished.

If that were to be, why is it that both the PPP and the PML-N did not do so during their respective tenures lasting five years each? They did not because, during those times, they were both using it as a political tool against their opponents to extract support and cooperation.

They are demanding its abolition now because it is finally undertaking accountability of those who have looted and plundered this country. It is no longer being used as window dressing. It is actually doing the job it was originally set up to do. This is unacceptable to the deeply dug-in mafias of the country who are not used to being held accountable for their conduct, no matter how grave, no matter how reprehensible.

In the process, they forget that accountability is an inherent component of democracy. While there can be arguments for empowering NAB further and improving its capacity, functioning, even-handedness, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, there would hardly be a person committed to the norms of democracy who would call for NAB’s dissolution

Another favourite target is the judiciary. There is concerted propaganda emanating from multiple quarters for bringing disrepute to the institution. While much can be said about the unworthy role that the judiciary has played in the past, there is a great need for this institution to gain further power and relevance as it is the key to dispensing justice to the people. Extensive reform is needed to make it the nerve centre of the society, as it should be, helping people gain faith in its impartiality and adjudications. We are a fair distance from that goal, but the effort must continue uninterrupted and unhindered.

But it is the military which is a favourite target of belittling scorn, cynicism and caustic criticism. It is construed as the bastion of all evil that has spread far and wide which none of the former ruling mafias is willing to take responsibility for.

While the military has not been devoid of its share of mistakes, it alone cannot be held responsible for all the ills that the society is afflicted with. What I cannot forgive it for, though, is to have given this country the gifts of Bhutto/Zardaris and Sharifs who, individually and jointly, have pushed it into pitiable depths of corruption, loot, plunder and exploitation. These clans are responsible for hoisting a system that works to the advantage of the beneficiary elite alone, simultaneously skinning the poor of even their right to live. That’s where we stood at the culmination of 10 years of uninterrupted rule by these two oligarchies. Now that they see the gradual institutionalisation of governance and the sword of perpetual accountability hanging over their heads, they are crying foul, holding one or the other institution or individual responsible for the fate that looms.

What we are reaping today is the fallout of excessive politicisation. Even health and human emotions are politicised. The sickness of people is blamed on the executive while a contrived tear trickling down is the judiciary’s doing. Hidden beneath cloaks of hubris, they refuse to understand that they are being held accountable for their financial and criminal misdemeanours. What they want is a bail-out so that they could escape the dragnet of justice and enjoy the benefits of their illicit billions.

Change takes a long time in coming, and even longer sinking in. The issue is not a vengeful executive, a dictator’s NAB, a malfunctioning judiciary or a sinister military. It is their own unwillingness to concede that they have indulged in crimes whose seriousness is beyond the pale of words. They virtually took this country for their personal property and denuded it of its riches, its power, its legitimacy and its relevance. To get it all back is a Herculean task. We have only just begun. It is a long trail which has to be traversed with caution, consistency, conviction and commitment.

There is a need for rubbishing the talk of a deal with the convicts and criminals. A compromise at this stage would doom the state of all hope that may have been generated in the last 15 months of love and labour. In the event of that happening, there would be but a downward plunge taking us to the very bottom of the abyss.