NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
A Note to Asif Ali Zardari!
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
This note is addressed to Asif Ali Zardari as a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, not to the incumbent President nor to the leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. It is an invitation for an imagined self-reflection on the vulnerability of human power, no matter how invincible it seems on the face of it, and how the spirit of morality and empathy towards fellow human beings remains the only possible manner to redeem oneself in the context of one’s life-cycle and in its relevance to national affairs.
We, all of us as mortal beings, need a transformational behavior modification at some point during our lifetimes. The higher the status of an individual in a society, the more the need for self-reflection and the greater the arduous demand for self-introspection, self-critique, self-improvement, self-consciousness, self-control, and unselfishness. A person’s responsibilities to one’s society grows proportionately to one’s place in it – the higher the status, the greater is the accountability of one’s behavioral actions. Asif Ali Zardari cannot be an exception to this universal norm.
Now let us move to some broader and vital issues that confront present-day Pakistan. In today’s Pakistan, the latest and most significant issue is the mantra of saving democracy. But the important question is: What is democracy as a concept and a political doctrine? Without fully comprehending the exact nature of this political notion, it would be impossible to practice democracy, let alone save it. Democracy, in its true spirit and essence, is not only about voting for public offices and choosing public representatives. The fact of the matter is that voting is only a procedural element. The soul of democracy is in the “process” that is of fundamental importance. This “process” is based on a social contract between the people (those who elect public representatives) and those elected representative to deliver an entire comprehensive package of public welfare programs to the entire nation. This program is defined with clarity and minute details within confined and constrained timeframes and to be delivered with absolute efficiency and competence by a skillful and efficient political management. If this “process” of social contract and its delivery fails, democracy fails as well. There are no two opinions on this matter.
I, as a common citizen of Pakistan (along with a vocal majority of millions of Pakistani citizens), categorically claim that the so-called present-day democratic dispensation in the country has failed in its public mandate. The social contract between the rulers and the ruled has been violated, in spirit as well as in principle and democratic norms. Look around and observe the plight of this nation: its poverty, its growing deprivations, its helplessness, its frustrations, its demoralization, its insecurities, its psychological fears and real life-experience tragedies. Think about over a hundred victims of brutal terrorism, their dead bodies not buried and their grieved community awaiting a democratic government’s attention to their miserable and tragic plight.
Have we, in Pakistan, maintained the sanctity of the democratic process? Have we, in Pakistan, honored the public representatives’ pledge to deliver social justice, economic prosperity, political stability, cultural harmony, law and order, security of life and property, personal and collective well-being to the majority of people?
I address Asif Ali Zardari as the First Citizen of this country.
You and I, as apathetic citizens, are responsible for such deplorable prevailing national conditions.
You and I, among many others, need an introspection and a self-reflection of our mindset, our behavior, and how our personal and collective conduct might have been harmful to our social fiber and hpw its continued disintegration. You and I, as common citizens of this country, need to develop greater and broader empathy for the majority of people of this nation. We must become caring citizens (above our personal interests) and demand the restoration of the people’s social contract and deliver to the masses their legitimate and fundamental human right of a decent civilized existence. So far, this democratic government has failed in totality.
Mid-January of this auspicious year of 2013 offers all of us such an appropriate moment. We must not let it pass or ignore the importance of this expedient and suitable occasion. Time has arrived for a fundamental change in our attitude toward democracy and in the concept of democratic governance. The point is that democracy as a people’s vested trust in their chosen representative must be honored with absolute reverence, respect and responsibility.
You (Asif Ali Zardari as the country’s First Citizen) and I (among countless vocal Pakistanis who share our view) must demand that this nation’s present and future leadership – the President, the Prime Minister, Federal and Provincial Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers of all provinces, members of all elected bodies (from top to bottom) – must adopt a lifestyle compatible with our economic ground realities, our moral-ethical teachings, and the traditional values of our faith and culture. We must demand that our entire leadership reject the prevalent colonial-times living standards and protocols that are incompatible with the nations’ democratic set up.
I, myself, as a common citizen, demand that the President House, the Prime Minister’s residence in Islamabad, and the respective Governors’ houses in all provinces must be converted into several diverse national research and educational institutions. And, I expect that Asif Ali Zardari, as the First Citizen of this country, as a patriotic national and a conscientious human being, make the same demand. Let it be a beginning of Nelson Mandela’s model of political modesty in leadership and a new dawn of a democratic mindset in our nation.
I, myself, as a common citizen, insist that all constitutional provisions laid down for the elections of people’s representatives must be implemented in true letter and spirit. I demand that the Election Commission of Pakistan must be empowered to ensure that elections are held freely and fairly. I persist that public funds must not be allowed to be used by the ruling political parties to help promote their candidates for the forthcoming elections. I maintain that elections must be held on time and that the interim government that is put in place must be absolutely impartial and nonpartisan.
I, as a common citizen of Pakistan, expect that all those politicians who have in the past violated this country’s laws, in any shape or form, submit themselves voluntarily for public accountability, return unlawfully acquired wealth back to the national coffers and, by their own free will, distance themselves permanently from future political processes in this country. Such political wisdom would restore people’s confidence in the future leadership of this country.
I know for sure in the last 9 national elections held in Pakistan, over three-quarters of public representatives came from the same vested interest groups. This trend has caused the democratic process to turn into political oligarchies with disastrous consequences for the nation.
I, as a common citizen of Pakistan, demand that this “Farsooda” (rotten) political system of public representation be dismantled. The future leadership of this country must pass on to non-vested interests and pro-social contract political activists now.
I expect that Asif Ali Zardari, as the First Citizen of Pakistan, will demand the same. But will he?