By Dr. Haider Mehdi

The first decade of the 21st century is over – and at this stage of advanced human civilization, sadly and regrettably, Pakistan’s ruling elite, reposed in the shadows of a ruthless and merciless mindset, is driving the nation on a destructive political course.  It seems as if politics has become the domain of personal prerogatives similar to an age when a nation existed solely for the pleasure of the Emperor.  The emperor, the country and the nation were one – the state existed to serve the emperor and the will of the emperor was the will of the state.  In a retro-reflective historical perspective, this period in human history and in the history of politics is considered now an era of “Dark Ages.”   And yet, the “Dark Ages” is written all over the present-day politics in Pakistan’s so-called democratic dispensation.  Or are we as a nation guilty of gross misunderstanding of the entire political modus operandi of the incumbent regime?  Or are we all, the common citizens of this country, tragically misunderstood by them?

On any given day, on any of Pakistan’s TV talk shows, the PPP jialas turned party stalwarts and spokespersons, trained and indoctrinated for the specific purpose of twisting every discussion to a sort of “sham-e-gharibah” (the night of martyrdom tragedy) irrespective of the issue under deliberation, meaninglessly lament the “shahadat” (martyrdom) of ZAB and Benazir Bhutto and pervert and prejudice the course of the conversation.  It’s not serious political deliberation; it’s just “business talk,” prepared and pre-planned exclusively to divert attention from national problematics.  Their arguments might have strong emotional appeal, but in the end, they are more about sentiment and symbolic psychological manipulation than reason. 

PPPs political narrative has always been rhetorical, empty, meaningless, regressive, reactionary, devoid of political action or justifiable ambition, disregardful of human, social, scientific or technological thrust for a forward movement towards national advancement and nation-building. Instead of making sound political judgments in the interests of its populous, the PPP leadership has pushed the country into unending and counterproductive procedural ruts, legal battles and constitutional crises.  And yet, the entire PPP leadership claims that they are victimized by institutional conspiracies; sometimes they point their fingers towards the judiciary or the army or both of them or to their political adversaries.  

The point is that some of these accusations might have an element of truth, but on a larger scale of political evaluation, the PPP leadership has always failed completely and miserably in obtaining what can be called the “Legitimacy of Performance,” meaning it has never performed well enough to be credited with efficient political management, resolutions of urgent national problematics, or in initiating a process of serious nation-building.  Hence, the emotional symbolism, constitutional crises and executive-judiciary legal battles – one followed by another.  

Instead of offering a big optimistic message to the nation that says “Here is the world we’re living in; …here is where we are going next, and here is why it will work.” (Friedman on Obama’s election bid), the top PPP leadership is hell-bent on plunging the nation into further political and constitutional chaos.  The Pakistani media has reported that preparations are underway to get the incumbent president re-elected for another 5-year term by the outgoing assemblies whose mandate ends soon.  Lately, the Federal Law Minister has taken upon himself the task of the interpretation of the constitution – a domain exclusively and constitutionally reserved for the Supreme Court of Pakistan.  The PPP regime hpw has pushed the nation into a complete and absolute mess.     

The vital question is: Has there ever been, in the last four years or now, a PPP “integrated set of policies, and a narrative that could animate, inspire, and tie together” (Friedman) a PPP-driven political agenda to put the nation on the road to a vastly and hugely inspiring democratic, political and managerial project for the nation’s revival, renewal and rebuilding for the 21st century humane, technological, scientific, educational, and people-oriented social welfare state? The answer is a plain NO!

The PML-N top leadership, guilty by association, has been responsible for putting the incumbent NRO-brokered regime in political power and Asif Ali Zardari in the presidency.  Hence, the PML-N leadership has had a hand in installing questionable and non-credible political actors and their supporters at the helm of national affairs.  Why did the PML-N leadership do it?  It would be logically appropriate to conclude that the PML-N leadership weighed their personal vested interests in doing so rather than give priority and preference to national interests.  The APN leadership, too, at the time of the 2007 elections, politically collaborated with an external foreign power to decide the fate of this nation in a way that was, in fact, threatening to the very survival and territorial integrity of this nation.  The irony is that, in spite of it, both the PML-N and APN have remained in power in their respective provinces and as allies and friendly opposition in the center. 

It is obvious that the majority of people in Pakistani society are not privileged and exist at the marginal level.  They are constrained in many ways in their political conduct by the limitations of their existence as dependent on a traditional political elite that is rich, economically and politically integrated and steadfast in using their political and economic power in the service of their vested interests.  This state of political affairs has given the traditional ruling elite leverage for a perpetual exploitation of the masses.  The tragic outcome is that in this process of permanent political status quo, the nation has suffered timelessly and irrevocably. 

The fact is that politics and democracy are not all about holding on to high offices and political power.  The democratic doctrine is about serving people with selflessness, tireless hard work, vision and dedication to nation-building, uplifting the nation with moral-ethical values, judicious political judgments, economic sustainability and going forward on a quest to explore and realize the best in human nature and the environment in which humanity exists. 

As we all know, our contemporary ruling elite is completely oblivious to what is required of them because they do not comprehend what democracy is all about.  It’s a sad story. 

Are not we all, our aspirations, our hopes, our destiny, our future, our present, our past, victims of our own ruling elite’s merciless selfishness? 

I submit that we all, as a nation, have been tragically misunderstood, deliberately and callously, by our ruling elite.  

Most certainly, they do not deserve a second chance at political power. It’s time for them to face the music!

The nation must rise to control its own destiny and be understood emphatically.