By Humayun Gauhar

Once again, Pakistan is being sacrificed at the altar of elections that don’t dispense democracy but ‘predatorocracy’ in which the system leaves the oppressed no choice but to elect their oppressors, the prey its predator. That’s the long and short of it. Now this predatory system is at flashpoint. Once again the danger is that it could bring the country to flashpoint too, just as it did after the 1970 elections. Thus we are trapped between two evils – hold elections and we have had it; don’t hold elections and we have had it. The people have to choose between the rock of one predatory party and the hard place of another. Elections can cause chaos; delay anarchy. We are in a difficulty, to put it mildly.

Wiseacres say that people get the governments they deserve. A genius proclaimed on TV that until the people improve and correct themselves their leadership would not improve either. How, in a country where the lowest priority is given to the human condition beyond politicians uttering syrupy statements that they don’t mean and forget the moment they are elected. It makes one want to puke. How, where a pittance is spent on education, where government schools are housed in chicken farms without clean drinking water or toilets, where headmistress force girl students to massage their legs and feet and if they don’t do it properly they are beaten on their hands with a big fat baton? How when the ‘education’ that is imparted is outdated and dysfunctional and the ‘teachers’ themselves need education. This while a chief minister doles out cheap laptops not to educate children but to get votes. It’s all about votes, votes and more votes by creating optics, optics and more meaningless optics. It’s pathetic many times over.

[box] As elections get nearer I’m still not sure that they will be held on time because of the frenzy of bloodletting that is feared, not against the system but myriad groups killing one another at greater pace. There could be an orgy of blood. But that too is part of the evolutionary process so let us learn our lessons. It matters not a whit who the caretaker prime minister is or who the chief ministers, though I am not so sure that they will all come out of it with their reputations enhanced. [/box]

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When one is trapped in a bind, it is wisest to opt for the lesser evil, which is that elections should be held on time and whoever can form a government for however long should be allowed to do so. How else can the devil take the hindmost? How else can this putrid man-eating political system meet its natural death? Delay elections and you enter unchartered waters: we have always perceived one outcome and achieved quite another, to which our history will testify. It’s like Christopher Columbus setting sail for India and landing up in America: instead of turning left he turned right and the history of the world changed. Thus it was that Columbus called the natives ‘Red Indians’. Kneejerk decisions lead to unexpected outcomes that are usually horrible due to loss of control. Hold elections and you know the devil you are dealing with. That is why I say that we are ‘Children of a Lesser Evil’.

I say again: let the political process continue and reach its ultimate evolutionary conclusion, either crash or correct itself. If it crashes we will be back to crafting another constitution and forging another system that hopefully works better for us. Not letting it hurtle towards its demise or self-correction will make it a martyr and prolong the process. Those who have disrupted the process have made matters worse despite creating a ‘feel good factor’ for a while. We can only hope for the best, for states are not God-made but manmade and thus have a finite life and die when their raison d’etre dies.

By aping the alien British parliamentary system and foisting it on a federation when it is meant for a unitary state, by basing our constitution on a bad rehash of the colonial British India Act of 1935 instead of our original social contract clearly spelled out in Mr. Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947, we have come to this sorry pass, losing half our country in the process after an election. Let’s hope we don’t lose the rest of it after this election. We have erected the facade of parliamentary democracy without its essence. Our political essence is dynasticism, which was our natural system until the British occupation disrupted its evolution. Now don’t jump to the conclusion that I’m suggesting a reversion to dynasticism. We already have it in any case. Far from it: what I’m saying is that we need a presidential system but of our own kind, not another clone of the American as in 1962, which suits them. In such a system parliament-legislature is separate and independent of the executive, which is vital in a federation and is the essence of a presidential system. Where voters can elect their chief executive and provincial governors directly in a second ballot with a two-candidate race and not through small electoral colleges comprising predators in parliamentarians’ clothing and they can choose their cabinets from the best available. When executives are born out of the wombs of parliaments you lose the essential checks and balances.

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With elections upon us the usual wheeling-dealing, donkey trading and unlikely alliances are being formed at a frenetic pace to gets votes for that is the imperative of the parliamentary system. Principles and ideologies were never in the equation, only in the rhetoric. Those who believe that they were have got to be dreaming. Oodles of money are flowing from politicians to buy other politicians. Unholy alliances lead to unholy coalition governments that deliver unholy outcomes. You only have to look at how Pakistan has come near collapse in the last five years.

Apologists of this government who blame its pathetic performance on Musharraf should be asked: what pray were they doing for the last five years? Playing the fiddle? Why didn’t they at the very least begin putting things right? In fact they have made things worse, far worse. The majority of the suffering masses say that whatever the predecessor government left us with was far better than what we have today. That’s a terrible indictment of politicians and their politics. I can sadly assure them that what the next government will leave us with will be far worse than our present condition. Any bets? But let the process continue, I say.

With Musharraf entering the fray the campaign narrative will change with Nawaz Sharif and the terrorists out for his blood and judges preening their wigs. How will the army react? Let’s see.

Sure there was a time when I believed that the system should be corrected by forces outside the system, but as I have ripened I have learned that no change, even for the better, can persist without what passes for ‘legitimacy’. Today ‘legitimacy’ comes through being ‘elected’ under our predatory system, though no one questioned the legitimacy of a minority National Assembly to make this terrible constitution that has become the bane of our existence. Only those changes made by a military ruler that suit future legislators are retained, like the 60 women undemocratically appointed to our parliaments at the pleasure of their party leaders without being elected.

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As elections get nearer I’m still not sure that they will be held on time because of the frenzy of bloodletting that is feared, not against the system but myriad groups killing one another at greater pace. There could be an orgy of blood. But that too is part of the evolutionary process so let us learn our lessons. It matters not a whit who the caretaker prime minister is or who the chief ministers, though I am not so sure that they will all come out of it with their reputations enhanced. However, if elections are prolonged then it does matter, but if the powers that be are not clear about what they plan to do and whether those plans are sensible and doable, the long-caretakers will come out of it with their reputation entirely ruined. They will be likened to Britain’s Long Parliament that Lieutenant General Oliver Cromwell, commander-in-chief of the Modern Army dismissed.

Some sifting should take place if the Election Commission assiduously follows the constitutional qualification and disqualification Articles for electoral candidates and the Supreme Court supports it to the hilt though if some ‘bigwigs’ are disqualified they could let hell loose on us. Sifting will not make too much of a difference anyway for when a predator goes baby predator takes over. I wish they had included what my old man used to say: “Never trust a man in a wig or a hair transplant.” That would lead to a major cleanup. Now you understand why I never got a hair-transplant like many of my friends did. In any case, my daughters would have disowned me.

So pray to God, hope for the best, fasten your seatbelts and keep your fingers crossed. For a Muslim to lose hope is to deny the munificence of God.

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