By Dr. Haider Mehdi
The above verses of Bulleh Shah, the Punjabi saint Sufi poet, illustrate how the intrinsic substance of nature implicit in its conception cannot be altered no matter what we do. There is a quality of permanence in the essence, essentialness and gist in the constitution and character of every creation. This basic disposition and temperament in its lifecycle cannot be altered. Nature simply does not allow it. The offspring of crows can never turn out to be like swans. That is how nature works.
Bulleh Shah’s reminder that bitter water wells cannot be turned into sweet wells is not only an element of passionate poetic assertion to human emotions; in fact, it is an impassionate appeal to human reason based on a matter of fact objectivity observed in nature’s organic and genetic systemic processes. What goes for all other elements in this universe’s existence is also true of human nature. The majority of people do not change much in their entire lifetime and the possibility of a complete turnaround in anyone’s behavior is remote.
My conceptual point here is that, metaphorically speaking, Bulleh Shah’s above-quoted verses perfectly apply to Pakistan’s contemporary political culture; the reform from within our present political system and its ailing political leadership is as remote a possibility as a crow becoming a swan. The reasons for this impossibility are quite obvious: Our political leadership presently, and in the last 6 decades, has been so colonial-like, so backward and reactionary, so self-promoting and egocentric, so non-visionary and unimaginative, and solely possessed by a mindset that is a one-dimensional focus on treating politics as a crafty means to seek and hold power – even at the cost of national survival and our future existence as a nation. They are completely blind and insensate to our socio-political realities, they do not understand the concept of social cohesion and a social contract between the governed and the governors as a means to bring all Pakistanis together across the country so that people can resolve all of their problems including economic deprivations, provincial and sectarian issues, the question of terrorism and an end to the so-called war on terror imposed on this nation from the outside. Our ruling elite is incapable of understanding that people of this nation can establish a civil state with the rule of law and can restore peace and prosperity to this nation.
On a daily basis, our ruling “Mafia” invokes the threat of terrorism as an attempt to continue to cling to power as if they are the only ones capable of bringing stability and tackling terrorism. It would be foolish for the nation to believe their lies – in fact, the ruling elite themselves have been instrumental in bringing terrorism to this country and in continuing this war on its destructive path. All of this must stop now—before it’s too late and we are doomed to face an uncertain future.
What needs to be done to save this nation from imminent ultimate destruction at the hands of its contemporary political leadership?
Our only recourse to the resolution of our national problematics and dilemmas now are the midterm elections and constituting an independent Election Commission. This will be the most important factor in the process of the democratization of this nation.
Let us be clear as to what a democratic structure entails: Democracy is not the rule of the majority – it is a system in which the majority of people take part in political, social, and economic decision-making. Majority rule and the majority of people taking part in national policy-making processes are two different things. Let me illustrate the point here: Suppose in an election, Candidate A receives 45% of the public votes, B receives 30 % and C and D receive 15% and 10% respectively. Be mindful here now; If candidate A is declared a winner, representing only 45% of the voters, then 55% of the people go unrepresented – and that is entirely contradictory to the principles of representation in a democratic system. Based on the present political system, the well-entrenched political class, from which comes the political leadership of this country, has been exploiting democracy to its own advantage. The feudal lords, the “gaddi-nasheens,” the industrial autocrats, the military-civilian mafia, the ever- turned around “lotahs” have seized upon the political process for far too long. This entire election procedure needs to be altered now.
The future Election Commission of Pakistan will have to devise and structure and alternative election process to ensure that the majority opinion is represented at all levels of elections in the country (majority opinion as opposed to simply majority rule). To do this, the EC will have to change the entire set of rules for a candidate to win an election; when a candidate does not acquire an absolute majority (let us say set at 70% of the votes) a second round and a third round of voting will have to be conducted until a candidate is able to inspire confidence in voters who are willing to change their voting loyalties. This will entail hard work, clearly laid-out political platforms, and an extended evaluation and assessment of the candidates’ personalities, their political views, problem-resolution strategies, and above all, a longer period of time for the public to do this close and seriously-focused scrutiny.
Indeed, such a democratic election process will be time-consuming and costly. But this is the only method by which the traditional political leadership can be challenged in the public arena, and their six-decade-old monopoly on political and economic power can be eliminated by people’s democratic participation and will.
As for the reform of our present political culture from within, it is an illusion to imagine that such a thing can happen. Indeed, it is an absurdity of thoughtless political imagination that internal reform can be accomplished by the political elite that have themselves time and again betrayed this nation’s democratic ideals and aspirations. This nation’s elections have been hijacked before and the present political leadership will continue to steal from this nation, including elections, as long as we, the people, do not stand together to confront them. That is what the Egyptian masses did at Tahrir Square in Cairo last January – at least in its first phase of demonstrating people’s democratic power.
Our entire contemporary political leadership lacks the moral integrity and courage to withstand an internal revolutionary process to reform itself from within.
On second thought, I believe they are incapable and helpless – as Bulleh Shah pointed out:
Koray khoo na mithe hondhay Bahu
Tohray sau mon khund paviyai hu!