ETIQUETTE ARE INBRED IN A SOCIETY
By Dr Haider Mehdi
It is said that the late Indira Gandhi, the former Indian prime minister, kept her reputed astrologer on hand to constantly consult and to obtain divine guidance for her peculiar brand of democratic politics. Ironically, neither divine guidance nor the famed “guru” could stop the former prime minister from taking the colossal undemocratic step of imposing a state of emergency in the country, or stop the initiation of the massacre of Sikhs in Amritsar. Even more amazing is the fact that the much sought after divine guidance did not intervene when she stepped out one fine morning and a disgruntled Sikh guard gunned her down.
The wife of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar had a frightening dream the night before he was stabbed to death on the floor of the Roman Senate. Caesar’s wife had advised him not to go to the Senate but he had insisted that the affairs of the State could not be held hostage to the dreams of the First Lady.
Ironically, both George W. Brush and Tony Blair claim that it was “divine intervention” – God told them to invade Iraq and carry out the massive killing of the Iraqi people and the destruction of one of the oldest civilizations. The Zionists carry on an uninterrupted genocide, over six decades, of the Palestinians on the claim that the “holy scriptures” support their status as the “Chosen People.” And yet, Bush, Blair and the Zionists all contend that their politics is the most democratic.
The late Anwar Sadat’s wife (the Egyptian First Lady) always had dreams “come true” of her husband receiving expensive gifts from Western leaders and religious icons, such as Jerry Falwell of the Christian Evangelical Movement. This resulted in Sadat signing a peace treaty with Israel and then being assassinated by his own soldiers.
The point I am driving at, after a rather lengthy introductory submission, is this: the First Lady’s dreams, astrologers “divine guidance”, falsely understood religious scriptures, God himself speaking to mortal political leaders, and claims of divinely bestowed moral-political sainthood through dreams, is not the kind of stuff by which a democratic and humanistic political dispensation can be constructed or operated. Such a political strategy is doomed to failure.
And yet, our President, the incumbent President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, said at a public rally the other day that his deceased wife, Benazir Bhutto, has been giving him political guidance in his dreams for democratic governance in Pakistan. In other words, the President is claiming political sainthood for himself and a spiritual after-death angelic political “messiah” role for his departed wife. The President seems to believe and is making an announcement to the effect that he is going through some kind of spiritual “Enlightenment” (opposed to Pervez Musharraf’s “Enlightened Moderation”) and his wife from the “Heavens” is his political mentor now in the process.
The next thing we’ll hear is that our President can actually talk to his deceased spouse, and that he can hear her and have conversations with her like we mortals talk on a telephone.
It is the 21st century – and what are we getting into with this kind of political-sainthood leadership at the helm of affairs in this country? God forbid Benazir may ask Zardari to join her in Heaven – perhaps to organize better management of God’s affairs. Indeed, should such a thing happen (once again, God forbid) the President should not forget to take Baber Awan and a few other intellectual-spiritual political “gurus” with him. It ought to be like this because it is not only the President who has been suddenly elevated to such spiritual heights; there are several others in his political team elevated as well.
The President’s message to the nation in his recent speech is clear: He knows everything. He is already a divinely ordained political-saint. He gets political-moral revelations through dreams for democratic governance. He has visions. He is transformed. He is changed (interestingly an admission of guilt), and what the heavenly-departed First Lady could not accomplish in her lifetime – meaning the moral-political reforming of her husband (if such a thing was needed) has been now accomplished in her death. Both the President’s speech and his self-confessed dreams are an admission that such an overall personal “reform” was required of Asif Ali Zardari, the presidential spouse of the late two-time prime minister. So be it!
One might be tempted at this particular juncture of events to pose some intriguing questions to the President after his “dreams admission” speech to the PP “Jialas”. Didn’t Benazir tell you (in your dreams of political democratic revelations) that no “elected official, from the president on down, is above the law. No official policy is above being probed by an accredited representative of the Fourth Estate”, that the Supreme Court of Pakistan is the ultimate national authority for “Constitutional Review” and for all parliamentary legislation done in the country? Didn’t Benazir reveal in her “Dreams Reform Package for the President” that democratic governance is only possible by a steadfast adherence to the norms of common democratic etiquette? Didn’t Benazir point out the real fundamental moral flaws of your closest associates in your political management team? Didn’t Benazir say that corruption and mismanagement of the nation’s assets are incompatible with democratic rule? Didn’t Benazir tell you that democracy is a social contract between the rulers and the governed – call it mutual trust – that does not exist between your government and the people of Pakistan?
The fact of the matter is that rhetoric, symbolic psychological manipulation, and so-called divinely-ordained dreams do not make democratic politics – deeds do, principles do, moral steadfastness does. David Ruffley, a British MP, threw himself in front of a moving train because he was accused of misappropriating government funds, and felt that he had betrayed his constituency and voters. Chief Treasury Secretary in the British coalition government, David Lewis, resigned for claiming illegal expenses from the government – and no one in the entire British political establishment came forward to rescue him from his political banishment.
In Japan, former Premier Yukio Hatoyama apologized to his nation and resigned because he could not keep his promise to relocate the US base from Okinawa. Japan’s new Prime Minister, Naota Kan, had to step down as DPJ leader in 2004 having failed to pay full state pension contributions and having attacked ruling party lawmakers for their failure to do so. In a display of atonement, Kan shaved his head and donned a Buddhist robe. In Afghanistan, the Minister of Interior, Hanif Atmar, and the Chief of the National Directorate of Security, Amrullah Saleh, resigned after security failings at a “peace jirga” in Kabul. In India, the Minister of State and External Affairs Shashi Tharoor resigned for alleged financial mismanagement and misuse of power. These examples and plenty like them transpire all over the world in democratic nations.
Only in Pakistan is the so-called democratic dispensation being run by presidential divine and saintly dreams and politically motivated slogans. Only in Pakistan are the corrupt, the inefficient, the morally deprived, and the incompetent protected. Only in Pakistan is the open disregard of constitutional norms the modus operandi of the top political leadership. Only in Pakistan is the deficit of mutual trust between the ruling elite and the masses considered politically insignificant and inconsequential.
Rhetoric, slogans and presidential divinely-inspired dreams do not make democratic politics. Democratic deeds do, principles do, and moral-political steadfastness does…!
Where does Pakistan stand today? Where does its top political leadership stand in the post-“Dreams Reform Package for the incumbent President” period?
Must I tell you what I truly think and feel? Take a guess, will you?
The writer is an academic, political analyst and a conflict-resolution expert.Dr Mehdi is a regular contributor to www.oly.com.pk