NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
For the PM’s Eyes Only!
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Prime Minister: This is a brief top-secret report for your eyes only on the state of affairs on the Pakistani streets, examining how common citizens are thinking, feeling and questioning the prevailing political discourse as well as viewing their own existence in the present-day socio-economic environment within political ground realities in the country.
But first of all, let me share an interesting metaphor and an intriguing thoughtful analogy with you. Someone the other day remarked, “Just going to a Church does not make one a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes one a car.” I have adapted this analogy into a political metaphor as follows: Just saying Pakistan is a democracy does not make it democratic, any more than swimming in an Olympic-size swimming pool makes one an Olympic swimmer. The danger is drowning in the swimming pool if one does not learn to swim properly. The point here is that “democracy” is not just a voting ritual; it is the process of a revolution of“perceived possibilities” aimed at attaining and maximizing public welfare to its ultimate best. The public fear is that as long as the PMLN political managers are temperamentally stuck to the traditional socio-economic-political model, the possibility of a way forward does not seem to exist.
Irving L Janis, world famous American academic and research psychologist (author of the book Victims of Groupthink) observed that national political leaderships, even in well-established Western democracies, tend to be alienated from major public sentiments and undercurrents at the pinnacle of their political leaderships when surrounded by complacent second-tier subordinates who only feed information that supports the leader’s already perceived perspectives on nearly all important national issues. It is a survival game – these tactics keep the second-tier political managers within the ruling circle; however, this practice deprives the top leadership of getting diverse and vital information feedback on public issues, thus distancing the top leadership from current public sentiments. I am no authority to judge whether this kind of political manipulation and management is being conducted in the corridors of power dominated by the PMLN administration. One can only hope that political sense prevails in the interest of the nation and democratic norms, and the incumbent leadership can move forward to resolve this nation’s pressing and crisis-ridden problematics.
Prime Minister: However, I am obliged to share with you that the news on the Pakistani streets is not good. The majority of Pakistanis, those who ride buses, buy “haleem” and “chanay” from street vendors, send their children to inadequately staffed and poor condition schools, bear the brunt of economic and social inequality, suffer the consequences of poor medical services, are deprived of power and gas, are faced with growing unemployment, skyrocketing costs of daily consumables and nonexistent law and order conditions as well as endless failures in the dispensation of justice in the legal system, and so on and so forth, are now asking vital questions on political management and making loud and clear judicious statements and judgments on the state of this country’s affairs.
These men and women on the street, the majority of Pakistanis, complain that the rulers of this country consider them like dispensable commodities. They believe that they are viewed as unaware, unperceptive, uneducated, lacking in political consciousness and inconsequential in the national decision-making process and, above all, unfit to understand and appreciate the intricacies and dynamics of political management and national priorities. They claim that they are conscientious and fully cognizant what is going on but are simply the victims of this country’s traditional political culture that has timelessly subjected them to economic-social marginalization and political oppression. They are angry and about to explode.
One of the most important questions being asked on every street corner of Pakistan these days is about the recent financial aid of the Saudi government. The Saudis have given such a massive amount of money on the personal guarantee of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, and common people are asking what exactly that means! Does it mean that the PM will return the money to the Saudis, if they demand it back, from his personal account? Or does it mean that the Prime Minister has assured the Saudis a repayment check from the national exchequer should they demand the money to be returned? Or has the PM negotiated a payback in some sort of civilian or military service deal requested by the Saudis at the time of their choosing? Or, is it an unconditional grant without any time bar? If it is, so what has motivated the Saudis into such a massive act of generosity? Another related question being asked by Pakistanis is about the sudden and unexpected visit of the Bahraini Emir at this particular time (it is important to note the Bahraini monarch has not visited Pakistan in the last 40 years).
The Pakistani Prime Minister is the only one who can answer these public queries, for he is the only one who has absolute and accurate knowledge of recent Saudi-Pak and Bahraini-Pak discussions or negotiations. Whatever the merits or demerits of these negotiations, the Prime Minister would be well-advised to share this information with the Pakistani public with complete candor, diplomatic honesty and within the acceptable levels of this nation’s self-interests. Indeed, this would calm public nerves. However, the PMLN leadership should be prepared to reframe and redefine the course of Pak-Saudi and Pak-Bahraini diplomacy, if needed.
Here I offer my personal view on these issues which might help the PMLN foreign policy establishment and perception management experts in defusing the public uproar over this matter. Both the Pakistani incumbent government and the public in this country must understand that the recent Saudi and Bahraini perception of a threat to their countries’ stability is not without due merits and adequate political reasons. We must understand that this “existential threat” does not emanate from Iran, but from the US-West-led “New World Order” strategy that has already changed the shape of politics in the greater Muslim world. Exactly 100 years after the first world war in 1914, when Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries were created, the US-West is busy again trying to reshape Islamic nations in order to continue its military, political and economic domination. The plan this time is to break these nations into small countries, encourage conflict between different ethnic groups, and promote sectarian rivalries within them. As we know, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Indonesia, Egypt and Afghanistan have already been politically divided to different degrees of ethnic conflict by direct as well as convert US-NATO interventions – and this process is being accelerated by a meticulously organized plan to transform the present day international political system. That is the threat and at the heart of what the Saudis and Bahrainis are feeling – and understandably fearful of. Pakistan’s role at this crucial moment in a fast-changing international political system cannot be of a military nature in its dealings with other Islamic countries. This is a God-sent opportunity for Pakistan to establish itself as a leading player, as an important actor, in the conciliatory process between different Islamic countries to help in the consolidation of peace and stability in the contemporary international system.
The question is: Can the PMLN leadership and its foreign policy managers handle such an ardent as well as arduous task?
Will a nuclear Islamic nation rise to its stature?
That remains to be seen!