NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
It takes a certain foolish and specifically cavalier talent to live in happy denial, to slide towards the edge of a disastrous political-economic-social abyss and be perfectly nonchalant about it. Of all the un-purposeful talents for which the Pakistani ruling elite are known, such unconcern, such indifference is their greatest.
Pakistan’s economy is in the state of near collapse; unemployment among youth is massive and increasing; factories and the industrial sector as a whole are closing down; power, gas and petrol shortages are unprecedented; health and education is in a deplorable state; law and order is non-existent; public security and safety is fearfully lacking; citizens’ lives and property are at permanent risk; death squads all over the country are operating with impunity; drones are killing innocent citizens on a daily basis; foreign policy is in absolute shambles; common citizens have never been so poor, deprived, fearful and helpless while poverty all over the country is multiplying, and so on and so forth. Yet, the entire incumbent ruling “Mafia” continues as if nothing were happening, or as if the rhetoric of “Saving Democracy” were a magic wand and waving it one fine morning will fix everything. This political behavior and attitude amount to reality denial, fraudulent intentions and deceptive motives – the continuation of the political status-quo culture and the ruling elite’s sloganistic exploitation of the masses’ democratic sentiments.
The apologists of the present-day “Muk-Muka” (fixated Contests) democracy in Pakistan, mainly the PPP, the PML-N, and their allies, put the entire blame for the existing conditions in the country on Musharraf’s era of dictatorship. But they fail to explain what their 5 years of democracy has done for the masses – except massive financial and political mismanagement of state affairs, expansion of the corruption culture, nearly an all-out destruction of state institutions and an endemic disrespect of democratic norms. However, the advocates and the optimists of the contemporary system continuously remind the nation that we are witnessing the inevitable birth-pangs of democracy – wait patiently, they say, and everything is going to be peachy – the triumph of democracy will be completed with their re-election to political power this year.
On the other hand, the pessimists say that they see the nation degenerating into yet deeper political, economic, social, sectarian and provincial strife with possibilities of a major threat to national existence. But this school of thought fails to prescribe a remedial political discourse to eliminate the “Muk-Muka” politics in the country.
The Realists and the Pragmatic school of thought have always been non-existent in this country and their marginal participation in the political process has always been with divided loyalties and vested interests. That brings the “Muk-Muka” democracy practitioners of political status-quo orientation face-to-face with revolutionary forces which are demanding a fundamental change in the political system and in the traditional political culture of Pakistan.
[box] in Pakistan, mainly the PPP, the PML-N, and their allies, put the entire blame for the existing conditions in the country on Musharraf’s era of dictatorship. But they fail to explain what their 5 years of democracy has done for the masses – except massive financial and political mismanagement of state affairs, expansion of the corruption culture, nearly an all-out destruction of state institutions and an endemic disrespect of democratic norms.[/box]
The following will be instructive for the traditional political elite in Pakistan to reflect on and understand what democracy entails, what democratic norms are, and how the leadership’s accountability is demanded in a democratic set-up:
Recently in Israel (the most notorious Zionist-terrorist state in modern human history) the media and public demand for the incumbent Prime Ministers accountability offers an exemplary instance of democratic practice. “His foreign minister had to resign after being accused of fraud. He was sharply criticized for his government’s handling of Prisoner X, who committed suicide in prison. And now this, which made front-page news in Israel this weekend: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands accused of dipping into state coffers for an ice cream budget of $2,700. In a country facing severe government spending cuts after an election that focused on the struggling middle class, and with the Netanyahu’s supposed taste for the high life already under scrutiny, news of Netanyahu’s weakness for ice cream raised a national outcry.”
In Ecuador, the newly re-elected President Rafel Correa, told cheering supporters: “in this revolution, the citizens are in charge, not capital…We are only here to serve you. Nothing for us. Everything for you.” The citizen’s revolution initiated by Correa “has lifted tens of thousands of Ecuadorians out of poverty…has raised lower class living standards and widened the welfare state with region-leading social spending.”
In Iran, the incumbent president self-drives an old model personal car, lives in his ancestral home and travels in the country’s capital without massive police escort and protocol.
In Germany, a senior minister resigned when she was accused of plagiarism while writing her doctoral thesis 33 years ago. Such examples of public accountability in democracies all over the world are numerous and happen on a regular basis.
Ironically in Pakistan, the present-day “Muk-Muka” democracy has operated on an altogether different pattern. The sitting president has recently accepted a gift of real estate in Lahore worth billions of rupees from a business tycoon. (Incidentally, the PML-N leadership also lives a lifestyle reminiscent of imperial and colonial eras.) The incumbent Prime Minister very recently rented a PPP member’s cinema in his hometown to be converted into a university – rented at Rs. 2 lakhs per month. A prominent PPP leader’s son, in charge of Haj arrangements in Saudi Arabia, is reported to have rented accommodations for Pakistani Hajjis for the forthcoming Haj this year at massively inflated rates – last year the same accommodation at 800 Rials is now at 3,300 Rials. A “lassi-wala” has been paid over Rs. 10 million in advance for providing the drink to Hajjis at the next Haj departure. Yet no accountability is asked for – for any of these irregularities in political decision-making.
The president has flown to Iran. The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline seems to becoming a reality. The Gawadar Port has been handed over to China through a state-run company. A multi-billion rupees bus system in Lahore has been completed while the media and the ordinary citizens are struggling to understand the Punjab government’s preferences for public priorities. The Interior Minister has asked for an Indian apology (for what?). The PML-N leadership has initiated an aggressive political and propaganda campaign against the PPP leadership. Ironically, all of this proactive political activity is happening near the end of the tenure of the PPP -PML-N and their allies’ “Muk-Muka” democracy.
In political psychology, leadership behavior and actions are the explicit indications of their hidden intentions and implicit motives. These actions are the mirror images of what is going on in the leadership’s mind. When a political leadership takes a specific action, it becomes a public statement of their real motives and concealed intentions. Think about it – it is a moment for intense reflection on the following:
Are not Bilawal House and Raiwind Estate public statements by the PPP and the PML-N leadership that democracy, in their minds, is a political system of “haves” and “have-nots,” in which the “haves” have the right to govern over the “have-nots” for an indefinite and endless time!
In essence, this has been the genesis of “Muk-Muka” democracy in Pakistan.
Indeed, the political pessimists and the revolutionary movement activists for change are worried about Pakistan’s survival and national existence – not without adequate reasons!
They know they have a formidable and rigid political and attitudinal mindset to confront. They are aware that the ensuing political battle between two different mindsets is going to be hard – and it must be won and won now!
“Muk-Muka” democracy will certainly not sustain a future Pakistan – our survival is at stake in the next general election!!