By Dr. Haider Mehdi
“And what am I supposed to do about it? Toe the line, tailor my opinions… But what you’re really saying is, if I can’t conform in one area of life, then I have to conform in the others. Not just the surface things, everything. Even against my conscience. Well, I can’t live like that. Nobody should live like that.”
– Pat Barker, in The Eye in The Door
Democracy is the politics of conscience: integrity, honor, honesty, uprightness, wholeness, completeness, fairness, justice, intellect, creditability, innovation, judgment, inspiration, talent, aptitude, vision, perception and, above all, absolute dedication to the welfare of the common people. Without a determined and complete application of the moral norms, principles and rules of democratic doctrine, the management of politics turns into a comedy of errors and manners – just the way it has become in present-day Pakistan.
The ruling elite in this country is so completely uninformed of the philosophical and moral dimensions of democratic management that they are blatantly involved in the process of turning democratic governance into an oligarchy of a chosen few– namely the top leadership of the incumbent PPP in power now. This ominous political assault is an outrage against the people of Pakistan and the state itself. The ovations and cheers for a democratic dispensation in the country seem to be abating, and a tragic end is in sight – the disappointment of the masses.
The various leading characters in this drama of political decadence in today’s Pakistan are the top leaders at the helm of national affairs. They are gobbling away billions of the national wealth. They provide protection to corrupt, inefficient and dishonest political managers in the regime. They dismiss the country’s laws as something that do not apply to them. They obstruct the course of justice. They dismiss the tax system as irrelevant to their existence. They practice selective favoritism. They toss insults and threats at their political adversaries. They claim divine sainthood. They project themselves as champions of democracy and the chosen people of God. And in reality, they are making national policies and conducting political management in a way that is hurting the masses and pushing the country towards an absolute economic-social-cultural and political abyss.
The leadership’s foreign policy directions are flawed. Their global approach to the international community is misdirected. Their inter-state relations with neighboring countries are mismanaged. Their arbitration with world financial institutions is counter-productive to national interests and this nation’s sovereignty. Their political-economic-institutional and constitutional decision-making is arbitrary. They talk and act, in short, like 18th century aristocrats, not like democrats. The incumbent regime has turned Pakistan into a “Nilaam-Ghar” (an auction house) for their exclusive personal financial and political interests.
Civil society in Pakistan struggled for the restoration of democracy because people in this country were finally sick of military dictators – Musharraf’s unending “ordinances”, shady political deals and manipulations, absolute subjugation of national sovereignty to American interests, the so-called “war on terrorism” against its own citizens, the misconstrued political propaganda dogma of “enlightened moderation”, a Bush era onslaught against our Islamic values and faith, and above all, Musharraf’s personal interests taking precedent over national interests and his absolute unilateral decision-making in national affairs.
And yet, nothing has changed in the so-called democratic Pakistan of the PPP dispensation. Imagine, a word from the visiting US Secretary of State and Islamabad churns out a national policy of trade (Afghan-Pak-Indian trade route) instantly – without a debate in the National Assembly, without deliberations in the country’s chambers of commerce, without consultations with business establishments and without the consent of national policy makers in trade and commerce. Someone at the top of PPP’s political hierarchy made a split-second unilateral decision to submit to the US Secretary of State’s demand.
In the last election that brought PPP into national political power, people voted for a “break with ideas, the habits, and the behavior of the past” – and yet the past has come back to haunt this nation in a way that the people of this country could never have imagined. We are in a sinkhole destined to endure the monopoly over decision-making by a few egocentric, corrupt, inefficient, inept, clumsy and indifferent political managers who are conducting national affairs entirely for self-aggrandizement and the structuring of the polity for their excusive oligarchic interests. It is not a democratic setup – it is a tragic comedy of manners.
This nation is confronted with a total suspension of empathy: empathy for the public that is such a very important and necessary part of the national political manager’s mindset and conscience that its absence has become the root of all political monstrosities unleashed against the masses. The ruling elite and political managers’ attitude is one of “We don’t care – we are the State. We have the mandate; you will abide by our dictates. Period.”
But the point is that a democracy is not run on these lines. A democracy is a process of consensus, consultations, deliberations amongst a wide-range of public interest groups and legislators on each and every national policy. The mere motions of voting and getting elected is not the end purpose of a democratic dispensation ; conducting the national affairs with an implicit democratic “conscience” is what democracy is all about. The Pakistani nation is being violated in its democratic “purpose” by the PPP’s incumbent leadership.
The present-day PPP leadership needs to carry out an in-depth “introspection” of its political mindset, its political conscience, its management model, its conceptual and operational approach to national policy-making, its own perception of public accountability and its ultimate obligations to the welfare of the masses.
Obviously, to date, the incumbent PPP government has failed in its mandate to serve the public interest. Poverty in the nation has significantly increased since the PPP has come into power, the prices of basic food and goods have sky-rocketed and are increasing on a daily basis, the gas and power dilemma remains unresolved, education, health and nearly all vital national services are lacking, the security situation in the country is worse than ever before (to name a few national problems), and there is not a shred of evidence that this leadership has the ability to direct this nation towards self-reliance, self-supporting indigenous economic development and the restoration of its national sovereignty and dignity.
Dependence on US aid and American interference in Pakistan’s domestic and foreign affairs has exceeded acceptable limits and political rationality.
We continue to kill our own citizens on behest of American political-military objectives in this region.
This leadership covertly sanctions “drone attacks” against its own people.
This leadership has come to own a “war” that is not ours – it has turned its own citizens into killers and suicide-bombers because of its inhumane apathy towards them.
This leadership has transformed itself into a killing machine of the public’s democratic sentiments and mandate.
This leadership has lost its “democratic conscience” – in fact, it seems that it never had one to begin with!
The question is: why does this nation deserve this leadership? I would be interested if you have an answer!
The writer is an academic and political analyst.