By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
Pakistan has a strange history of strongly directed, self-centered, military rule followed by a democratic drift into an abyss; it is, once again, in the midst of a drift, like a ship without a captain. If logic dictates historical necessity, then the next military coup should not be too far. This is not a forecast, just a possible outcome of the current so-called democratic experiment, which is perhaps the greatest watershed in the political history of this unfortunate nation where genuine leadership has been as rare as the legendary huma bird.
One does not need to fortune tellers to see where the country is going; the drift itself is so obviously toward a certain chaos which will leave nothing in tact in an already fragmented polity. One can understand how the ruling party has led the country into this state, but it is hard to understand the impotency of the official as well as unofficial opposition. In more concrete terms, all that the country has is empty bombast, being issued from the frothy mouths of the entire spectrum of those who constitute “opposition”.
The froth intensifies with each US drone attack; each extra-judiciary murder adds to the empty chatter of those who are outside the government. Recall Imran Khan’s sit-in stint over a month ago: he gave one whole month to the government and vowed to march onto Islamabad if drone attacks did not stop. Then he disappeared from the scene. Look at the statements being issued by the Jamat-e Islami leadership: it is always the next drone attack after which they will do something. And if anyone had any hope from the official “opposition”, then it is sufficient to see what happened to Nawaz Sharif’s 3-day ultimatum for the constitution of a Commission to probe the Abbottabad event. In fact, one must be living in a fool’s paradise to be unable to see that Nawaz Sharif is a broken man, a lion without teeth. Yet, all of these are merely etceteras in the long march of history; Pakistan’s real dilemma is graver than the failure of individuals; it is its chocking political environment which has not allowed any real political development over the last 64 years.
Pakistan never had a chance for the independent growth of a political culture based on talent, commitment, and vision. Part of the problem is the psyche of people: Pakistanis have always been looking for a messiah, a hero who would come and take them out of their abysmal state. Since the expectation has been there, false hero-cum-massiahs have come and gone, without solving anything. In fact, every such messiah has left behind more mess. Since there has never been any growth of a genuine political culture, people have always voted for a Bhutto or a Nawaz Sharif and having done their part, have waited for the messiah to deliver. Since there is no concept of a genuine political process that allows individuals to come forward, grow, learn, and eventually provide leadership, the half-literates who come forward as candidates during elections all remain hostage to a dozen or so tiring faces who hurl the generality of their rank and file like cattle. No one has a voice except their master’s voice and no one represents anyone but their own bosses and their interests.
This state of political underdevelopment could have been rationalized twenty years ago, but now when there is sizeable young and educated population, it is hard to rationalize and understand Pakistan’s political vacuum except by recourse to an overwhelming hopelessness that is spread all over the country. This death of hope is not circumstantial; it is embedded in history and it projects onto a future which is increasingly turning bleak by the day.
The state has nothing left; neither sovereignty nor institutions which can be relied upon: the judiciary is only able to pass verdicts which may be good for the books but which have no practical utility; the executive is utterly rudderless; passive and subordinate to the dictates of its American masters; the official opposition is impotent and the unofficial opposition is without the necessary public support which can translate its foam into substance.
In such a situation, people like Imran Khan, who used to evoke hope, have themselves become so hopeless in their empty rhetoric that it is better for them to leave the political arena and do something more respectable. That “something more respectable and meaningful” is now the only hope left for Pakistan and it is none other than what Mawlana Mawdudi abandoned in 1955: to train a new generation of Pakistanis through a well-thought of generational plan in the art of governance. This is still possible in Pakistan and this is the only hope for this country which is visible falling apart by the day.
What this means in practical terms is a rigorous program of education, involving a very large number of young men and women, leading to the growth of a politically conscious generation of honest and talented young people who are deeply committed to a certain vision for their country and who, moreover, understand the complex realities of our post-modern world. This new generation of Pakistanis should have analytical tools to examine the history of their unfortunate country without becoming emotional. They need to evolve into a cohesive social and political force which can give birth to a Pakistani Spring in a decade or so. In that native spring lies the hope for a polity now hopelessly drifting in dangerous waters.
In order to start that process, we need some elders, some wise old men and women who are not interested in immediate returns, whose vision is embedded in a long historical process and who can provide a nucleus for the young generation. People like Imran Khan, if he still have anything real to offer to this country, can also be part of this process, in fact, he can lead this generational process if he is able to come out of his self-created cul-de-sac.