By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Doli Pa Dio Kar Jandaya
Pawain Rundi Ho Ja Way
(a Punjabi metaphor highlighting the bestial
treatment of the most important lifetime issues)
A recent 5-week stay in the beloved land, Lahore, has been an eye-opener. The savagery of our existence, that of the common people, is so obvious that it irks one’s sensibilities, emotional perceptivity and moral consciousness. One wonders what has happened to a land and its people that was once a “Gahvarah” (cradle) of saints and songs, esthetic beauty and hospitality, loved by kings and queens and, above all, a center of ultimate human optimism, hopefulness, cheerfulness, enthusiasm, vitality and an all-around assurance of the community’s well-being.
Opacity and political brutality rule the landscape of this historical city now and, as such, these prevailing conditions are a window to the untamed, barbarous and ferocious existence of the masses all over the country. There is so much pessimism around that it is almost impossible to encounter anyone with good news. The reason pessimists are multiplying, in a nutshell, is the ever-growing social and economic inequality in our society, topped with an utterly inefficient political leadership oblivious to the plight of the common citizens. The political mismanagement and political incorrectness of our times in the conception of public policy is so manifest and unconcealed that public welfare is rendered secondary and subordinate to the personal interests of the ruling elite, both in power and in the opposition forces in the so-called democratic dispensation in Pakistan. In fact, we are heading towards an ultimate class society where anarchy will eventually take over and an aspiring democratic nation will most certainly succumb to chaos because its present political leadership is outdated, backward, unimaginative, inefficient, corrupt and is completely devoid of the vision that makes a democracy work.
Put the Defense area, Lahore Cantonment, parts of Gulburg, Modeltown and the Mall (starting from the Governor House) together and you will realize that there is absolutely no social, cultural or economic “connect” with the rest of historical Lahore. The old town is littered with garbage, decimated sites, filth, poverty-stricken people, overcrowded roads, dreadful traffic, dust and smog that turns your nostrils black, and overflowing humanity – children, old and young, men and women – that seems to be living in a12th century poverty-stricken civilization. Mind it, our country is in a deplorable situation with the crisis deepening minute by minute.
Ever-increasing public anxiety and growing distrust and disrespect among common people for the ruling elite and the entire political establishment is the result of our national affairs managers deliberately obfuscating the true causes and the scale of our dire national predicament. It seems that the Pakistani ruling elite perceives that their lies, manipulations, and empty rhetoric alone is sufficient to placate public opinion and is enough of a remedy for the discontent of the masses – consequently, unmindful of the facts and their consequences, the present ruling junta and their cohorts in the opposition parties continue to play dirty politics with the nation.
Take for example, the role of the major opposition party (the PML-N) in the conduct of national democratic affairs. No doubt Mian Nawaz Sharif and his party stalwarts will do anything to avoid the truth in reference to our national predicaments as they continue to propose attractive outwardly symbolic and sloganistic solutions: Mian Sahib, an ardent supporter of the present structure of power, democracy, and political status quo, will not do a thing to destabilize the PPP government in Islamabad – in spite of the total failure of Zardari-Gilani in political management and good governance – claiming fears that hard-won so-called democracy may be derailed in Pakistan. But Mian Sahib has not uttered one word about major national plights such as drone attacks, civilian deaths, US interference in our domestic affairs, the Raymond Davis affair (a vital issue for Pakistan’s internal security and future survival vis-à-vis American military-political intervention) and the growing economic-social inequality in the country. Mian Sahib seems to believe in an abstract concept of democracy in which the status quo prevails and the power structure remains intact.
Does Mian Sahib understand that without a revolutionary transformation in Pakistan’s political culture, our so-called democracy will not survive? Is Mian Sahib and his party prepared to take a pro-active role and participate in a truly people’s democratic revolution in Pakistan? (Democracy without pursuing public welfare is a sham.) Would Mian Sahib lead a public revolutionary campaign in Kalma Chowk in Lahore and call for a radical change in Pakistan’s politics – similar to what happened in Tahrir Square in Egypt? Has the PML-N offered an alternative blueprint to the nation that will transform Pakistan from a purely have and have-not society into an equitable socially and economically integrated community ? Is the PML-N ready and willing to pursue a non-US-centric foreign policy? And how does it propose to disengage Pakistan from this most problematic alliance?
The fact of the matter is that the PML-N is as much part of the Pakistani political-economic problematic as is the ruling PPP, if not more. The PML-N has no solutions to offer for this nation’s ailing political structure nor consequently to the massive deprivations and endless dilemmas faced by the public.
Today’s Pakistan is in a grave crisis. Endless lies are thrown at the public, corruption and policy default cover-ups are rampant, public policy is absent, foreign policy is a total charade, effective governance is at its lowest ebb, constitutional violations by the powers-that-be are common, death and destruction loom all over the country, our sovereignty is compromised and we have rented out our army to kill our own citizens at the behest of a foreign power, foreign debts have doubled in the last three years as compared to the last 6 decades, and our domestic economic policy is totally dictated by international financial institutions.
The question every Pakistani is asking is: what sort of democracy is this?
Indeed, in this kind of political atmosphere and volatile existence, the confusion, anger, and ever-growing pessimism of the masses is understandable. Sooner or later this pervasive pessimism will turn into absolute public frustration and, consequently, anarchy will prevail. That is what history teaches us.
Reliable sources claim that our entire present political leadership has already made plans to relocate themselves to foreign countries. Ironic, isn’t it? Our own political leadership wants to govern us like colonists – or even worse!!
The Punjabi metaphor of a “Rundi” fits our political situation perfectly. Facing a dire situation a “Rundi” would prefer suicide over such a contemptuous existence. Wouldn’t it be rational?
Our political leadership, by its political brutality and savagery, is driving this nation on a suicidal course!!
Sad…isn’t it? And, yet it is the simple, honest truth!!
Indeed, my visit to Lahore this time around has been an eye-opener. I realized how much contempt the public has for our ruling elite – and that is not how democracies are supposed to work!!