NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
“They (become) unable to leave their world, where they (have) spent enormous reserves of energy constructing high walls in order to make reality what they (want) it to be… In order to avoid external attack, they (have) also deliberately limited internal growth.” Paulo Coelho, 1998 novel
In today’s Pakistan of early 2012, the ruling party PPP, its leadership, apologists, “jialas” as well as coalition partners and friendly opposition are all conducting politics and democracy by rhetoric only. It is as if the national problematics can be resolved by the use of fancy words, oration, symbolic slogans and the denial of the reality that the nation has been driven to the verge of an impending catastrophe, in fact to an ultimate political economic abyss. And yet, the irony is that “Bol-Bachan” democracy is at its zenith: words, words, words – the timelessly told tales of “shaheeds” and sacrifices, and endless laments that democracy is in danger as if it is synonymous with the PPP and PML-N’s future existence and to the survival of their respective present leaderships. None of it is true at all.
It is hard to decide if excessive use of rhetoric and an absolute dependence on it is an intrinsic element of our national political culture and psyche or if it is a specific expression of a particular mindset of the major political actors in Pakistan these days. The pseudo-intellectual base of rhetorical excesses is that the majority of people can be manipulated in the transformation of their perceptions by selective use of powerful words coupled with carefully timed intervention of symbolic and emotional slogans. It seems that political leadership in Pakistan believes that this method has worked in the past and will continue to have success in the present: this belief is still held firmly in the power corridors and traditional political circles irrespective of the fact that a revolutionary socio-political change and political awareness has occurred in the masses over an extremely difficult period of last two decades – things have never been so dismal for people before.
The point is that the world is changing rapidly – and so are Pakistan and its people. The decades old relationships between the traditional ruling class and the masses are breaking down – not only in Pakistan but worldwide. There are vivid and expanding clashes of views between the masses and the present ruling elite over the perception and purpose of politics and democracy in Pakistan. And yet, in spite of the clearly visible crumbling nature of the old political order, the entire leadership refuses to admit that the ongoing political discord is fundamentally because of different, diverse and contradictory political expectations and is the culmination of the conflict of interests between the rulers and the ruled. We cannot live in the past – only learn from it. Ironically, Pakistani politicians are intellectually incapable of comprehending the political realities of today – and are determined to continue in the way it was: the politics of “Bol-Bachan” democracy by rhetoric only.
But the vital question is: is this manner in which Pakistani politicians look at present day Pakistan still relevant? Obviously, there are no socio/political/economic expectations or paradigms, or even cultural values shared between those who vote and those who are voted in to run national affairs. Democracy is not only about elections and voting. It is fundamentally about delivering: delivering people out of economic-financial deprivations; delivering people out of fear and insecurity; delivering people protection and reassurance in their sense of belonging to a nation; delivering people the power of political participation in national and local decision-making; delivering people the dignity of a nation’s independence and sovereignty; delivering people their rights to health, education, housing, jobs, livelihood, human-rights, healthy environment; socio-economic mobility and so on so forth. Democracy is about delivering hope and a future to a nation – it is about resolving people’s urgent problematics and demonstrating governance that works for the welfare of the masses of the nation. Simply put, it is about doing what the people of Pakistan want done.
Indeed, all of the Pakistani political leaderships to date have failed on all the above-mentioned accounts: they are all busy doing poetic justice to the art of rhetorical politics; democracy exclusively by “Bol-Bachan”.
What the present democratic dispensation in Pakistan has done so far, inclusive of the ruling party, its partners, as well as the friendly opposition, is to deliver political chaos and political alienation for the nation, eroded justice and economic instability, fear of a viable future, mayhem and indiscriminate killings of its innocent citizens, a proxy war for the benefit of a powerful block of nations, mounting debts, and the polarization between vital national institutions. All of this in the service of their vested self-interest. And yet, they depict democracy as a “holy cow” of Pakistan, as if it will disappear overnight if they are not allowed indefinite political power.
What today’s Pakistan needs is a transitional ideology of politics: A democratic dispensation committed to concerted political actions, synergy, political courage, a visionary appreciation of a transformational change in the political culture, and a revolutionary zealousness to enact a fundamental economic-political-socio-
The days of “Bol-Bachan” democracy are over. It is time for the nation to say farewell to the Zardaris, Gilanis, Mians, Bhais, Chaudarys and the rest of their clans: their political perceptions are in contradiction to the political realities of Pakistan and its people’s democratic wishes and aspirations.
Will a third political force emerge in Pakistan in sync with the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people?
“Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents… and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (from a holy script).