By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Note to the Readers: Several people sent me their comments on my last week’s article “The March 23rd Outswinger” (The Nation, March 6). Although the majority of writers wish to see a revolutionary change in Pakistan’s future politics, they are skeptical given the reality of the contemporary political culture in the country – namely the decades-long dictatorship of the “electables.” Contrary to this common impression (expressed by many commentators) it is my absolute conviction that the Pakistani youth’s participation in the political process in this country (mind it, on a massive scale) is going to transform future political discourse in this nation. (You will see a demonstration of this rising phenomenon on March 23rd at Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore.) Added to this is the flawed impression shared by many overseas and urban Pakistanis that people in the rural areas of the country are politically illiterate, conceptually uneducated, de-politicalized and politically apathetic. This is a wrong impression – indeed, they have been powerless and oppressed for decades – victims of the oppression of the political culture that has survived for the last 60 years. But now they have political consciousness and awareness of the importance of their democratic rights: they understand the underlying reasons for their deprivations, their poverty and their sufferings and are now poised to fight back. And they will fight their historical enemies with tremendous spirit, determination and political will. History is in the process of making a revolutionary Pakistan in the near future – one way or the other – whatever it may be!
My political support for Imran Khan’s revolutionary politics of change (as well as of Dr. Qadri’s) is not based on the usual precepts of a personality cult (as suggested by some commentators) so common in our cultural norms. The fact of the matter is that Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaaf movement has been instrumental in giving the nation an awareness and political consciousness of an anti- status-quo political movement. That in itself is not a small accomplishment. It is a monumental achievement that is going to insure the political empowerment of its people, its future dignity, self-reliance and self-determination, prosperity and survival. Added to this is Imran Khan’s personal history of matchless self-determination, self-discipline, self-achievement, and limitless determined pursuance of set objectives with incredible and legendary personal investment and hard work in attaining those goals. Indeed, that puts him (as well as Dr. Qadri) in the category of leadership that this nation needs at this critical stage of its crucial history-in-the-making.
The most common question asked these days is: Why would an anti-status-quo/anti-“electables” political revolution take place in Pakistan? I will explain my perspective on the subject in today’s article.
The front page headlines of the daily The Nation of March 6, 2013, reads as follows: “PMLN – pockets Balochistan political gurus.” A carefully reflective, analytical and in-depth scrutiny of the social-psychological mindset and the intrinsic political beliefs of the PMLN leadership and its present-day election campaign strategic management doctrine reveals the fundamental parameters of the party leadership’s political ideology.
It is obvious that the PMLN leadership is absolutely convinced that inducting the traditional political “electables” into the party is the only way to ensure an election victory in the forthcoming general elections in May. This strategic political view also underlines the PMLN leadership’s conviction that the common citizens’ raised political awareness and increased political consciousness of national economic-political and social issues will have no bearing on the forthcoming elections this year. In other words, the PMLN leaders consider the rising political, economic and democratic aspirations of the common citizens of Pakistan as inconsequential in affecting the outcome of election results. Or at best, the PMLN leadership believes that they can counter the anti- status-quo and anti-“electables” movement by the sheer force of massive propaganda campaigns, political rhetoric of a symbolic democracy and the mantra of saving democracy over the last 5 years. Added to this is their huge investment in public diplomacy in the form of the recently announced PMLN political manifesto and hurried completion of several public sector projects at massive cost.
But there are serious public apprehensions of the PMLN leadership’s role in the last 5 years of a sham “Muk-Muka” democracy. The public perception (perception is reality) of the PPP-PMLN leaders is that they have, behind closed doors, manipulated and collaborated on a number of national issues including quick passing of National Assembly amendments. The urban-rural divide in developmental schemes is also a bone of contention. Then there are questions that are naturally valid and appropriate on the issue of national priorities: the PMLN leader’s absolute inaction on Drone attacks, its lack of policy direction on American-centric foreign policy, the war on terror, the relationship with Afghanistan and the Taliban issue, and so on and so forth. But the most serious public threat to the PMLN leadership comes from its colonial-times lifestyle, imperialist protocols and absolute adherence to a right-wing capitalist economic system and political democracy.
Noam Chomsky, the emeritus professor at the prestigious MIT and foremost political thinker of the 20th and 21st century, wrote in a recent article: “There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to ‘really existing capitalist democracy’ – RECD for short – the question is effectively answered: they are radically incompatible.”
The point that I am making here is that in a world of the 21st century when humanity’s needs are paramount, when technology and natural resources are in abundance, and when revolutionary political and economic systems can facilitate and deliver the fulfillment of general public welfare on a massive scale, the outdated and worn-out political system and ideology of the “haves” and “have-nots” (where the “haves” consider it to be their inherent privilege to rule the “have-nots”) will simply not work. Ironically, the PMLN and PPP leadership have been and still are wedded to this “farsooda” political and economic dogma. By choosing the traditional politicians considered as “electables” for the May national elections and exclusively promoting them and wholly depending on them for election victory, the PMLN leadership is, in fact, dragging the nation backwards in time towards a political abyss from which Pakistan will not recover.
What present-day Pakistan needs is a search for alternative models of governance and economic systems. It makes no sense to consolidate the outdated model of political management by “electables” as opted by the PMLN and PPP leadership.
In a column in the Express Tribune of March 7, 2013, the columnist convincingly articulates the need for a strategic and revolutionary alternative political and economic system by citing Hugo Chavez’s economic and political legacy: “He definitely found a model to follow if we are to create a just economic system that works, not just for providing profits for the few, but welfare for the many.” The columnist attributed the statement to a Ph.D. student at Oxford University.
“When Chavez came…Venezuela was one of the poorest and unequal societies in the world with around 50% of its population below the poverty line…(today) extreme poverty is only visible in 3.5% of the population…Chavez’s efforts meant several structural changes for Venezuela. He set up communal councils that handle local budgetary issues and legislation. The move helped improve poverty-stricken areas while empowering the people.”
Only an alternative economic and political model can save Pakistan. Hasn’t Imran Khan’s PTI promised an alternative economic and political system?
Will someone explain to the PMLN and PPP leadership that the time for the political strategy and dogma of “electables” is now over!
We must continue the process of making a fresh political history in Pakistan!