The nauseating, recurring, often false, and certainly vacuous statements of Pakistani politicians on issues of deep and catastrophic proportions, their empty rhetoric, their mutual mistrust, their unending U-turns, and their lack of transparency has, once again, cooked a political soup that actually stinks. Every new day comes with newspapers filled with the same soup. Behind this unending and recurring process is a dilemma that Pakistani politicians are incapable of even acknowledging, let alone addressing: they are myopic inhabitants of a pond without any inflow of fresh water. This stagnant political theatre was set up at the time of Pakistan’s emergence on the world scene and it has never changed.
Pakistan now has the so-called two main political parties, both of which are actually one-man parties, because the man at the top has such a strangling hold on all aspects of these political parties that these are neither “political” nor “parties” in any real sense; these entities are merely personification of one man’s myopic vision, personal goals, and limited mental and intellectual horizon. In addition, there are the “religious parties” of which only the Jama’at al-Islami deserves mention for all other “religious parties” are neither religious nor parties. The problem with the Jamaat is its lack of any solid Islamic base in terms of its policies and “principles of politicking”. It left its rightful course way back in the early 1950s when Mawlana Mawdudi abandoned his own clearly articulated (and publically announced) course of action. He did this out of personal volition and in the process lost some dear friends but most of all, he brought the Jamaat to a cul-de-sac from which it has never emerged. Had he followed his well-reasoned course of action, Pakistan would be an entirely different polity today. And the sad and traumatic aspect of this betrayal of the highest principles articulated by Mawdudi himself is that the Jamaat is unwilling to accept the fact that its founder committed a blunder when he abandoned the Way of the Prophet, upon him peace, and, thus, it continues to remain in the political wilderness without any hope of ever emerging from its wasteland.
This leaves the regional parties or the parties which only have appeal within a certain geographical region of the country; ANP and MQM being the two obvious contenders. While ANP has a history of grass-root political processes, there is no denying the fact that it, too, suffers from the same person-centered approach to its politics, just as MQM does. Thus, apart from Jamaat al-Islami, all political parties are, in fact, parties of their leaders and this includes Imran Khan’s outfit which has attempted to setup a real political process by including in its ranks independent thinking minds, but which remains, by and large “Imran Khan’s Party”.
There is, however, much more to this person-centered politics: it is not the political parties alone which are responsible for this phenomenon, Pakistani nation as such is person-centered: as children we were asked the rhetorical question: who made Pakistan? and given the answer: Quaid-e Azam. Obviously, there is something deep in the psyche of Pakistani people which makes it impossible, at this stage at least, for any political party to emerge on the basis of a political process that will ensure continuous emergence of fresh water in the form of leadership, ideas, strategies, plans, and vision for the country. Pakistanis share this hero-worship with other nations of the region, but the Indian political scene has moved forward tremendously since the days of the cult of Ghandi and Nehru; the cult of the hero or heroine is still there to some extent but Indra Ghandi was the last leader to reap any political dividends out of that cult. In Bangladesh, the process is still more or less like Pakistan with the wives of the two past heroes dominating politics.
The cult of hero-worship in Pakistan is, mercifully, about to die. After Benazir, there is no Bhutto cult left; Zardari’s is a one-time show thrust upon the nation through extraordinary circumstances. But large areas of the Punjab, rural and urban Sindh, major portion of the NWFP, and Balochistan remain entrenched in the stagnating hero-worship mode. They say education is a cure for this, but the kind of education Pakistanis are receiving holds little promise of salvation.
In the absence of any real political process at grass roots level, there is no possibility of Pakistan’s political stability. What is needed is a thorough reorganization of the political landscape and this cannot happen without a certain degree of maturity in the mental makeup of Pakistani people in terms of their attitude toward “heroes”. This maturity cannot come without conscious efforts made to change the attitudes of people. These efforts cannot be made without a group of people realizing the need for political training and a different level of consciousness and, therefore, the circular argument lead to the need of a new intellectual force to emerge in the country with the sole goal of taking a majority of Pakistanis out of their hero-worship mode. This undoing of the cult of the hero will, in turn, sow the seeds for the emergence of a genuine polity, rooted in principles and dealing with issues of enduring importance.
This is a generational task: at least one whole generation has to go through this political training, but this training needs certain principles. From where can one draw these principles? From the sources which have always guided Islamic polity, one would imagine. And this brings us back to the process which Mawlana Mawdudi abandoned in 1950s. Is there anyone who can revive that process?
Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor of Islam & Science, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), but most of his published work is related to Islam and various aspects of Islamic civilization, including the Islamic scientific tradition. He is a regular contributor for Opinion Maker
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he lived and worked in Pakistan, first as Director (Scientific Information) for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and later as Director(International Cooperation), Pakistan Academy of Sciences.