By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
Now that they have resold themselves to the highest bidder, the race is once again on for the next grab: Senate elections in March 2012. The highest bidder in town is none other the President of the republic and hence all roads now lead to that otherwise pleasant building on Constitution Avenue which has never seen a worthy occupant so far. Since the ouster of the worst military ruler in Pakistan’s history via a concocted election, resulting in a fake parliament, Pakistani politicians have been reaping their ill-earned rewards. Many have sold themselves several times over to the same buyer; a few have found a few morsel of honesty in their hearts and revolted against the sickness that infests the country; they are now nursing their wounds, finding no way out of the dustbin where they have landed. Yet, they are the honorable exceptions.
As the country slides into an abyss, the corrupt, incompetent and rotten political leadership keep churning out surprises for the hapless nation. There is hardly a day when a new version of the farce does not make headlines. There is hardly a man or woman in this class of politicians who deserves to be heard, but there is no escape from their sickening statements: they fill the airwaves, their faces show up on the front pages of the newspapers and all TV stations sell them; their prime time viewers have nothing better to switch to, hence the sale goes on.
It is evident that this farce cannot continue; if nothing else, the slide into anarchy will stop it sooner than later. Seen in the larger perspective, the days of such politicians are over because people are reaching breaking point. What is happening in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other countries is not that far removed from the Pakistanis situation. Thus, if one can draw some conclusions from the state of people in those countries, it is clear that days of Pakistani politicians are numbered. The recent “power riots” in Pakistan, which were quickly hijacked, may have been just the tip of the iceberg.
Yet, people’s rage is not enough. Without a competent and visionary leadership, such rage can only produce chaos, and competent and visionary leadership is one thing Pakistan does not have. The political scene is utterly barren; the same is true of other realms, such as the intellectual, the literary, and the academic worlds, where one sees nothing worthy of reporting. In this bleak situation, all that is left to write about is variations on the current farce, or cynical and witty columns which serve as relief valves for a day and then are discarded.
One can analyze the current situation from many perspectives, but such no analysis will not change the ground reality. And there seems to be no reason to indulge in any rational analysis, because there is no use of the resultant gains. All that one has to say after any analysis is one sentence: Pakistan has been chocked to death. This has happened over time and through progressive degeneration of quality of human behavior. Each successive era has been worse than the previous.
Looking back, the 1970s seem to be the watershed. Then there was hope and ambition and desires and a possible future. The long years of Ayub Khan era, remarkably stable yet stagnant as they were, had given rise to an awakening of political consciousness in masses, a sort of empowerment, which was quickly wasted by ZA Bhutto, the man who was largely responsible for that awakening. That he was a charismatic person is true, but that he was, ultimately, untrue to his own vision, is also true. Filled with ego, grandiose appetite for self-projection, and a sense of his role in history, the man was a complex mixture of empty rhetoric and grand failures.
He destroyed the best opportunity Pakistan had for a hopeful future. The damage he did to the country has been irreparable. He was late for his nationalization plans by at least four decades; his grand schemes for industry, agriculture, social services, education and health, ultimately amounted to nothing. He experimented with so many models and so quickly that whatever was there was destroyed without building anything new. He was even unable to lay the foundation of a healthy political culture. His own party remained a personal fiefdom and though he himself may have been above the rigging plans, there is no doubt that members of his party rigged the elections which he could have easily won without rigging.
His greatest failure was his handling of the resultant political movement, which provided a perfect opportunity to a pseudo savior from the military. Had he not been so possessed with his own self, ZA Bhutto could have foreseen the end result of the mass movement. This is, however, only a wish, a purely rational analysis; surely, there are greater forces in history than these and there is the personal, inescapable fate. Whatever the reasons, Bhutto’s fall and the resulting military rule remain the watershed for Pakistan’s two stages of decay: a pre-1970s era of stable stagnation and a post-1970s era of turbulence.
The second era has no other logical end but total anarchy, violence, and destruction. There has been no relief from the downward spiral since the beginning of this era. International and regional politics has only compounded the internal chaos. For better or worse, Pakistan’s future is now inalienably linked to that of Afghanistan, which is linked to the global politics via American plans for the region. No matter what the military and political leadership claims, there will be no respite from internal violence as long as Afghanistan is under foreign occupation and there is war and resistance against this occupation. No power on earth can stop border infiltration and movement in the rugged region and hence Pakistan’s northwest will remain a volatile region as long as Afghan resistance is there and with consequences for the rest of the country until the foreign occupation of Afghanistan is over.