NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Ey parto khurshid jehan-tab idher bi
Siye ki tarh, hum pay ajab waqt para hai
(O World-illuminating Sun! Cast your splendor here (on us, in this direction) too;
A strange time, like a shadow, has come upon us)
Ghalib – Translation, Aijaz Ahmad
The Urdu metaphor “is hammam meh sab nange hain” (everyone here is involved in the shameless charade of evil and weakness) fits perfectly to the prevailing conditions of Pakistan’s ailing and suffering democracy. Political democracy, which is, in principle and essence, a system of governance to work for public welfare, enhancement of democratic institutions and people’s participation in decision-making at all levels of society, is being manipulated to serve the personal interests of the vested political class. Indeed, it is not a new political phenomenon; however, the pursuit of democratic ideals has never been betrayed like this before. Today’s Pakistan lives in a permanent state of political promiscuity.
Zardari-Gilani regime and its coalition allies, distrusted, disrespected, considered unscrupulous and unclean politically, unchaste and wanton in political morality, disowned by the majority of Pakistani people, seems to be completely unaware and uncaring of the public sentiment. The Zardari presidency considers “politics” a game of chess: the overall purpose is to “win” at all cost against adversaries and to remain entrenched in political power for years to come – the nation is of no consequence with its multiplying and destructive problematics as long as political power remains vested in the PPP’s present leadership and its future dynastic plans. And yet, ironically, the “jialas” claim that the PPP and its leadership are serving the democratic interests of Pakistani masses – unmindful of the calamitous and critical state of affairs into which this regime has pushed the country. This nation has never been lied to before vis-à-vis ground realities with this level of consistency and gross political deception.
The entire nation knows that drone assaults against Pakistan’s own citizens are being conducted with the explicit complicity of the incumbent regime in Islamabad. The Prime Minister himself is rumored to have told the former US ambassador in Pakistan to continue the drone attacks while his government looks the other way – protesting for public consumption. Sad, is it not? How much more unscrupulous can a political administration be?
Every citizen of this country is aware of the fact that Pakistan does not exercise an independent foreign policy. What we have is a “master-slave” relationship with the US and its allies even to the extent that the appointments of senior Pakistani diplomats and military commanders are tactically approved in Washington and London. Whatever the dimensions of the remaining foreign relation dynamics, the Pakistani army exercises virtual control over them. The total absence of civilian control over foreign affairs is an open secret in Pakistan. And yet, the incumbent regime in Islamabad continues to keep a deceptive attitude and unscrupulous charade of silence over its lack of democratic control and growing foreign intervention in Pakistan’s domestic and external affairs. Shameful, is it not? How far can this nation tolerate the unending violations of its sovereignty, dignity and national pride?
Most Pakistanis now seem to realize that Zardari-Gilani government is a national liability. The President’s and the Prime Minister’s approval ratings are dismal: people have lost faith in the government’s ability, competence and handling of the economy: the national crisis is mounting and this regime’s failures are staring the nation in its face. And yet, Asif Ali Zardari is wholeheartedly focused on the political witchcraft of reconciliation with other discredited traditional leaderships, in a “numbers game” to win March 2012 senate elections. The irony in this entire “gameplan” is that the voice of the masses and their democratic aspirations are entirely disregarded in this willful and deceitful political manipulation. The fact of the matter is that given this regime’s three and a half year less-than-marginal performance and overall failures, it should have voluntarily resigned; that is how parliamentary democracies work. But political witchcraft is still a thriving art in the ruling circles of Pakistan, inclusive of other major parties and their leaderships.
In most democracies these kinds of allegations (corruption, financial irregularities and political mismanagement in domestic and foreign relations) would surely be enough to remove a regime from political power. Yet, although the Zardari-Gilani position has collapsed to untenable parameters, the PPP leadership is busy consolidating its political control for an extended period in the future. How has this become a possibility?
Ask common Pakistanis and they will tell you of their distrust in the major opposition party and its leadership in the present political set-up. They will lament that Pakistan is in financial, economic, political, social, cultural and diplomatic turmoil – at the verge of becoming a failed state. They also are fearful of being declared a terrorist state by none other than their own allies. And people place the blame of the impending crisis squarely on the main opposition party, the PML(N) and its leadership, for failing to play their democratic role in the parliamentary system. The majority of Pakistanis question the secretly arranged PML(N) and PPP alliance, the PML(N) leadership’s tactical approach to not challenge the incompetence of the PPP, looking the other way at the chain of embarrassing PPP financial scandals and non-compliance of the Supreme Court’s judgments, all under the PML(N)’s false pretext of saving the democratic system. A sizeable portion of the Pakistani population will reveal that a trust-deficit has evolved in public perception over a period of time in PML(N)’s politics of duplicity. They also have apprehensions of the PML(N)’s recent “darnas” and public “jalsahs,” viewing them as not only reactionary tactics to counter Zardari’s political moves to make the PML(N) leadership irrelevant but also as an intangible response to Imran Khan’s rising popularity, especially in Punjab.
Indeed, there are obvious elements of truth in all of these public perceptions.
The PML(N) leadership would be well advised to revamp its political strategic approach to remain relevant in Pakistan’s political spectrum. The trouble is that the PML(N) leadership is still conducting itself with the mindset of 1980s politics: they have failed in appreciating the expanding political awareness of the Pakistani masses. So the question is: Why should the PML(N) (or for that matter any other political party with such an approach to Pakistani politics) remain politically relevant in an age of political transformation ? They should not and will not.
As for Zardari’s political summersaults and manipulations, the PPP will be swept away in the political storm that is brewing in the hearts of Pakistani people.
The people’s revolution is in the making! It is only a matter of time! Telling lies in Pakistan’s politics will soon become self-destructive!