By Dr. Haider Mehdi

Hum to doobay hain sanam tum ko bi lay doobay gay.

(We have sunk ourselves, we will sink you as well, My Beloved…!!)

the corrupt and the cunning

The incumbent political leadership in Pakistan believes, so it seems, that if they are going to sink, then they might as well sink the entire nation. Let us examine the political conduct of this regime in the context of its failures in constitutional democratic management.

Sun Tzu, the illustrious Chinese military strategist authored The Art of War some 2500 years ago. “The Art of War,” wrote David McLachlan Jeffrey at the American University of Sharjah, “remains decidedly relevant in our contemporary world. This is due to its Taoist-based strategies aimed at conflict resolution, making it adaptable to competitive situations beyond the battlefield. Competition and conflict in our present time call for a working knowledge of applying its strategic principles to adversity. The Art of War advocates judicious strategic planning and positioning for the resolution of conflict. Sun Tzu stressed that reaching strategic objectives without fighting was superior to direct battle, and said: The skillful strategist defeats the enemy without doing battle, captures the enemy without laying siege, and overthrows the enemy without protracted war.

Jeffrey, a scholar on Sun Tzu and Taoism, would argue that success for political managers “depends not on open confrontation but on conflict-resolution through negotiation and problem solving.”

Problem solving and conflict-resolution through mature and rational strategic negotiations is what is exactly missing from the entire political spectrum of the incumbent political leadership of the country. Instead, it is becoming abundantly clear that “laying siege” and “doing battle” is the strategic political management doctrine of the present regime in Islamabad!

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Consider the government’s overall consistent refusal to carry out and execute the Supreme Court’s orders and decisions. The most alarming recent example of “doing battle” and “laying siege” in political management is amply illustrated by the Prime Minister’s open support, in a public address, for the re-election of a candidate who has already resigned from his seat in the parliament because of his alleged fake educational credentials. The PPP has re-awarded the party’s ticket to this candidate and now the country’s Prime Minister and other party stalwarts, in clear and open defiance to the Supreme Court’s judgment, are holding public meetings and political rallies in support of his candidacy. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s political conduct in this respect violates the country’s moral-legal norms and compromises the PM’s credibility, status and pattern of political judgments.

Has the Prime Minister lost the conceptual ability (as Jeffrey would diagnose) for a “considerable contemplative reflection to pass from a superficial to a deeper understanding of philosophical depth” in the art of efficacious moral-constitutional-legal political management? Is this act of political defiance and contempt a threat and provocation against the constitutional institutions of this country?   Is this hostile political conduct a substitute for rational problem-solving? Is this a failure in judicious strategic political skills in the art of negotiations within a democratic system?  Is this a lack of appreciation of democratic constitutional principles? Or is this a direct brutal assault on whoever is considered an adversary in the corridors of power in Islamabad?  Is this simply an “open confrontation” hatched by a “civilian dictatorship”?

Jeffrey would contend that in the strategic art of war in political management, a “candid self-knowledge” is vitally important for all political managers and actors: “it is viewed as an indisputable prerequisite to planning before embarking on any mission – our greatest enemy is ourselves, and the main battle rages within.” In the political decision-making of the contemporary leadership in Pakistan, it is apparent that a “balanced self-perspective” and “the development of appropriate strategy” to cope with conflicting constitutional and legal scenarios is completely absent. This lack of a “balanced self-perspective” in planning before “embarking on a mission” has been time and again demonstrated by the PPP leadership, most recently by the Prime Minister’s public support of a legally disqualified candidate for re-election in a legislative body. How in heaven’s name, one might ask the PM, are you going to turn a wrong into a right?  Your candidate might win yet another election, but will that make it right? This impulsive obsession with turning a wrong into a right is, in fact, the “greatest enemy” and the “ugly battle” raging “within” the PPP top leadership. After all, compulsive behavior with insufficient clarity of one’s mission and inadequate “self-knowledge” is bound to adversely impact political judgments – and that is what is exactly happening to the PPP leadership. Given the ground realities in the country, the question is: What, precisely, is the political agenda of this regime? Hanging onto power for the sake of power – or something more of a substantive nature?

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Indeed, we Pakistani people needed, we thought, a team of efficient managers, headed by an outstanding, able, versatile, visionary modern political manager – someone who could get things done: resolve issues, apply strategic principles to conflict resolution, undertake to protect and to promote common welfare, uphold the constitution and strengthen the rule of law.  Instead, this nation has an incumbent political leadership that hatches institutional conflict on a daily basis and, in its tenure of two years, has pushed the country to an absolute political-economic abyss. This regime, which people once thought might turn out to be exceptional in the aftermath of a military dictatorship, has become not only less than ordinary with a marginal performance (rather, abysmally low) but in fact, has turned out to be foolish.

Are the President and the Prime Minister of the Republic already in a “burnout” phase? Does the impulsive behavior of the two top political managers of the country indicate political exhaustion, making them vulnerable? Indeed, we all know that the two of them have been consistently involved in endless deadly rhetorical incongruity. But the fact of the matter is that boisterous rhetorical claims and government propaganda are no substitute for real progress in good governance, upholding democratic norms and undertaking sustainable development through which public welfare is promoted and judged; none of that has happened under the politically limping PPP leadership.

What the President and the Prime Minister have done to date is to exercise a “superficial aura of power.”  Consequently, both of them have failed in attempting a strategy of managing meaningful change in the entire structure of political culture in this country. Though mountains cannot be moved, the present PPP leadership has, in fact, pushed back the parameters of political conduct to the reactionary and counter-productive terrain of the by-gone era – through dictatorship by an oligarchy.

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As a nation we are at a crossroads – and worse off than ever before!

Did you notice how the Prime Minister lost political self-control and intellectual-moral rationality in his public support for a legally disqualified PPP candidate for re-election?

What does it tell you?

Hum to doobay hain sanam tum ko bi lay doobay gay.

(We have sunk ourselves, we will sink you as well, My Beloved…!!)