By Dr. Haider Mehdi

“Only the Almighty knows the secret motives and concealed intentions in human hearts.”
                                                                                                                           An ancient saying

The word “prologue” in the title is used metaphorically in the sense of the introductory lines spoken by an actor before a dramatic performance. It precedes the first act and gives a clue to the meaning of a course of action, foretelling greater events.

Political actors are complex identities. They act with specific intents and purposes which are difficult to identify unless a thorough and in-depth conceptual analysis is undertaken with absolute precision and skillful application of behavioral psychology. Such an analysis entails understanding a political actor’s mindset, life experiences, cognitive development, educational and family background, faith and ethical development, and above all, political values and personal orientation towards politics as a “process” to a specifically defined purpose. In this context, it is important to note, political actors all over the world, most specifically in Pakistan, are temperamentally prone to use symbolic slogans, sentimental rhetoric and media manipulations to further their political goals.

However, a frustratingly endemic problem with the majority of political analysts in Pakistan is that they are endlessly descriptive in their narratives of political events and issues of national importance. Consequently, the hidden agendas and concealed motives operative in the background of political acts are never probed and remain obscure in the public’s understanding. Conceptualization of a political actor’s behavior and an in-depth comprehension of their real intentions in a certain act remain outside the scope of the analyst’s investigation.

Let me illustrate my point with a simple example. At the start of each academic year at the university, I ask students to describe the classroom. Predictably, nine out of ten students give a visual description of the room: it has four walls, windows, a door, blackboard, chairs, etc. Now that is a descriptive analysis. But think for a moment: a classroom is a place of learning. It offers enlightenment, knowledge, information, behavior modification, a sense of community, unit of purpose and so on, and so forth. That is how we conceptualize the idea of a classroom – the emphasis is on understanding the purpose, the essence, the mindset which is at the core of the educational process. Now that is a conceptual analysis.

Having given a rather lengthy introduction to the notion of conceptual analysis, let me come to the point that I wish to make: Why did the Pakistani President go to India recently for a day-long private visit (there is no such thing as a private visit of a head-of-a-state)? Why was he accompanied by his son? Why was Bilawal Bhutto (or rather, Bilawal Zardari) seated next to Rahul Gandhi? (Was it purposely done to highlight the importance of ancestral politics?) Why did the Pakistani President meet privately with the Indian Prime Minister? (Are there any recorded minutes of the meeting between the two, as per protocol?)  What was discussed of national importance between the President and the Prime Minister? (Will the President make it public and brief the Pakistani Parliament on the subject?  Of course, he won’t – because nothing of the substantive nature was discussed; this meeting was symbolic media theatrics for public consumption in order to hype the mystique of power.) Why did the President, along with his son, visit the Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti’s Dargah?

My conceptual analysis (to the extent I understand the President’s political behavior) is the following:

1) The visit to Ajmer-e-Sharrif Dargah was made in the footsteps of Emperor Akbar. Legend has it that Akbar used to walk barefoot from Agra to Ajmer once every year seeking an heir to his throne. It seems obvious to me that Zardari went to Ajmer to seek the Saint’s spiritual blessing for the dynastic rule of his family and son in Pakistan’s politics. After all, Zardari must have faith in celestial intervention to ascend to such position in his own case.(Will the holy Saint be so unfair to 180 million Pakistanis to grant such a wish to Zardari?  Will the Sufi Saint be so insensitive to present-day democratic norms?)

2) The President’s so-called “surprise visit” was pre-arranged and made at the urging of the US. It was a part of the complex US game-plan that started with the bombing of the Salla check post, Nato supply routes closing and mid-May re-opening, the charade of parliamentary debates in-between and the ultimate US objective to subject Pakistan to India’s overall regional influence. All of this, of course, with implicit involvement and secret behind- the-doors cooperation of the Zardari-Gilani regime. It is my political judgment that a similar private visit of the Pakistani President to the US will be forthcoming soon. That will be to mop-up and give the final touches to the American discreet intervention in the next general elections in Pakistan. My guess is that the American political establishment will assure the Pakistani President of continued US support for Zardari’s role in Pakistan’s future political landscape.

3) Zardari’s Indian visit was meant for political observers; in fact, it was a discreet public statement by the President that he was paving way for dynastic rule in Pakistan’s politics – and that Asif Ali Zardari is fully intent on manipulating the incumbent political process in the country to safeguard his personal political role for at least the next five years – come what may.

These are some very alarming times for Pakistan. The parameters of a massive and dangerous conflict between the public’s interests and ruling establishment’s interests are being forged. The fact of the matter is that a democratic Pakistan cannot live side-by-side with an oligarchic political structure. But the irony is that an elected President’s (though elected through a sham democracy) political behavior clearly indicates a non-democratic perspective on the future shape of this country’s politics.

Asif Ali Zardari, in no uncertain terms, seems to believe the time for a dynastic “democracy” is upon Pakistan now – and for his steadfast belief he has even sought a legendary Saint’s help in India. Is this mindset understandable? Is it rationale? Is it probable? Is it madness? Or does Zardari have the magic wand to make things happen that seem impossible?  I bet Asif Ali Zardari truly believes that he can pull this one off uncontested – at least, that’s what Zardari’s  Dargahi Diplomacy Prologue seems to indicate.

But, not a chance, Mr. President. You are mistaken. You don’t understanding the nation over which you happen to accidentally preside. Your fingers are not on the pulse of the nation. Tavleen Singh, in the article “Time for dynastic democracy to die,” wrote:

“When a parliamentary constituency becomes an inheritance, it becomes a private estate whose purpose is to benefit the family who owns it. And, the reason why most of our political parties have been turned into private property is because politics is the easiest way to make money in India [and of course Pakistan].”

Politics and money are in a convenient marriage in Zardari-Gilani’s Pakistan! 

Sad and undemocratic, isn’t it?