NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST 

By Dr. Haider Mehdi

Please do not ask me the silly and absurd question as to what has been happening to this country called Pakistan for the last 6 decades or so.  Obviously, this nation has been colonized by its own native military and civilian rulers to an extent that today it stands on the brink of a political abyss and economic disaster.  The inescapable facts are that our ruling elite has been ruthlessly looting the nation, its political management has been designed for organized robberies, and vested interest political leadership has had a field day all along.  Whereas this newly independent nation needed immense political imagination and healthy ethical leadership, what it has gotten so far has been a bunch of unethical, unimaginative, reactionary, self-seeking, egotistical, megalomaniac and status-quo committed rulers bent on preserving their political and economic control over this nation at all cost.

The fact of the matter is that humanity at large in Pakistan is facing the significant prospect of severe national calamities as a result of deliberate political and economic mismanagement by its ruling elite.  The Nation of April 3rd reported that past rulers committed corruption to the tune of $10 billion. On April 4th, the same newspaper printed details of written-off loans worth billions of rupees that included nearly all of the prominent political leadership of the country.  Earlier, on March 28th, The Nation reported that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) received a list from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority of nearly 300 lawmakers including members of the outgoing National Assembly and serving senators who had not paid their outstanding telephone and electricity bills amounting to millions of rupees.  Amazingly, the list included the names of former lawmakers such as the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, the Deputy Prime Minister, National Assembly Speaker, coalition government partner ANP’s chief and many more.  According to The Nation of the same date, the ECP also received a list of names from the Islamabad Electric Supply Corporation alleging that at least about 2 dozen former lawmakers had not paid their electricity bills.  The utmost surprise is that this list included, among others, the names of the former Foreign Minister and the Interior Minister.

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Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) was quoted as saying “I really wonder if they (the defaulters) deserve to be a part of the parliament with this kind of conduct…We would not let it go.  They would be asked to clear terms to pay their outstanding bills at the earliest. Otherwise, there would be consequences.  We’ll make sure that the candidate who doesn’t clear its arrears doesn’t contest elections. It’s as simple as that…We have a lot of options including rejecting the nomination papers of the defaulter candidates.”Move on to the next episode: The Nation of April 8th reported in a story headlined “Will CEC catch financial dodgers or walk out?” that the CEC and his associates are not pleased with how “many tax evaders and loan defaulters have crossed through the weeklong initial phase of scrutiny that ended on Sunday.”  There is disagreement within the ECP over blocking nomination papers.  It is also believed that “the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other relevant departments had also not cooperated with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over the scrutiny as per the commissioner’s expectations.”

Indeed, it is obvious that the ECP is finding it difficult to break through the prevalent dense system of political patronage.

The questions are: Can Pakistan sustain and survive yet another 5 years of the kind of democracy it has experienced in the last 5 years (2008-13)? Will the status-quo forces prevail again in the May 11th  national elections? Will the same traditional political actors resurface as power elite, powerbrokers and power holders in the next general elections? Will the loan defaulters, loan write-offs and tax evaders survive ECP scrutiny?  Will the failed, flawed and politically incorrect leadership stage a comeback in May?

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Today’s Pakistan is faced with immense political, economic and social crises.  What it needs is a philosophical, conceptual and ethical-moral leadership and a systemic approach to problem-solving and political management.  Without fundamental and revolutionary transformation of its contemporary political structure, traditional political culture and the overthrow of present-day vested interest leadership, the task of nation-building and moving forward to a truly democratic society, seems like an absolutely impossible mission to accomplish.

Let us be clear-minded: There is no way Pakistan can have a stable and prosperous future if its economy remains as chronically ill as it has been in the last 5 years of the so-called democratic dispensation and if the confidence of common citizens in the country’s leadership continues to deteriorate as it has been deteriorating specifically since 2008 (and for nearly 5 decades before).

I believe that unless things change dramatically, Pakistan will not be able to maintain the national cohesion that is needed urgently to move forward.  I think we need quantum leaps in economic planning and technological advancements – which is not possible without an ideologically-driven doctrine of a people’s welfare state.  I contend that state intervention in the vitally important sectors of nation-building is the need of the hour which is not possible without the creditworthiness of a political leadership that is nationalistic, morally-bound, and ethically committed to the politics of empowering people at the base levels of society and bringing them into wider participation of political decision-making.

My questions are: Having known the political behavior of the traditional ruling elite, can the nation still put its trust in their creditworthiness, personal integrity, political management capabilities and competence in handling the nation’s affairs? The problem is that vested interests are always in conflict with national interests.  One can opt for one or the other but not for both at the same time.

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Pakistan’s political history has taught us that this country’s traditional status-quo committed and foreign nations patronized and promoted leadership has always preferred their personal vested interests over national interests.  Do you still wish to give them another chance on May 11th?

What are your concerns and questions to date?

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