NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Gentle reader, hear Poliphilo tell of his dreams…
Here you will see perfect palaces of kings,
The worship of nymphs, fountains and rich banquets.
The guards dance, dressed in motley, and the whole
Of human life is expressed in dark labyrinths. -Anonymous Elegy to the Reader, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
Pakistan’s 21st century democracy has surpassed the splendor of kings, the powers of czars, the persistence of ruthless dictators, the epitome of capitalistic glory, the wheeling-dealings of perfect con artists, the alliance of common vested interests, and the ultimate attempt to deceive the common citizens. A media report claims that a whopping Rs. 7 billion has been set aside by the coalition of like-minded traditional politicians of political status quo orientation to buy out a large chunk of electronic media in the service of maintaining themselves in power by aggressive propaganda campaigns, massive disinformation assaults on their adversaries – and billions more to outright purchase the next general election as if it were a commodity. It seems that winning the election is going to be a straightforward shopping spree in an open “Juma Bazaar.” This very specific brand of Pakistani democratic doctrine, owned and promoted by the political leadership of the two major ruling parties, the PPP and the PML-N, is aimed at “Saving Democracy” in Pakistan.
The everyday persistently chanted mantra of the PPP and PML-N leadership is to “Save Democracy” – as if the future of Pakistani democracy is synonymous with the preservation of political powers in the hands of the incumbent PPP/PML-N leadership personified in “The Rule of Two.”
The fact of the matter is that the “Saving Democracy” slogan has become a kind of meaningless and rundown deceptive rhetoric – worthless, useless, and dubious in its conception as expounded by the PPP and the PML-N leaderships respectively. Democracies are neither saved nor run by slogans only. We know that political slogans are meant for public manipulations, altering the masses’ perceptual landscape and presenting a distorted view of the hidden agendas prepared specifically by vested interest groups.
Here are some examples from the global political arena to illustrate my point: Not long ago, the Clinton Administration coined the phrase “Road-Map for Peace” to resolve the Palestinian issue. It was used with such careless frequency, non-serious implications, and manipulative audacity that the term lost all of its significance. In fact, just the mention of the term caused outrageous reactions in thinking political circles – it meant that no serious political process was being initiated to resolve the issue and the slogan was used primarily for public consumption to pacify peace activists and to consolidate the political status quo in the Middle East.
Then came the US and its allies bombing Iraq and Afghanistan and the slogan “to promote democracy” in the Muslim world. After over a decade-long destruction of two of the oldest human civilizations and the brutal massacre of countless people, the word “democracy” seems like an insult and a slap in the face of the entire humankind. Only the apologists of the global political status quo would disagree with this view – and that is a shame.
It is obvious that in an age of electronic media with massive global and local audiences, political slogans are coined for the explicit purpose of public deception. And the sad part of this entire manipulative dynamics is that those distinct slogans and precisely-aimed terminology seem to work perfectly – at least for a specified time until the damage is done.
In present-day Pakistan, the traditional vested interests ruling elite, reactionary, conservative, non-progressive, backwards and politically status quo oriented, seems to believe that the “Save Democracy” slogan is a perfect tool to railroad the public into political submission for the continuity of the PPP/PML-N “Rule of Two.” However, I claim that they are grossly mistaken, amazingly uninformed of public sentiments, dangerously ignorant of political ground realities prevailing in the country, absolutely unaware of the historical dynamics of change that are growing in the undercurrents of the failing political system, its structure, its leadership and its political culture. Presently, they are living in a fool’s paradise.
“Save Democracy” is an ambiguous and worthless slogan in present-day Pakistan. The questions are: What “democracy” are they (The Rule of Two) bent on saving? Is it this “democracy” in which the country’s chief executive, the incumbent Prime Minister, is indicted in several criminal cases? Is it this “democracy” in which the main opposition party quietly ignored the questionable democratic credentials of a presidential candidate and did not challenge his nomination? Is it this “democracy” in which the sitting Prime Minister, the Federal Interior Minister and the ruling party’s Secretary General are accused of helping a convict to escape with billions of rupees embezzlement? Is it this “democracy” in which over 700 citizens are being held in jails without charge or appropriate legal trials? Is it this “democracy” in which political power is intensely applied to get bank waivers of billions of rupees of loans? Is it this “democracy” in which government-owned lands are acquired at throw-away prices in order to convert them into vast personal real estate worth billions and trillions? Is it this “democracy” in which the President, Prime Minister, Governors and Chief Ministers surpass the living style and protocol of colonial times foreign rulers?
Or is it a “democracy” in which each and every norm of democratic principles are violated? Is it a “democracy” in which the major opposition party ignores the fundamental rules of democratic engagement and responsibilities because of a “muk-muka” alliance between “The Rule of Two”?
Or is it a “democracy” to be saved in which the deprivations of the common citizens multiply daily, depressed and bankrupt citizens commit suicide because of financial hardships, women sell their bodies to feed hungry children, children cannot go to schools, the sick die without medical aid, and the rich become richer at the expense of common citizens?
Or is “The Rule of Two” going to save a “democracy” in which power, gas, petrol, daily consumable items and the safety of people are virtually non-existent? Are they (The Rule of Two) going to save a “democracy” in which the last 5 years of the national debt has multiplied at a rate equal to the past 60 years?
Centuries ago, Plato once said that a ruler must not be a traitor. The king must be a philosopher who is selfless, dedicated to the welfare and happiness of each and every citizen, and responsible and accountable for his political behavior. The happiness of citizens is the ultimate test of a civilized society and its rulers.
Ask yourself, gentle Reader, a serious question: What has “The Rule of Two” given to the common citizens of Pakistan in the kind of “democracy” that they are bent on saving?
Is this a democracy – or a worthless, meaningless slogan of skillful deception?
Gentle Reader, you will have to make your own judgments!
Think about it seriously! Here the whole of human life is expressed in dark labyrinths.