The Serpent that
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
You must have heard of the snake that eats itself. Self-destruction is the nature of this beast. It is within its own intrinsic sense of revolt and transitory character that it destroys itself out of the fear of its own venom. It hurts its own existence because of the poison; it carries within itself that which precipitates self-destructiveness. Human social and political organizations tend to behave similarly in many ways.
It is claimed by the traditional political ruling elite in Pakistan that democracy has been saved in this country – whatever that means! However, the vital questions that need to be asked are: Will this “saved democracy” save Pakistan? Will this “saved democracy” lift Pakistan and its common citizens out of poverty, unprecedented deprivations, hunger, fear, illiteracy, lack of security, lawlessness and lack of personal safety? Will this “saved democracy” restore peace and stability in the country? Will this “saved democracy” pull this nation out of an ever-expanding crisis of political economic mismanagement? Will this “saved democracy” deliver 24-hour electricity to homes that remain dark and to the factories that are shut? Will this “saved democracy” give employment to the unemployed and hope to those who have lost hope? Will this “saved democracy” stop drone attacks against its own citizens? Will this “saved democracy” give back to its people their pride, dignity and self-respect? Will this “saved democracy” be a democracy by the people, for the people, of the people?
It appears that the Pakistani Right Wing, pro-West, business-friendly ruling elite have been promoting self-mythologizing to claim legitimacy of their rule over this nation. Now they have added the mantra that democracy has been saved by their sheer efforts and determination. And it is their only their brand of “saved democracy” that can resolve all national problematics. However, the facts are quite the contrary: The 2008-2013 democratic regime did not deliver a thing to the nation; in fact, it widened the socio-economic gap between the “haves” and the “have nots,” brought upon the masses unprecedented economic hardships, increased levels of corruption, promoted intra-state institutional conflicts, weakened Pakistan’s diplomatic standing in the community of nations, carried out a foreign policy detrimental to national self-interests, and so on and so forth. Is the post-May 11th, 2013, democratic set-up likely to serve the common citizens’ interests any better?
A current perspective on the recent post-“Tahrir Square” revolution in Egypt political history might be relevant and extremely instructive for the Pakistani “saved democracy” “Jialas” and “Mutwalas” and their cherished leadership. A democratically-elected government in Egypt has been overthrown by a military “coup” and it is obvious that a divided nation is split equally in supporting the deposed democratic regime as well as championing the new structure of power backed by the powerful Egyptian army.
However, the most interesting and ironic development that needs to be noted is that on July 23rd, 2013, 61 years after Jamal Abdul Nasser’s military coup to overthrow the country’s monarchy, the Egyptian people on both sides of the current political divide, held major ceremonies to mark the 1952 revolution anniversary: “This revolution is credited within turning millions of poor families into landlords, providing Egyptians free education and starting a strong industrial renaissance, whose results were unfortunately wasted by the Mubarak regime through its questionable privatization programme…No wonder, in hard times Egyptians always remember Abdul Nassar because he was a sincere leader,” reported a newspaper quoting a school teacher. “On the 61st anniversary of the revolution, we renew our pledges for social justice and national dignity,” said a prominent Egyptian leader and former presidential contender.
Protesters throughout developing countries, inclusive of the majority of Islamic nations, are demanding social and economic justice for all and restoration of national dignity. Let it be noted in absolutely unambiguous terms that present-day Pakistan is not going to be an exception to this rising and awakening of people’s global revolutionary politics. Sooner than later, the masses in Pakistan are going to turn the entire country into “Tahrir Square”- that is, if the contemporary “saved democracy” in the country remains ineffectual and incapable of structural transformations and revolutionary changes to the manner in which the political and economic affairs of this nation run as of today.
What has happened to democratic Egypt can certainly happen in Pakistan as well. Be mindful, a sizeable proportion of the population in the country would most likely support a similar change out of a desperate disappointment with the democratic regime’s failed mandate and incapability in political-economic management to truly bring about a fundamental transformation in the nation’s social and economic inequalities. Let us call a spade a spade: At the root of societal and political conflict in present-day Pakistan is the growing and ever-widening socio-economic gap and the already full control of political power by a selective financially powerful privileged class. Whosoever can change this fundamental equation in Pakistan’s contemporary political landscape, democracy or not, will be acceptable to the majority of the present-day deprived Pakistani citizens.
Three factors are going to be vital in shaping Pakistan’s contemporary politics in the near future:
1. Will the basic distribution of power within Pakistan’s ruling institutions change? The civilian regime’s anticipated desire for “undivided power” both in the legislative assemblies, including over the military, can have destructive consequences – more so if the nation’s basic socio-economic problematics are not fixed on an urgent basis.
2. Over the last 2 years, the urban middle class youth in Pakistan have assumed a greater direct participation in the democratic process through taking part in political “Jalsas” mostly organized by Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf’s platform of political change. It is by their leadership role that they have gained their own political legitimacy. Will they dominate the political debate in tomorrow’s Pakistan by their sustained political energy and the force of their technological (the use of social media and other communication channels) and politically expressive capabilities?
3. These young people of today’s Pakistan want visible and identifiable progress made in a self-reliant and independent Pakistan. They want their potential energy channeled into institutional politics with a significant change in Pakistan’s internal distribution of political and economic power.
The question is: Will the present “democracy” deliver? Or will the snake eat itself?