“We know what we do – we believe what we do will do what – but what we do not know is that what we do will eventually do what.” Attributed to an unknown source

By Dr. Haider Mehdi

First, it was the Pakistani Prime Minister’s elder son who got married to the granddaughter of Pir Pagara, the well-known spiritual and political elite from Sindh.  The Pirs of Sindh tied the family knot and created kinship with the Pirs from Multan.  Sindh and Punjab became partners in politics and shared spirituality from a by-gone era still deeply enshrined in the psyche of the voters in both provinces. 

Now the Prime Minister and his Defense Minister are in a “tango” by the holy matrimony of their son and daughter.  Political power and tremendous financial clout are getting into an alliance of camaraderie and mutually transpired political-commercial interests.  The Pirs from Multan and the entrepreneurs from Gujrat are inspired folks looking far ahead into the future seeking political-financial immortality.  It is a union meticulously planned to control the corridors of power in Islamabad infinitely. 

Rumors are rife, irrevocably reliable, that the junior Gilanis and their influential friends in commercial centers of Pakistan and abroad are running a parallel government in Islamabad: Doing political-commercial wheeling-dealings, earning tremendous profits out of their entrepreneurial spirit and armed with their liberal enlightened Western views, they are determined to bring about a cultural transformation of their motherland.  Indeed, fashion shows, sexually provocative TV commercials and midnight to early morning almost-free telephone chats could not happen without the implicit patronage of the powers-that-be.  Saints, entrepreneurs, and socio-cultural gurus have all joined forces to reform Pakistan as they deem fit – suitable to their present and future interests. 

The sentiments and the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani masses do not matter.  Indeed, the apologists argue: why should the masses matter anyway?  They are backwards, uneducated and unable to appreciate the shining democracy that the present political leadership has gifted the nation.  Isn’t that enough of an accomplishment? The people have voted, the government is intact, assemblies are working, a military coup has not been staged – what else could the nation ask for? 

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It has been attributed to Asif Ali Zardari that he has advised his children never to forget that they were born to rule this country.  They are Bhuttos and Zardaris, they are political heirs, they have a legacy to maintain indefinitely.  Concurrently, it is rumored that Yousif Reza Gilani has told his children to do whatever they wish, act smart, and don’t get caught because if they are caught and the media raises hell, there will not be much help from him.

Political marriages and alliances between the clergy and commercial interests have been a part of ancient and Middle Ages history.  Centuries ago, the Egyptian Pharaohs even married their sisters to keep hold on power and keep wealth all for themselves.  European monarchs married each other’s families across national borders to consolidate their imperial outreaches and sought the clergy’s support in their political ambitions.  It was a traditional Arab practice for the emirs to marry into several different tribes to gain their loyalties.  But the point is, we cannot afford to live in the dark ages anymore. It is the 21st century and humanity has come a long way to an entirely different world.  We live in different times, under different conditions, in a different environment, with different aspirations and different ways of looking at human life, its integrity, spiritual-material existence, and needs.  We need to go forwards not backwards.

Though, obviously, it is not illegal or immoral to arrange a marriage between two (or more) centers of political-financial power.  But such an alliance cannot be above the political apprehensions of a nation that has been endlessly struggling for democracy and seeking to build a society that values equality, egalitarianism, prosperity for all, and a political structural system that will insure repeated democratic transitions.  Unfortunately, the imminent matrimonial and familial alliance between the Multani Pir, the Sindhi Pir and Punjabi Chaudhry smacks of political expediency; these are deliberately planned unions that have the explicit agendas of orchestrating a family oligarchy and creating unquestionable loyalties to its leadership. The consequences of these carefully planned political moves will be to further frustrate and weaken the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan by consolidating political power in the hands of a “select few’ in times to come and prolong this nation’s political-economic-social-cultural oppression.  We are in for a remarkably uncertain and dangerous political future:  I am obliged to state that the incumbent PPP leadership is in the process of creating Pakistani Czars.   

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Democracy is a political-philosophical-organizational doctrine that promotes continuous change in its political platforms, plans, projections, programs, and its profound anticipations; the success of a democratic system fundamentally depends on a genuine and regular change in the leadership as well.  Change of faces can bring transformations, new ideas, neoteric concepts, appreciation of new realities, and profound resolutions to age-old problematics.  It also facilitates bringing in forward-looking visionary management teams and skill-oriented actors to the political arena.  No wonder that Nelson Mandela decided to quit the presidency after a 4-year tenure.  Lula Da Silva is satisfied with his constitutional term in office and is about to leave the Brazilian presidency.  Mahatma Gandhi did not ask for a political position and even Truman and Eisenhower, in times of chaos, quietly walked away at the end of their terms.  Politics, presidencies and prime ministerships are nobody’s permanent legacies – not anymore. 

In Pakistan, the incumbent PPP leadership has failed in its stated mission to deliver to the people: the domestic ground realities and its foreign policy directives speak volumes to this regime’s absolute failure and abysmal performance.  And yet, in spite of its failures, the PPP leadership remains oblivious to national crises, politically and legally unaccountable for its serious flaws in governance, and yet is planning a future that is contrary to democratic values.  Its leaders show a remarkable obsession with the status quo (read “criminal apathy”) and the state’s “manufactured consent”—in essence, PPP top leadership is a poorly behaved political clique (or rather, a better expression is gang).

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Social scientists and political analysts argue that poor political conduct does not necessarily originate from purely political phenomena.  It comes out of the genesis of a political culture conceptually inflicted with a flawed legacy that corrupts the corruptible more and rewards the imbecilic immoral political actors fervently.  In order to understand bad political conduct, we must understand the entirety of a political culture.  Put another way, the problems of politics cannot be resolved by politics alone.  We must refine the level of political-culture to improve the political discourse – and that brings us back to the poorly-behaved PPP leadership. Obviously, the task of raising the level of political culture is beyond their capabilities: the top PPP leadership is busy reinventing 16th century and ancient rituals of marriages for “the powerful and affluent” to confer political-economic power onto themselves indefinitely.  Hence, how can they initiate a revision and renaissance in the present political culture of Pakistan? This backward system serves them well. 

But let us not forget that external, unforeseen forces beyond the control of the powerful have a strange way of subduing human arrogance before they can even comprehend what is happening.  Pervez Musharraf, feeling omnipotent and over-confident, brought on his own political demise.  Before him, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-Ul-Haq perished in the political wasteland of this country.  History is rampant with such instances – just look around carefully. 

In my considered opinion, the PPP leadership will fail in its future plans as much as it has failed in its present mission.  History will not remember them kindly!!!  Let this be their last “tango” in Islamabad.

It is because: “We know what we do – we believe what we do will do what – but what we do not know is that what we do will eventually do what.”

The  writer: a professor, political analyst, published author and conflict-resolution expert. Dr Mehdi is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.