By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Note to the Readers: Those of us who have been involved academically and diligently studying political behavior of the traditional Pakistani political actors know quite well that what these politicians say and what they do in actuality are altogether two different things. Rhetoric, public statements, speeches, slogans, and symbolic nationalist sentimental narratives are solely for public consumption and for the purpose of public diplomacy. There are always contradictions between what is politically said by those politicians and what is meant to be achieved. Motives are generally concealed and real intentions are camouflaged and masqueraded. It is now an established fact that the main objective of the contemporary ruling elite in Pakistan has always been to seek political power and use it for their vested interests – both politically and economically.
Asif Ali Zardari ascended to the presidency some 5 years ago by skillful manipulative trajectory of the political system that was in itself the creation of a massive culmination and coming- together of vested interest entities – that of Benazir’s quest for power and Musharraf’s lust for the continuation of his dictatorial rule over this nation. The NRO, the foundation of this so-called democratic regime, was the product of this mindset and the so-called project for democracy has been a charade jointly organized by those decadent minds who do not have the slightest idea of what democracy is all about.
Added to this entire impersonation of democracy has been the President’s personal talent of “Muk-Muka” capabilities and skillful manipulation of the existing political system. Indeed, the Pakistani nation has painfully and tragically experienced 5 years of this sham democracy. The latest bad news is that the President is whole-heartedly pursuing his manipulative skills to trick the nation once again. Today’s article sheds some light on what is happening and how the incumbent President is forming his future political game plan.
Let us start with a simple yet vital and pertinent question: Why was not the Pak-Iran gas pipeline accord signed, let us say, 4 or 5 years ago? Would that have been contrary to Pakistan’s national interests in some way? And why has this agreement been made now when the tenure of this government is completed? The PPP-led government’s apologists will tell you that signing a gas pipeline agreement with Tehran 4 years ago would have certainly invoked US economic and political sanctions against Pakistan. Hence, it was politically justified not to irk the US and face sanctions. But has the American political stand on the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project changed in the last 4 weeks? The fact of the matter is that the US stance on this issue has not changed one bit, neither will it change in the foreseeable future. Then on what foreign policy considerations has the President made the recent accord with Iran? (Iran’s position on this accord is simply honest, honorable and in Pakistan’s national interests – that is not the issue.)
The rational and logical answer to this question is simple: It is a set-up to make sure that any future government in Pakistan, caretaker, elected or not, fails. The President is fully aware of the US and its allies’ hostile, aggressive and non-compromising stance on the Pak-Iran gas pipeline issue, and any future government in Pakistan will have to face US sanctions immediately leading to a major financial and political crisis. Not only that, it is common knowledge that the President is Washington-London’s “man” in Islamabad – he might be calculating in foresight that once the future government in Islamabad collapses, the President’s patrons in Washington might once again organize his comeback to political power – or at least arrange a Bilawal Bhutto-led PPP government to take over in the country.
The same scenario is applicable to the Gawadar Port accord with a Chinese company. The President is fully aware of the expected US reaction and how the said agreement can and will cause political instability in the country, most specifically in Balochistan. And yet, the incumbent President has not hesitated in going ahead with these agreements at the end of the tenure of the PPP government (both of these agreements should have been made 4 years ago when the PPP came into power) – meaning it’s a set-up to make sure that any future government in Islamabad faces immediate and critical hurdles in putting the country back on track to political and economic stability.
“Don’t believe the hype. In reality, democracy is going into reverse…(in) Asia…democratic meltdowns have become depressingly common,” wrote K. Kurlantzick, author of the book Democracy in Retreat, in a recent article. Kurlantzick further states: “One of the most comprehensive studies of global democracy, Bertelsmann Foundation’s Transformation Index, has declared that ‘the overall quality of democracy has deteriorated’ throughout the developing world. The index found that the number of ‘defective’ and ‘highly defective’ democracies …was up to 52 in 2012.”
Perhaps Pakistan under PPP-PMLN “Muk-Muka” political dispensation is at the top of the list of failing democracies in the present-day world. Is it not ironic that after 5 years of so-called democracy in this country, whole-hearted support for a military takeover is gaining popularity? In the recent aftermath of the Abbas Town massacre in Karachi, hundreds of thousands of lamenting and chest-beating men, women and children chanted that democracy was worthless and they wanted a military takeover and stability above all else.
It is obvious that populist and far-right parties, the PPP and PMLN under its traditional political leadership with little commitment to democratic norms, gained popularity after Musharraf’s rule. However, in the last 5 years, they have made a mockery of democratic ideals.
Imagine the pre-poll rigging and other atrocious political conduct of the ruling parties: Just days ahead of the end of its tenure, the ruling PPP in Sindh Assembly “passed several laws raising the perks and privileges even for outgoing Parliamentarians…effective retrospectively from July 2001,” reported the national media. In Islamabad, the banks and central government offices remained open on Saturday (a day ahead of the dissolution of the National Assembly and the PPP’s central government) distributing perks and benefits to the government’s favorites and members of all parties. The media has reported the following: MNAs and MPAs had crores of Rs backdated medical bills (mostly fake) reimbursed, unused funds meant to be used for development work in their constituencies were released to MNAs and MPAs in cash, in Sind there were scores of promotions for bureaucrats backdated to 2009, thousands of contractual staff were made permanent, 17,000 employees were to be inducted into LESCO, and so on and so forth.
In Punjab province, the PMLN-led government has hurriedly completed several projects at massive public expense. Urban-rural divide and public priorities have been ignored. Added to this is the PMLN leadership’s drive to infuse fresh life in promoting traditional political culture and exacerbating the excesses of the contemporary political system by adopting a strategy of “electables” to win the forthcoming general elections. It seems that the PMLN leadership is politically committed and content with the status-quo to prevail.
This nation is being set up for a modern authoritarian rule of the few “haves” over the majority of impoverished “have nots.”
The sad and troubling attempt for maintaining and perpetuating a regressive democratic system in Pakistan is not something that someone else can fix – it is you who have to do it!
Wake up! Join with passionate determination those who are leading the political movement for a fundamental change in this country!! Your existence and that of future generations is at stake!
The choice is yours! The President did not tell you this, or did he?