NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
Why The Army is Sacrosanct!
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Several recent political events in the ever antagonistic, crisis-ridden, traumatized and calamitous landscape of Pakistani politics, mostly at the times of civilian so-called democratic rule, have proven beyond any shred of doubt that Pakistan’s army is the most sacrosanct national institution for the majority of this nation’s “Awam.” Come what may, notwithstanding the endless emotional and symbolic rhetoric in praise of democracy and civilian political-economic ownership of this country, the “Awam,” common folks on the street, always stand behind the army. Pakistanis take pride in their armed forces and it is a love affair that has persisted ever since this nation came into being. The question is: Is this simply a state of public magnanimity towards the army or is it a psychological conditioning conceived in some kind of historical hero-worship of Muslim warriors fighting for the glory of Islam and, as the present guardians of Pakistan’s sovereignty and continued existence, the armed forces have filled this figurative role?
My personal considered opinion on the matter is that yes, indeed, there might be some deep public emotional attachment to the image of uniformed “Jawans” sworn to the “salamati” (safety, security, wellbeing) of this nation and its ideological parameters. And yet there are deeper, more significant socio-economic and political reasons for the persistence of such feelings of sanctity for the armed forces in the public temperament and disposition.
First and foremost is the fact that successive civilian so-called democratic regimes have blatantly violated their public mandates with absolute political contradictions, violations of democratic norms and principles, and total disregard for greater public welfare. In this country, democracy has been a mere “game plan” to acquire civilian political-economic ownership of the state by a select few to promote vested-interests, organize oligarchic political management structures, and collaborate with powerful foreign actors and governments to help keep them (the so called democratic outfits) in power.
Consequently, the fundamental necessity of implementing true democratic governance has been totally ignored by civilian elected regimes.
Take for example, the present day democratic dispensation in Pakistan. It is ironic that there is no parliamentary or government-initiated debates or discussions on the management of the economy based on alternate economic models to enhance general public welfare, or to deal with the massive and ever-increasing income inequalities on a national level, the vicissitudes of societal disintegration and disharmony caused by massive socio-economic disparity and the resultant chaos and crises faced by the nation.
Tragically, Pakistan’s economic development models, present and past, have been virtually backwards, irrelevant to the socio-economic conditions and ground realities that this nation faces with no economic reform model in sight to provide relief to the general public. Poverty has increased and so has the growing public discontent with democratic regimes and credibility of its leadership. The “Awam” consider the democratic leadership apathetic to their real fundamental issues of daily existence, and in fact, believe that their present-day tragic existence is the direct result of the so-called democratic leadership’s incompetence, inefficiency, mismanagement of national political and economic affairs, and the pursuance of vested-interest economic and political agendas.
In the last six years of civilian so-called democratic dispensation (both the PPP and PMLN have remained steadfastly committed to oligarchic political structures) the Right-Wing status-quo forces have maintained a non-egalitarian, non-efficacious political posture as well as a stagnant mindset towards Pakistan’s economic needs and have dominated the entire political spectrum with an unbending “Rightist” approach to economic development. Consequently, instead of going forward, the civilian leadership of the few has been going backwards. Political-economic “ownership” of the state by the vested-interests leadership has turned Pakistan’s democracy into a business enterprise laying siege on national development and depriving the common citizens of their legitimate democratic rights to a just and an egalitarian society. Pakistani “Awam” feel justifiably cheated as well as violated by their chosen national leadership. The fact of the matter is that powerful people generally try to impose their version of the “truth” on less powerful people, and that is exactly what the so-called democratic civilian leadership has been doing, relentlessly.
The paradigm of errors, flawed political judgments and the lack of political economic vision of our so-called democratic leadership is that they relentlessly tell the “Awam” that our democratic system is doing just fine and proceeding on its eternal course towards ever-greater democratic progress and goodness for all. However, the ground realities are quite the opposite: the fact of the matter is that our present-day democratic system is less than effective for the resolution of national problematics. It has entered into a phase of political deterioration, and yet most of our present time political leadership, nonetheless, respond with insouciance and obliviousness, and self-congratulate with an exaggerated positive self-perception and egotism. Things cannot go on this way for very long.
What Pakistani “Awam” want is some kind of subtle discipline in their existence, a clarity of purpose and objectives for their democratic regimes, a visible and effective strategy to deal with their fundamental existential issues, a plain roadmap to achieve an egalitarian and just society, peace and stability in their country, happiness in their family lives, respect for their ideological views, mutual tolerance of each other and so on and so forth. Needless to say, Pakistani “Awam” are in search of a nationalist, honest, dedicated leadership that exists only to serve the country and its people in accordance with the principles of its ideological parameters defined socio-economically in terms of a welfare state. By and large, Pakistanis are simple folks – they are interested in simple, straightforward solutions to their problems.
No wonder then that the “Awam” in today’s Pakistan hold the Pakistani armed forces as sacrosanct and look up to its leadership with hope and believe that the needed societal discipline, clarity of national purpose, straightforwardness of strategy and plain talk are the functions that Pakistan’s armed forces can contribute to a much-needed political reform in the nascent democracy of this nation.
I may be wrong, but I will bet top dollar that in today’s Pakistan, the “Awam” will fully endorse the armed forces’s each and every legitimate act and constitutional role in pursuing the solidarity and stability of this nation and expect that the military leadership remain vigilant in its constitutional responsibilities to the state of Pakistan.
Last but not least: the Pakistani “Awam” are horrified by the excesses of politics in the last six years of civilian rule, and they are in the mood for an “anti-politics” phase. Let this be a warning to whomever it may concern.
Perhaps the Pakistani “Awam” are imagining a valiant warrior in his handsome armor stepping forward to save an oasis of God’s creation and lead its people to salvation and out of the bondage of its self-consumed rulers.
We never know how tomorrow may turn out.