One Political Travesty Marks Pakistan's History And Ongoing Crisis

One Political Travesty Marks Pakistan's History And Ongoing Crisis
Pakistan stands on the brink of an unprecedented economic disaster. Added to this is an imminent meltdown of the institutions and political instability. The masses are grappling with all time high prices caused by back-breaking inflation, and almost all of the country’s population is struggling to ensure food on their table.

The clouds of uncertainty are looming large on the country while institutional disharmony mixed with economic challenges has made the country rudderless. The never-ending political engineering by an unbridled military has brought the country to a halt. Over the years, the powerful military with its perpetual interference has derailed the democratic process, tampered with the constitution and introduced the politics of hate and divisions by alienating the peripheries.

The military's role of ‘Messiah’ has devastatingly hindered the natural growth of institutions, because they never let the country experiment for itself and take risks. Pakistan is a nascent democratic and federal state (at least by its name). In actual fact, it seems, Pakistan is a quasi-military state.

Turn through the pages of history: you find that whenever democracy has started to take root and economic benefits have begun to reach the poor masses, attempts to uproot this progress have been made by “known to all” forces. The military has created obstacles towards baby steps taken toward democratization and bruised the country’s knees to make the system dysfunctional.

It is, indeed, wishful thinking to expect institutional harmony from a state that has been under military regimes for the better part of its history, and that is held hostage to the idiosyncrasies of egotistical men in the garrison city.

What future does a state have in which security institutions don’t let society experiment?

Pakistan is taking baby steps towards embracing federalism & democracy, but continued military interventions have crippled its ability to function as a normal state.

It is common knowledge that political parties are harbingers of social change and vanguards of democratic norms in a country. The question is: do the parties in Pakistan fulfill the same role?

The mainstream political parties remain exclusively interested in acquiring power – even if it comes via undemocratic moves.

In a sad state of affairs, the political parties in pursuit of power surrender to the unelected forces and are hunting for ‘deals’ to remain in power at any cost. The mainstream parties have become power grabbers with no commitment to principled ideological politics. The only thing they are all committed to is to stand in a queue to get the security establishment’s pat on the back.

The party which forms the government then resorts to political victimisation and searches for sticks to beat political opponents with, instead of addressing the fault in the system.

Paradoxically, the parties themselves seldom believe in the power of the masses and parliament. The parties have alarmingly been reduced to non-democratic entities, with leadership based on familial ties and the cult of personality. Grassroot political workers with humble backgrounds are pushed to the corners and opportunistic elites are parachuted to the highest positions within a party.

If the party in power specifically and others in the mainstream continue leading with this type of politics, generations to come will consider these forces complicit in this messy game that has brought the country to a point of no return.

This coarsening of public discourse is already adding insult to the dismal political process.

The general public is in disarray and very skeptical about the success of the democratic system. The people no longer view the political parties – and political setup to be precise – as a liberating force, but rather visualise them as forces that use public support as a bargaining chip. The public interest has become a plaything, used near election times to garner votes.

Politicians can ignore this perception at their peril.

The political parties need serious introspection. They need to revisit their priorities and on an urgent basis revisit their dictionaries to erase forever the words “deal”, “surrender” and “appeasement” when it comes to the security establishment.

Parties from the peripheries, however, with limited mass support, have a vision and have always raised the banner of civilian supremacy. They have remained resolute in their criticism of the military establishment for meddling in political affairs and asked them to roll back the policy of Otherisation of ethnic identities. Rather than paying heed to their voices, they are booked on malicious charges and pushed against the wall.

The politics of the centre have spectacularly failed the peripheries.

Only pro-people politics which is not divorced from the problems of the masses can sail the nation through perilous waters at this critical juncture. Commitment to ideological politics will mark an end to populist and elitist politics that has chained society for too long.

Such politics can only emerge from free, transparent polls.

There can be no escaping the need now for political leaders of all hues to sit around the table and agree on a set of measures to reclaim space for political forces and measures to revive the economy. Currently, the elected leaders’ role is no more than a puppet on a string, which is utter disregard for public opinion and tantamount to suppressing the ballot with gun.

In pursuit of power, the political forces should not budge an inch from political norms, and parties must also show a strong resolve to not welcome the evergreen political ‘lotas’ who are part of every government.

At the risk of being accused of mere daydreaming, one wishes we had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which could hold into account when a specific leader or an institution was at fault. But ensuring the immediate withdrawal of men in uniform to the barracks is Herculean task. More practically speaking, after such a prolonged involvement by the military in political affairs, even their remaining ‘neutral’ will be a huge respite for the foreseeable future.