Is a national government the only way forward? | Pakistan Today

Is a national government the only way forward?

Democracy needs sacrifice and no scalp fits the guillotine better than the prime minister’s

 

More than a week into agitation politics, more than a week of living in a town under siege, more than a week into witnessing utter bankruptcy of credible initiatives coming from the political quarters who never tire of paying hollow homage to democracy and constitutionalism, more than a week of the government quarters silently blaming the military for the burgeoning crisis, more than a week into unmistakable muck that we have landed ourselves in, more than a week of witnessing utter madness all around, the situation apparently remains well beyond the capacity of the ruling political hierarchy to manage.

The last week has been witness to the Sharifs locked up in a never-ending huddle with the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) seeking assurances that the government would not be toppled and that the military should extend help in sorting the mess out. Reportedly, the army chief has refused to be dragged into the ongoing political conflict and has publicly advised the government to demonstrate seriousness and initiate “meaningful dialogue with the opposition.

“One is reminded of Oriana Fallaci’s insightful words in describing the despotic psyche of the rulers of Asia (read ZA Bhutto) in her book “Interview with History”. She wrote that while Bhutto thought that he was the state onto himself, leaders of the democratic world believed that the state was above the self and it would survive whether or not they are around. Fallaci went on to say: “Power is a more overwhelming passion than love. And those who love power have strong stomachs, and even stronger noses. They don’t mind bad odours”. She described the tragedy of Pakistan as “…the tragedy of a country where freedom, democracy, and political opposition have never had any meaning and have always been replaced by hunger, injustice and humiliation”.

That ‘meaningful dialogue’ between the government and PTI and PAT committees started about a million years too late and its first round has since evaporated into thin air amidst cries of foul play by the protesting parties. There were reports that the government was planning an action to clear the Red Zone of the presence of protestors. The containers had also reappeared on the key arteries leading into the capital and those joining it with Rawalpindi, effectively blocking the flow of the protestors’ supporters. The IG of the city was also sent packing summarily amidst reports that he had refused to obey verbal orders of the government and had insisted on written instructions. The cumulative effect made the PTI and PAT leaderships believe that the government was not sincere in engaging them in talks and was, instead, clandestinely planning their ouster from the city. So, the talks drama was replaced with renewed harangue of the impending solution of the ongoing crisis vide the “raising of the umpire’s finger” by the weekend.

The national assembly in its session on the morning of August 21 passed another resolution reiterating its confidence in the democratic process and rejecting the demands of the protestors for the ouster of the prime minister: “The House rejects the unconstitutional demands from certain political parties for the resignation of the prime minister and the dissolution of the national assembly”. The resolution went further to “deplore the extremely derogatory, defamatory and inflammatory language used by leaders and members of these parties in their speeches”. The resolution was passed when at least two entrances to the parliament remained under siege of the protestors and the facial expressions of most of the participants reflected their disbelief in its contents.

Both the protesting parties have kept the demand of the resignation of the prime minister as the absolute pre-requisite for reaching any negotiated settlement of the ongoing crisis. This is so because the PTI and PAT hold his person central to the electoral fraud that was perpetrated last May and his continued presence at the helm of affairs is construed as a monumental stumbling block in the way of the prospect of any genuine enquiry into the massive rigging allegations and the collusion among some state institutions and functionaries to facilitate the irregularities. The lack of faith is further perpetuated because of the failure of the government to allow the registration of an FIR by those who were affected in the June 17 massacre in Lahore against people including the prime minister and the chief minister, Punjab in spite of the injunction of a local court to do so. The judgement has since been petitioned in the Punjab High Court by one of the sitting federal ministers. The contents of the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), boycotted by the PAT, have also not been made public so far.

Nawaz Sharif talks of the irreversibility of the democratic process, yet the government appears to be ceding ground to the military on a daily basis which is now also in charge of defending the ‘symbols of the state’ on the Constitution Avenue. Simultaneously, the military has refused to be drawn into a battle that it considers the responsibility of the politicians to resolve. The Supreme Court has also refused to become a party in the ongoing crisis by expressing its inability to issue an injunction asking the protestors to leave the capital.

The obduracy of the prime minister and his inability to look beyond his personal survival are turning out to be the major blocks in facilitating and promoting the process of negotiations. This is gravely symptomatic of the traditional thinking within the ruling echelons that the survival of democracy is directly linked with their personal survival.

One is reminded of Oriana Fallaci’s insightful words in describing the despotic psyche of the rulers of Asia (read ZA Bhutto) in her book “Interview with History”. She wrote that while Bhutto thought that he was the state onto himself, leaders of the democratic world believed that the state was above the self and it would survive whether or not they are around. Fallaci went on to say: “Power is a more overwhelming passion than love. And those who love power have strong stomachs, and even stronger noses. They don’t mind bad odours”. She described the tragedy of Pakistan as “…the tragedy of a country where freedom, democracy, and political opposition have never had any meaning and have always been replaced by hunger, injustice and humiliation”.

Yet our leaders proclaim their indispensability to the survival of the system: “My resignation will create crisis in the country”, said Nawaz while talking to a select group of journalists whom he had invited for an interaction. What crisis if one may ask? On the contrary, with the massive electoral fraud almost a certainty now, his resignation can pave the way towards a possible reconciliation with the protesting parties and the continuation of the democratic process in the country. His refusal to do so may aggravate the crisis further, thus necessitating some corrective intervention.

Nawaz Sharif talks of the irreversibility of the democratic process, yet the government appears to be ceding ground to the military on a daily basis which is now also in charge of defending the ‘symbols of the state’ on the Constitution Avenue. Simultaneously, the military has refused to be drawn into a battle that it considers the responsibility of the politicians to resolve. The Supreme Court has also refused to become a party in the ongoing crisis by expressing its inability to issue an injunction asking the protestors to leave the capital.

The parliament’s emotional espousal of democracy and constitutionalism also appears to be an instrument that they are using to defend their degeneration into what they have actually become: a despicable bunch of corrupt individuals marked by excessively jaundiced intelligence and myopic agendas that always appear to lead to further aggrandisement of their personal empires. Even the relatively cleaner individuals, nearing the end of their political careers, appear to have been lured by temptations offered by that consummate manipulator of the art of buying: Nawaz Sharif. The ball that he had set rolling way back in the early eighties has now gone the distance many times over inducing the entire national habitation to carrying the price of their souls on their palms. It is a pity that we raise the mantle of democracy only to hide the baser instincts.

Where to from here? The battle lines are clearly drawn. The protestors want the prime minister’s scalp and that of his brother who are repeatedly trying to hide behind the cover of the system and the constitution. The protestors demand a thorough vote audit, deciphering the culprits who colluded in the act of perpetrating the massive fraud and punishing them under article 6 of the constitution, but the prime minister says that this may not be possible. He, however, is agreeable to discussing the other relatively benign demands pertaining to the reconstitution of the election commission and some limited enquiry into the alleged electoral fraud. Will this be sufficient for the ultimate resolution of the crisis that we are all hoping for?

On the face of it, no! On its own, no!

There have been some other rather invisible developments. The proclamations regarding the absolute necessity of trying General Musharraf for treason have long since disappeared. These have, instead, been replaced by pleas to move him wherever the appropriate quarters may desire. According to unconfirmed reports, he may already have visited his ailing mother in Dubai. The government also appears willing to cede further ground to the military on demand that contrasts sharply with its jingoistic and belligerent approach towards the institution at the beginning of its current stint in power. Has there been a genuine mellowing down of temperament that is rooted in seeking revenge for the 1999 dismissal of the Nawaz Sharif government, or is this only a cover to get the needful reprieve and then move on back to the original trail that dwells in the domain of unmitigated venom and animosity?

The parliament’s emotional espousal of democracy and constitutionalism also appears to be an instrument that they are using to defend their degeneration into what they have actually become: a despicable bunch of corrupt individuals marked by excessively jaundiced intelligence and myopic agendas that always appear to lead to further aggrandisement of their personal empires. Even the relatively cleaner individuals, nearing the end of their political careers, appear to have been lured by temptations offered by that consummate manipulator of the art of buying: Nawaz Sharif. The ball that he had set rolling way back in the early eighties has now gone the distance many times over inducing the entire national habitation to carrying the price of their souls on their palms. It is a pity that we raise the mantle of democracy only to hide the baser instincts.

So, on the one hand, we have a so-called democratic system that is corrupt to the core which is protected by a bunch of individuals who have become despicable instruments for its continued degeneration and, on the other hand, we have a handful of protestors who, albeit fighting for some right causes, also appear surrounded by individuals and discards who have been fed on the corruption of a decrepit system and some of whom may actually have been the original sinners serving profitable terms with dictators and ‘democrats’ alike. If given a chance, what possible good can they do to the country and how can they contribute to help the gradual evolution of a transparent and people-friendly polity that would be free of the prospect of being infected by the hereditary ailments that Pakistan has so painfully endured through decades?

Democracy demands a sacrifice and no scalp fits the guillotine better than the prime minister’s. With his departure, most of the grave ills that have plagued the political environment in the country, and of which he has been the sole architect, are also likely to disappear. But, with him surviving the ongoing onslaught, these symptoms of decay are likely to take a firm hold of the democratic system and make it totally insular to any prospect of improvement in the foreseeable future.

Looking at the fast-moving events, one thing emerges rather clearly: there is no serious prospect of the so-called negotiations leading to a resolution of the issues that are at hand. The stated positions of the PTI and PAT apparently lack the flexibility that usually comes with efforts to strike a bargain with the opposing camp. These positions, instead, reflect an approach that could prove to be the undoing of the traditionally corrupt political system that has brought many a despot to the fore wearing the deceptive garb of ‘democracy’ and ‘constitutionalism’. This may be one good that would likely emerge from the embers of the protests once these are over.

Let’s look at some irrefutable realities. The system that we have is not geared to transparency and the rule of law. It needs radical amendments to make it more prone to usher in an era of genuine democracy and constitutionalism. Such changes would not be promoted and patronised by those mafias that have benefited by exploiting its largesse. So, someone from outside the strict constitutional domain will have to undertake the onerous task. May be this could come through an interim, a national government comprising clean and credible people, that is inducted to pave the way for holding fair and transparent elections in the country and, in the absence of any accountability system, also catch the corrupt and the guilty.

Democracy demands a sacrifice and no scalp fits the guillotine better than the prime minister’s. With his departure, most of the grave ills that have plagued the political environment in the country, and of which he has been the sole architect, are also likely to disappear. But, with him surviving the ongoing onslaught, these symptoms of decay are likely to take a firm hold of the democratic system and make it totally insular to any prospect of improvement in the foreseeable future.

The choice before the people is clear. They have to choose between a continuation of the morbid system in its present shape, under the incumbent mafias, or a shift to a higher level of transparency and accountability that would ultimately lead to the induction of a credible leadership in the country. The system demands drastic cleansing and Nawaz Sharif, being the physical manifestation of the putridity of the existent arrangement, is the one who needs to go to raise the prospect of a future that Pakistan and its people deserve.

The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.



17 Comments

  1. Pmahmud said:

    Raoof, you are hunting for scalps, sorry there are no red Indians around. Your are thinking that berger babies are only ones qualified to rule Pakistan. If a fight breaks out then, you and burger babies would be the ones running to london for refuge.

  2. Pmahmud said:

    Who is not corrupt, Dictator Mush, or his NRO spawned Zardari or another elected PM Nawaz. Do you know when last population census was held? Do you think that national ID cards and voter list are all correct. There is long list to improve things. Spewing poison is not going to improve things.

  3. Anwaar Bugvi said:

    Indeed very relevant,pertinent and balanced analysis. It is now or never if future of country is to be reshaped. Free and fair election is the first right step for selection of right leadership. This is a big step towards reducing the influence of feudal lords, brotheries,mullaism and other negative forces. The whole system is corrupt and is serving only few who does not need any change. You name and will find like PPP,PMLN,PMLZ,PMLF,JUIF,JUIS, JUP,ANP, PQWP,Achakzai, Dr Malik etc. Without fair election no democracy or welfare of people is possible. Game of musical chairs, family rule and exploitation will continue.

  4. Bibigul said:

    Apart from trying to get rid of a corrupt system, the good thing that has emerged is the involvement of the educated middle into mainstream politics. They have taken ownership of an unsatisfactory system of governance ( or undoing a wrong) both PTI and PAT, the young people who are aware, educated, have the energy and need a cause to fight for. Those who are part of both the marches, will always be the ones, who stood up for what they believed in, while some who are beneficiaries of the present setup will fight tooth and nail to oppose it. Thought provoking article.

  5. Pmahmud said:

    Imran is the leader of upper middle class living in DHA and cant areas. What hurts these people most is lawlessness in the country. MQM and PPP have contributed most to this trend. Now here comes Imran who is adding to this lawlessness, His supporters will rue the day when actual ground reality turns to anarchy.

  6. jamshed kharian-pak said:

    Islamic Republic Of Pakistan is the world's 1st country where more then 50-percent Babies Childrens have no access to Schools, More then 50-percent canot afford two-time food (please check Google) or Islamic Sources OIC etc, pakistanis with 200-two hundrd millions population lack minimum water, no health care, no seawage systems, no schools, so more then 70-percent of pakistanis are in extrem poorety, no railways, pia air service out of service, foreign english language is imposed on us Muslim pakistan who read our sacred Book Holy Quran in Arabic our nationl language URUD is put on backwards, englis elits are still thinking they can goven like Samoza of Nicaragua Shah of Iran or Hosni Moubarak of Egypte enough is enough, Fight must go till Victory of Our Local Islamic Leaders in Pakistan

  7. jamshed kharian-pak said:

    Raoof Hasan Bhai Sahib thankyou for your Honesty long live Islamic Republic Of Pakistan with respect. jamshed

  8. Mithidada said:

    And let's chuck the constitution and the law into the bin? Brilliant. How can anyone hope for democracy in Pakistan when even so-called educated people do not have a clue what it means.

  9. Sajid said:

    Very balanced and honest analysis, Nawaz the don should resign for the sake of country but only if such selfish and corrupt people knew the meaning of the word sacrifice.

  10. ishrat salim said:

    One thing that has emerged from these rallies are the participation of women folks who constitutes 51 % of our population….most of these women folks may be from affluent class who has no monetary problems, their children studies in the very best, fed good food, medically covered through best medical institutions in & out of the country etc; , however, they have made it very clear during the protest sit-ins that they are fighting for the survival of the system to provide best for their poor people who have nothing….such message will certainly bode well with those poor people who thought that they have no support. These poor people will soon get this message & will become part of the change that is expected….

  11. Abdul Qudus said:

    I see the good intentions behind this & some other analyses. What I do not see a viable solution. Pakistanis keep on falling back into the same hole each time they come out. I do not have any doubt in the honesty of IK. Unfortunately he has taken few wrong steps. He keeps on miscalculating his strength against a rotten system. For a complete overhaul, Pakistan definitely needs a revolution. It is not going to happen any time soon. Here is the reason, Pakistan is there in the name only. Otherwise, if you look at the results of the last election out come, then one can see there is nothing unifying left. Each province has a different political party governing it. Punjab may be the largest & the most powerful province of Pakistan, but it can not keep other provinces under its control forever. Corrupt & gutless politicians have been sent to rule the country time & again. Unless there is a bloody revolution in Pakistan(it will take innocent lives too) by some strong dictator nothing will change. Franco, Stalin, Mao may not be the best examples, but Pakistan does need an iron fist. Ayub, Yahya, Zia & Musharraf were like amateur players.

  12. Abdul Hakim said:

    Well said Raoof Sahib atlast the clearing of the scum is getting closer and a cleaner healthier Pakistan is now visible on the horison Inshallah

  13. sagheer hussein said:

    GOOD ANALYSIS.HOWEVER,CANNOT EDITOR PUT SOME RESTRAINTS ON THE LENGTH OF ARTICLES TO MAXIMUM OF 60 LINES.

  14. Czeeshan Ali said:

    Hardly any mention of the military containment policy of political and civil institutions that has created this mess in the first place. The fact that military is asserting itself so that those who dream of standing up to them think twice before harboring any such thought. "On the contrary, with the massive electoral fraud almost a certainty now"..this statement is at best conjecture and is exaggerated to the extent that it discredits the legitimacy of the article itself!

  15. Nowsherwan said:

    Excellent article!! No wonder the supporters of corruption and the beneficiaries of status quo are bawling over Raoof's analysis which is very close to reality.The country is no more a private property of the venal king Nawaz and his sycophant courtiers. People have come out in large numbers against this kleptocracy and some people deserve applaud for having the chutzpah to defend this rotten set up.

  16. maira said:

    You can not have a government that only believes in the rights or the wealthy. There has to be understanding of the power of Pakistanis as a whole. Social class has nothing to do with how well a child who should have access to education would do for the future of the nation. Without basic education access and laws that help only the fortunate it will remain the same.

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