Politics of necessity | Pakistan Today

Politics of necessity

  • Anybody thinking about climate change?

Pakistan has had the misfortune of being created at the time when the world had just experienced World War II, having a series of dictatorships when the world was hyper-democratic and moving towards a leftist orientation in politics when globally identity politics is taking over. But of course that’s only part of the misfortune. The greatest thus far is the burden of climate change, the next democratically elected government would have to tackle.

This is a global movement that has policy makers in murky waters. The same murky waters in which ex-chief minister Shahbaz Sharif takes out his wellingtons each monsoon season, wears a hat and puts on a show. There’s a good laugh about it while the scorching Punjab sun dries up this excess water. But with recent flooding and dissolution of part of Mall Road, the show of long rubber boots won’t do much good. This is primarily because weeks leading to this year’s monsoon season were extremely dry and the water levels in the reservoirs had reached below dead levels. The erratic rainfall has come as a blessing, and highlighted insufficient policies by the successive governments in addressing the most fundamental concerns.

At a time when democracy is gaining ground, the politicians have more than few tough questions to answer. It’s about Sadiq and Ameen and everything in between. The politics of necessity in Pakistan question the fundamental: the provision of water for all.

It’s interesting how a country where once five major rivers flowed, along with various smaller ones, has reached to a point where the annual monsoon rainfall has offered the only respite. With dams having water below or close to dead levels, the political narrative is aligned to answer questions of bare necessity.

A more holistic approach needs to be developed in understanding how the gap in balance of payments can be bridged

With issues like water scarcity, matters pertaining to foreign policy and dis/armament can significantly take a back seat. It’s about providing for at the domestic level first, and then collectively moving to tackle problems of an international scope. Recent report by Deutsche Welle news has revealed that the impact of water scarcity might be so dire and far-reaching that this might be a bigger threat than ‘Islamist terrorism’.

With elections scheduled to be held later this month, the masses are and should be looking at candidates and political parties who can ensure long term sustainability of the people. Sloganeering and cheering for abstract promises won’t do. The survival of Pakistan, an agrarian economy, relies on the provision of sustainable water resources. Even if we are to diversify; it will come much later, and for water consumption at the domestic level, it is important that sound policies are enacted to ensure survival of the society.

The present man-made catastrophe in Karachi is an example of what is to follow if concrete steps aren’t taken. The next government has their job cut out for them and the campaigning political parties must address these issues if they want to appear as ‘competent’.

The fervour surrounding 2013 elections has died in 2018. This is primarily because five years ago for the first time in country’s history a democratic transition was taking place. The political campaigns and rallies were new to a generation which had been born under dictatorship. There was a special emphasis for bringing in the youth and the newly politicised minds were eager to be influenced. This time around, the situation is a little more complicated. Media has been under severe strains, the judicial system seems to be doing something right that’s keeping the elite and the powerful on their toes, and political lobbying seems harder than ever because the masses don’t seem too optimistic about the electoral process.

With media being in the hand of everyone, some very difficult questions are being asked. Democracy for the sake of it is no longer going to sit well with masses. We’ve successfully incorporated democracy and the modern globalisation systems have eliminated any chances for a military take-over, now concerns of a thirsty public need to be properly addressed.

When the recent urban flooding of Lahore is compared with previous weeks’ drought-like conditions, the first potent question should be directed towards why USD 21 billion worth of fresh water gets dumped in the sea each year? This can be followed by what can the political parties do, if they win a majority, in solving this water crisis and for the construction of Kalabagh Dam. Concerns related to health and education sector also have to be raised. A more holistic approach needs to be developed in understanding how the gap in balance of payments can be bridged if more water is stored.

These five years have been an eye-opener and have highlighted how primary our democracy is. In order for it to be considered along the more flourishing nations, Pakistan needs to at least have a polity of necessity – where political lobbying is based on the provision of basic necessities. For long we’ve been promised millions of jobs and free-flowing electricity; it’s about time questions are raised about the hows and whens. We have to take water scarcity as a yardstick to measure how our governments are doing because if the natural irrigation system can be messed with, there’s much that this nation is capable of.

Remshay Ahmed

Remshay Ahmed is a Lahore-based freelance journalist and a published author of Foreign Policy of Pakistan (2000-2016): A Game Theory Analysis. She can be reached at [email protected]

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