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 POLITICS IN PAKISTAN

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MAJOR(R)KHALID NASR
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Number of posts : 41
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PostSubject: POLITICS IN PAKISTAN   Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:46 am

Tuesday, 10-30-07






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Poor politics
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Poor politics





By M.B. Naqvi









Conditions today are abnormal; there is much confusion that is being confounded daily by the cacophonous stances of various politicians. Ordinary citizens want to be sure of where to go or which party to support. Indeed, the citizen has to choose his own party and politicians have to show what needs to be done first, second and third.





The country has been ruled by General Pervez Musharraf for eight long years. His personal intentions were perhaps good. But his achievements have to be seen in today’s conditions. Its not a pretty picture. Several wars are going on in the country and people are as miserable economically as they are confused. All agree a change is called for. The idea of Musharraf ruling for another five years is not welcome. But what should replace his personalized rule and how is the question.





Here two tendencies are noticeable: one, there were many Pakistanis who were thrilled and inspired by lawyers’ movement last March. As it progressed, people’s thoughts veered to the view that perhaps the Supreme Court will now deliver us all. That this was unrealistic was clear to many commentators who did not fail to point out that effecting a basic political change is not the function of courts. It is for the people to change the country’s political map by concerted political action. It was for parties to mobilize the people alongside lawyers’ movement. Parties failed to do so. They made favourable-sounding statements; some leaders did show solidarity with the lawyers but without mobilizing the people or to start a countrywide movement to support their goals with which most parties say they agree.





After all who disagrees with rule of law, supremacy of the Constitution, independence of judiciary, separation of powers and enforcing of human rights for all. And yet no political party put its weight behind the lawyers’ movement. The movement did technically succeed in reinstating the Chief Justice of Pakistan. But that was a technical victory. The rest of the fight for the ideals remains to be fought – by citizens themselves.





The second tendency is one of dejection at some of the remarks that Supreme Court judges are making in the Musharraf’s eligibility case. The judges perhaps are doing good by forewarning the people that they are not in the business of changing regimes. They are there to uphold the political system as it is. One of the judges is said to have observed that he is not ashamed of having the oath under the PCO. Which is another way of saying that he is a pillar of the system, with Musharraf at is head. Other remarks emphasized they are not there to derail the system; their job is to preserve it and make it work as smoothly as possible, making sure that no one exceeds its constitutional mandate. This is of course true: judiciary is not an agent of change; it is there to preserve things as they are. Changing things is the business of people who want the change.





This has naturally intensified the confusion largely because the politicians are engaged in promoting their partisan interests within the ambit of Musharraf regime. Winning elections and forming government is the immediate aim of PPP, MMA (insofar as it remains united), PML (N) and of course PML (Q). Other parties too want their shares in their provinces. They felt no need to move out of their shells during the lawyers’ movement because most of them thought that military is sure to remain the Suzerain of Pakistan and this is the natural order of things: all anyone can do is to find what one can get out of the state’s patronage or how to share the government as it exists.





Even the nationalist parties like the ANP, PMAP and others are, at bottom, interested in the seats they can get in the forthcoming elections – basically in their own provinces. Nobody believes that the elections can be free and fair the way they were in 1970. Everyone believes that the regime cannot but try to doctor the whole process, particularly the results. That’s where we are.





What needs to be done is to be sure as to what needs to be done. There are three or four major issues. They dog the steps of every party, politician and thinking citizen. There is Islam: does it prescribe the Islamic State or Khilifat that many militant groups want to set up in competition with one another or a genuine democracy – plural, tolerant and free. What is to be the aim? Then, the old and persistent Nationalities Question demands acceptance. Regional nationalists in NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh demand not merely greater autonomy for provincial governments but to make them the owners of the natural resources in the province.





The central governments to-date have evaded, sidetracked, hoodwinked or opposed the demand. The Centre has depended on the ambiguous and irrelevant slogan of Muslim brotherhood; all Muslims are one. The country came to grief in 1971 precisely on this question. The issue lingers on. None is prepared to take a clear-cut decision. All manner of subsequent political problems over distribution of Indus waters, respective financial shares and of course the share in decision-making. Each citizen has to make up his mind on the issue and choose a party that will do what he wants.





The third question is the persistent economic underdevelopment of the people’s majority. Majority is poverty-stricken in various degrees. Some 40 per cent or a little more are dirt poor. International organizations define poverty as income of less than two dollars a day. On that criterion over 70 per cent of Pakistanis are poor. Then, there is the widespread unemployment, including a substantial chunk of structural or permanent unemployment, about which no government had any ideas; indeed the problem was never discussed thoroughly. There are uncounted destitute old men and widows with no one to support them. Should not parties have a policy regarding them? But that policy has to be rational and it should at least look possible to economists. That it would involve wholesale change of priorities is obvious. This issue of poverty should or should not be the criterion on which citizens judge parties?





Finally, there is the basic problem of finding a proper role for the military. Most citizens believe that military has no place in the political life; a standing Army is required for defending geographical frontiers. As it happens, Pakistan is not threatened by any outside power, including India (on condition that Pakistan does not foment any Jihad there). China is our friend. We are the most allied ally of the US, though many military types are wondering whether the current trends in American political thought are friendly. It may become inimical and very seriously.





The point is the military in Pakistan has arrogated to itself the job of controlling the political life and ruling it in its own corporate interest, trying to benefit its members including the retired gentry. What do we do about it? There is a theoretical consensus; perhaps even Musharraf will agree that military ought not to run Pakistan. But factually it is doing so and is preventing the people of Pakistan from coming into their own.





Finally, there is the question of which party would liberate Pakistanis from the serfdom to the military-led coalition of economic elite groups. The elites, of course, do not want any change. But over 70 per cent of population needs it. Isn’t it the first priority? Which mainstream party is credibly working for it? Except for PML (N), all want to strengthen the Musharraf regime. Shouldn’t Pakistan have a new party that agrees to solve major problems?







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