We are going through difficult times. It is only through our collective wisdom that we can mitigate the enormity of the crises facing us. Traditionally, and in the historical perspective, whenever we have allowed emotions or egos to have the better of us, the country has suffered.
Whether it is Ayub’s removal in 1968,Bhuttos removal in 1977 ,removal of Junejo Govt. by Zia,removal of Benazir by Farooq Leghari ,removal of Nawaz Sharif/Sajjad All Shah by Ghulam Ishaq or the current ongoing process which has yet to see its culmination, the reality is that destabilizing movements have never brought positive results.
What did not exist before and is now appearing as a huge monster is extremism and sectarianism, the fangs of which have killed so many through suicide and militant attacks. It has thus become increasingly more important that the country should remain internally stable.
Extremism is the worst enemy of the country. Unfortunately, the only solution to that are democracy, economic empowerment and education. China is one of the few examples where one party system has flourished but that is because economic empowerment has been given priority in China. The results have appeared, there after several decades.
In the context of Pakistan and its interrupted path to democracy, frequent references are made to Burma or Zimbabwe, the inference being to military rule. Neither military rule nor one party system is the solution to our problems. We have our own history. What will work is our own indigenous solution to our political requirements based on the ground realities existing at the time and need for pragmatism so as to have stable transition and harmony amongst the various stakeholders. Are we heading in that direction? The answer is NO.
Yes, if we let corrupt and shallow politicians come into power repeatedly, followed by the Military, there is a danger of landing in that direction.
Comparisons of Pakistan’s problems are made with India. Comparing democracy in Pakistan with India’s democracy is not realistic. We are not India .We cannot be India with Militants/extremists, Afghanistan, Waziristan and Kashmir breathing down our necks. Furthermore our political evolution has its own dynamics starting from the day Pakistan became independent. One need not go into that. There has to be an end to this useless comparison of tomatoes and apples.
Many in this country, because of their disillusionment with the political parties and desire for economic progress feel strongly that democracy strictly on the pattern of that practiced in the Western world may take some more time to mature. In the meantime others are willing to promote a Quasi Democracy if economic progress and stability is guaranteed. China’s, one party system, is quoted as an example where continuity and stability have ensured consistent economic progress. Stability is therefore a prerequisite.
In hindsight it seems that all those judges who gave judgments for the sake of maintaining stability and continuity on the basis of the much talked about Doctrine of Necessity acted so that the Country does not plunge into anarchy. Decisions and discussions on some of the recent events affecting national security like Lal Masjid ,Hudood debate and Waziristan could have been handled more carefully by the media and the judiciary.
An independent Judiciary need not be at the cost of disharmony amongst the pillars of the State. As it is, confidence in the Courts is more pronounced amongst the elite groups who are involved in power play and the lawyer’s community. People who have been harshly treated because of delayed justice and non finalization of cases in a reasonable time are very disillusioned and thus do not want to take a high profile position in the lawyers vs. executive battle. Some feel that the courts have overused the freedom acquired by them or at any rate gave an impression to the executive and the legislature that absolute power corrupts .How is that different from an autocratic rule.
The role of the media in nation building is important. Media is there to promote debates and airing different points of view but none of it should be at the cost of national harmony, unity and peace. The media may not like to believe this, the fact is that just too much politicization of issues was taking place and the nation was getting highly polarized. What has been achieved through this approach is something which is self evident. The media needs to do some soul searching.
It is somewhat disconcerting to hear Politicians and newspapers exhorting people to come to the streets” .That causes loss of economic activity. How much the poor suffer because of these strikes is unfathomed, but yet these leaders are determined to create chaos. The sole objective is to change Musharraf through violent means, just, when this country needs peace and tranquility, not selfish power plays. Why can’t a change be brought about in more democratic ways? Quite like other democratic countries whose example we quote but often forget that most of the truly democratic countries of the world do not resort to violent politics as frequently as we do. They also do not have family hold on politics.
Extremely arrogant and autocratic minds have been the hallmark of our democratic leaders. We see the same faces and the same methods with the same lackeys to step on the most favorite bandwagon. This is repeated year after year and election after election. Hence, the reluctance of people to suffer because of the leaders who forget their agendas and promises.
Democracy is supposed to provide an even playing field which presently does not exist for all classes and segments of the society. Can the civil society or the middle class participate in elections? We have been giving this argument about democracy for decades but we remain where we are. Interruptions in the political system are made the scapegoats for bad governance but no effort is made for a self analysis.
Democracy has to come. It cannot be stopped .But it requires patience and demonstration of will. Civilized ways of bringing about a change has to be the goal.
Those in favor of a smooth transition were convinced that we were heading towards elections. President Musharraf could have been democratically changed by the opposition of the time, after the new assemblies had come into power.
Destabilizing the country has always been counter productive. We tried to do this in Ayub’s time and what was the result? We have been doing it repeatedly.
We must remember that Benazir was dismissed by Farooq Leghari not by a military man.Nawaz was dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq.He was not a military man either. That is a reflection of lack of political maturity and to put the blame entirely on the Army will not be helpful.
Before the promulgation of emergency the role of the Army was being progressively reduced and except for Gen Musharraf, the Army was mostly not involved in day to day affairs. This notwithstanding, abuses were being hurled against the Army. We forgot that a civilian set up was also in place with PM ,Shoukat Aziz and the horde of politicians who were previously either with Benazir or Nawaz.
We had elections. An assembly came in to power and the legislators were there for five years. Like it or not that is the elected lot. It may be pertinent to mention that some politicians who are striving to mobilize street power barely have support .In any case they should test their strength through the electorate. .
What should be done now? There is a need to work for free and transparent elections and more than that, all parties and candidates must participate so as to increase their genuine political influence.
Why castigate Musharraf supporters who consider him to be more level headed than others on the political scene? Isn’t it true? Those who do not agree with this have the right to disagree but they must route it through genuine democratic channels.
Even the detractors, except the diehards admit that the country has definitely inched forward, be it on the foreign policy and the economic front. That is important. Progress and prosperity is relative to history, the environment, the surroundings and time.
As for the lawyers and the judges, their efforts are not doubted but they are part of the milieu. Not any different from anyone else in the society. Some lawyers adopted fascist means against fellow lawyers. How can that be defended. A correction towards civilized behavior is required. Reasons for emergency cited, releasing the Lal Masjid terrorists or the missing persons being given more importance than a lot of other issues affecting the ordinary litigants. No State can run if the Judiciary is, raising high profile issues that impact the pillars of the State only.Nawaz Sharif was similarly destabilized.
The poor are lacking the motivation to join the struggle or come to the streets because they know that their problems will continue to be ignored. They are sick of self glorifying movements and hypocrisy. They are aware that the elite are largely insulated from the kind of injustices meted out to the ordinary people whose problems remain unresolved in the Courts for decades. The ordinary person is suffering because of highly delayed justice. There are countless examples.
Keeping our history in perspective, we should have gone for a smooth transition. President Musharraf could have been removed politically and not in the manner being attempted. This approach is not a win- win situation. It was bound to bring a backlash.
How do we justify Nawaz/Imran and Benazir ganging up against Pesident Musharraf. Later there was the talk of a deal. This was a time when all stakeholders should have got together to bring about an orderly transition rather than through agitation politics. Has that ever worked for the better? What were they trying in the London moot. Nawaz was ready to apologize for instituting cases against Benazir,if she cooperates against Musharraf. They wanted also a one point condemnation of specific political parties. Why? Is that a democratic strategy?
They disagree when Musharraf offers the same package to Benazir, ostensibly for reconciliation. Corruption suddenly becomes relevant. Why the contradictions.
Now, the moment they see the reconciliation efforts not working, she is being invited back to their fold. Corruption charges disappear once again. What do we expect from this directionless politics?
More anarchy is just what we do not want. Can we afford that?
These questions beg answers but certainly the whole thing is not healthy for the promotion of principled politics and democracy. A rethinking for the sake of peace, harmony and stability in our beloved country is required by all stakeholders.