Back to normal

In South Asia on 17. July 2011 at 00:43

Pakistani politics is back to its most characteristic appearance. Horse trading, corruption scandals, load shedding, popular rhetoric, death to America slogans, load shedding, mullah rallies on major transit points, sectarian violence, load shedding, target (and untargeted) killings, musical chair play on coalition partners and last but not least, load shedding.

This cycle goes on each tenth year in Pakistan as one dictator leaves the presidential palace to let the politicians take in charge. People, the poor awaam gets fooled each time to vote for local powerful politicians who change political allegiances faster than the year changes seasons. The promises of food, clothes and housing are chanted. Others blame foreign elements (usually the axis of USA/Israel/India) to be behind the desperate situation of unemployment, soaring inflation, record high national debt and even the stolen slippers of Karmu from Gujrat. Another group promises the solution for all problems, even power deficit on more than 60 per cent (5000MW in April this year) to be the implementation of Islamic law (the correct version of it off course).

These days the governmental Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) succeeded with including the former military backed PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-e-Azam) in to the coalition government. The trading deal was finalized after the Chaudhrys (leaders of the Q-league) bagged some minister portfolios, the ambassador to UN and the support of PPP in constituencies the Q already have majority on under the next general election. Not to forget to help Moonis Elahi, son of Parvez Elahi leader of Q-league in an ongoing corruption scandal. Along with existing coalition partner ANP (Awami National Party), BNP (Baluchistan National Party), PML-F (Pakistan Muslims League – Functional) and the on-off bandwagon partner MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) the government had a good chunk of support in the national assembly for the annual budget sessions. In recent weeks MQM once again leaved the government offices and joined the opposition headed by Nawaz Sharifs PML-N. Routine as always, once bitter enemies now best friends.

It is highly desirable that Pakistan is led by a unity government in this crucial time. More parties should join the governmental coalition. The nation needs consensus and a serious charter to get it out of its fiscal trouble (around 60 billion dollars in foreign debt) as well as the law and order situation. This applies to the main opposition party PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz) as well. The governmental party and its coalition partners should do its uppermost to include this major stakeholder into the governmental offices. Only by big parties can one exclude smaller more extremist parties like the Jamaat-e-Ulema Islam – Fazl (JUI-F).

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and current President Asif Ali Zardari

But in reality it is just a way to secure mandates in the 2013 general election. PML-N the main opposition party is waiting for this date to come so it can bag votes from the angry, hungry and naked public. They don’t even need to campaign, only point fingers at the government and earn an electoral victory. The result will be another musical chair, this time led by the younger Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif. In Karachi the former partners PPP and MQM are busy killing each other’s political workers along with the already ongoing sectarian strife which is dominating every urban area in the nation. These are the same news as back in the 90s. Pakistani politicians can sit together on top level, while their cadres kill each others at street level.

Behind the scenes the Army is running its shadow government. Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is sitting and pulling the strings. Each time the international community mentions Pakistani intelligences double roles in the war on terror, Kayani pulls some strings and Prime Minister Gillani tells the world how that is not true, adding the wishes to reconcile with the Taliban and possible a peace deal, forgetting the last half a dozen deals all of whom were breached by Taliban. Pakistan army is also undermining the civilian elected government from time to time in order to defame it and increase its own popularity. General Kayani’s official meeting with Generals Staff at GHQ in front of media where he criticized the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill was applauded by the opposition.

The 7, 5 billion dollar aid package over five years had certain conditions as investment in infrastructure in war torn areas. The military did not like the idea of being dictated, but the beggar cannot be the chooser. Now the US has decided to freeze some of this aid because of the diplomatic row between the two allies. The army although will not get affected, it will always be the first in line to check out its salaries before any other governmental employee can do so. Recently ISI chief Pasha again visited Washington while Commander ISAF and soon to be CIA director General David Petraeus met General Kayani in order to plan the post-Osama situation in Afghanistan and in Pakistani tribal areas. Thereby the army itself has kept its calm and even normalized the relations with the US, while the opposition and especially the religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami are busy blaming the democratic government for its war on terrorist networks in tribal areas. It is always easy to point fingers at the fragile democratic institution.

National interest is chanted each time the Army wants to justify their means and goals. “We could not sacrifice Pakistan’s dignity for prosperity. And the nation needs to decide what is good for the country” said the Army chief just days before Osama bin Laden was killed by American Navy SEALs. Who is this “we” and what is the point of having dignity if the broken masses cannot hope for a slight hint of prosperity? What is certain is that such rhetoric works and the middle classes in the urban areas of Pakistan justify each messy military involvement in civilian affairs.

And then you have the one-man parties and so-called tajziya nigaar (experts / analysts) who rely on conspiracy theories and popular rhetoric. Imran Khan Niazi, leader of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) is one such leader who is highly popular and a devoted welfare worker. There is no doubt that this man and his party has good policies on agenda. Yet majority of his supporters in Pakistan is not gathered from policies like crippling military power, reducing beurocrats, ensuring religious freedom or reforming the educational system. The majority of support comes from potential voters who buy anti-American rhetoric or the eternal fight against corruption. His mingling with the Mullahs and conspiracy loving individual is in the long term damaging for the society and for his own work. That is the major reason why this man, a highly capable potential future leader is shunned by serious political analytics Yet, a sure sign of spring is Imran Khan on TV using the same popular phrases against US as Syed Munawar Hasan of Jamaat-e-Islami, Hamid Gul of the dubious Ummah Tameer-e-Nau or Zaid Hamid the man who always chants Zionist-Conspiracy at each and every TV-debate he attends.

Mullahs are again preaching the need for an Islamic revolution. They look on the Arab spring as if it was a call for Mullahs in the presidential palaces. More interestingly, only in Pakistan are well educated nuclear scientists using religious rhetoric in order to keep up the highly costly nuclear project going. One retired nuclear engineer Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood said that Pakistani nuclear power plants can tolerate all kinds of natural disasters and were operated with state of the arts technology, even the tsunami which hit Fukushima reactors could be handled. This same engineer used to write during the 90s that one could tap djinns (ghosts) energy in order to reduce the energy deficit. Load shedding problem could be solved over night, and why should not the masses buy it? Highly capable scientists like Pervez Hoodbhoy who are critical of people like Mahmood are shunned and threatened. These same scientists forget or neglect to inform that Ukraine, Russia and Belarus still have a big chunk of their national budgets used on costs related to the devastating Chernobyl nuclear disaster. No lesson learned so far thus business as usual.

Not to forget Pakistan’s foreign policy. Recently, secretary of foreign affairs and soon to be Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that Pakistan will choose sides based on national interest, referring to the Arab spring and the popular democratic uprising in Middle East and Northern Africa. She is totally forgetting that her own employer is a democratically elected government and those protesters who are killed by brutal force also hunger for democracy. In addition, Pakistan fail to be in the front for human rights and stay silent on each arena it could earn some admiration from the world community. It sits silent when Gaddafi and Assad slaughter their citizens. It supports Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on its population and it is not in sight to recognize the newly independent South Sudan, a state which is recognized by several other noteworthy Muslim states! Always late, and keeps on being among the last ones to accept the reality.

How to end this cycle?

Pakistan needs to accept democracy as the final solution. The nation should not wait for an messiah, the problems are not one man alones tasks. Corruption will exist, but better to strengthen the democratic institution which will gradually be more transparent, than having a Commando and a budget behind closed doors. Adopt tolerance, reason and logic. Become watchdogs and take to the streets for subjects who really matter, like education, human rights, jobs and inflation.

Pakistan’s national interest lies in tax revenue, well funded education system and a increased resolve to fight terrorism and insurgency and most of all it lies in prosperity first while dignity adds up as a natural consequence. Army chief likes it or not, these should be the fundamental priorities of our nation, or we can forget its very existence in the close future.

10 percent of the national gross domestic production is gathered from tax revenue. Out of a population of 180 million, 3,2 million are registered to pay taxes. Out of these only 1,9 million manage to pay up for their dues. Not to forget the revenue which is lost in the process by Federal Board of Revenue. Ask any average citizen about paying taxes in order to get welfare in return and you will get excuses like corruption and jobbery to answer. There is a general mistrust in between the beurocrasy and the tax payers. This can only be repaired by political leader’s truthfulness in their speeches. As per now, each and every oppositional leader talks about corruption as if all the money in the national treasure went into Zardari’s pockets. The truth is that Pakistan has over 4 million beurocrats and all these people earn a salary from the government, which in turn is gathered from direct or indirect taxes or payments. The system works after all, although it needs to be more efficient and for that people needs to so their duty as well.

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