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October 30, 2017



Democracy on slippery slope?

Democracy is in danger notwithstanding Opposition leader, Syed Khursheed Shah’s optimistic views offsetting the perils with the conditionality of the longevity of the Parliament. The danger is ironically being further stoked by a band of politicians who are unabatedly engaged in a duel unto lamentable denouements. How pathetic is the frenzy that is wrought with predictable consequences of heart-breaking nature? People of Pakistan are terrified because they see no light at the end of the tunnel in the face of unbecoming conduct of the public figures in the political domain.

People’s anxiety keeps on multiplying as the politicians’ getting to each other's throat has been going on without respite to the utter disregard of the standard democratic ethos. The politics of ferocious bellowing of accusations and insults on one another has been continuing and sadly getting worse with every passing day. The prognoses of such politicking are never propitious to the political system as the snow-ball impact tends to shake its very foundations. The political history of this country is ample proof of such political downward spirals. Why the political leadership is oblivious of the vortex filled with such grotesque ramifications?

The politicians’ failure to anticipate the inevitable may be perceived as almost analogous to asking for trouble and they may get it to face it.

The aphorism, once bitten twice smitten may guide the political leadership to be over careful because it had been bitten many times in the past in the similar situations. Even then, if it sticks its neck out again then no one will save them from falling in the political abyss. These are difficult times and the sincere and capable leadership may stand up to turn the adversarial circumstances into an opportunity destined for collective redemption. Ironically, a section of the political leadership is caring less and has been following the narrative of negative party politics based on opponents losses are their gains.

The people are passing through the torture of uncertainty the country is embroiled in. Their frustration and trepidation are understandable emanating from the sea of confusion swaying across the country. They have been on the tenterhooks since the Panama Papers judgment unfolding uncertainty and chaos in many walks of national life. People’s apprehensions are not difficult to comprehend as they had nightmarish experiences of successive despotic rules during the past history when political crisis of the more or less same scale hit the country.

The scaremongering rhetoric of a few politicians deepens their well-known. Their hopes of promising future are dwindling fast because a section of politicians is possibly blind-folded and is unable to read writing on the wall. Their obsession to enter the corridor of power by hook or crook is limitless. They are prepared to use whatever means or support as cat paw without compunction. Their disregard to the legitimacy of the means is grotesquely infinite. They are seemingly playing the game of others hoping to get the major share of the pie. They are mistaken to the core because in the eventuality they may remain at the receiving end as the delivering end will be undoubtedly in the control of the movers and shakers.

The people are being flooded with the ideas -- like technocrat government, extension of caretaker government, postponement of general elections or some sort of national government dispensation -- only to create more confusion as a part of the pernicious plan to make the people to believe that democracy has touched the tethered end of the diminishing return. This is fraught with dangers because the marginalisation of the people has always reversed the process of national integration due to want of their ownership in such political engineering. This model has failed miserably long ago throughout the world in general and in Pakistan in particular. The outcome of the same experience cannot be favourable this time either because dictatorship is bound to get worse under all circumstances.

There is unanimity of views that each despotic rule in Pakistan had proved bigger disaster than the earlier one. General Ayub Khan’s abrogation of the 1956 constitution eroded the basis of national unity between East Pakistan and West Pakistan paving the way for the emergence of Bangladesh. General Ziaul Haq martial law deprived the people of their most popular leader, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and also stoked bigotry, intolerance and sectarianism in the country that had been strangulating the national life in various forms and manifestations since then. The Afghan war was also his legacy filled with drug and Kalashnikov evils also. General Musharraf brought the Afghan war inside Pakistan and the nation had been paying the heavy price for his succumbing to one telephone call made by State Department official Richard Armitage threatening, ‘you are either with us or against us’. The incumbent representative government did not cave in to US misplaced mantra, ‘to do more’ asserting that the failures of the US Generals must not be attributed to Pakistan. Only a democratic government could have the audacity to stand its ground in face of superpower’s arrogance whereas despots were invariably found ready to assume the role of as a revile retainer of US interests at the expense of national interests.

Now, the question is as how politicians could possibly reverse the possible process of political apocalypse that may not be far away if the confrontational politics continues at the current pace. In the first place, they may well unite to declare their unequivocal support for democracy in a joint session of Parliament with the caveat to the anti-democratic forces dare not to fiddle with the political system. The possibility of that grand unity seems elusive because some of them are understandably looking forward to grab power through the connivance of such forces. But, the majority of the political parties’ voice in support of the system may be enough to take the wind out of their sails forcing the anti-democratic forces to back off from the tainted pursuit considering it as a high cost and the lowest yield proposition.

Democracy is so vital for the survival, progress and prosperity of the nation because Pakistan movement is the zenith of the success of the democratic movement. Whenever this linkage was severed by the dictators in the past history the nation suffered badly. Democracy and Pakistan are inseparable. It may be kept in mind that even the slightest risk to democracy is ill-affordable because the question of country’s future and the federation is at stake. The robust leadership with statesmanship overtones may establish contacts with other political forces pro-actively to bring them on board so far as the rescuing of democracy is concerned.

PPP is ideally positioned to assume that role being the heir and custodian of the legacy of two great Bhuttos who had nurtured democracy with their blood. Their blood is presumably calling upon the leadership of the party again to play the role worthy of the legacy. The party played decisive role to defeat the juggernaut of sit-in politics because it was mobilised to hurt the continuity of the political system. The situation today is comparatively dangerous for democracy and therefore it is incumbent on the party to take the lead and play historic role again. PPP and its leadership must not let the sun down on democracy in Pakistan come what may. This they owe to founding fathers of the PPP.

Tail piece: Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s visit to PIMS hospital, Islamabad, to inquire after the health of Ahmed Noorani, senior reporter of The News, who was shamefully attacked by rod wielding mysterious assailants inflicting head injury was also an expression of solidarity of the PPP with the journalist community with the resolve to protect freedom of press at all cost as one of the important pillars of democracy. PPP lawmakers are expected to take up the matter of grave concern at the parliamentary forum urging the government to spare no effort in bringing the culprits in the dock for awarding criminals detrimental punishment. The perpetrators and their patrons must be exposed and punished because such attacks have become normal than exception, making the working environment for journalists in Pakistan one of the most dangerous in the world. The culture of impunity must be addressed holistically to stop the occurrence of such abhorrent incidents against journalists.