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May 3, 2019

The age of ineptness

Opinion

May 3, 2019

Just as the era of Reiwa begins in Japan this year with the ascension to throne of the new emperor, Pakistan is in the throes of an era of ineptitude not seen before. Young, smiling, beautiful children enter a hospital for a minor ailment and soon find death at the hands of those meant to treat them because someone injects a dose of a chemical in quantities which would make every heart to cease or a deliberate infusion of a deadly AIDS virus to extract revenge from society because of one’s own predicament. Turns out quacks are having a field day, despite there being health ministries and health commissions to interdict such malpractices.

There may not be any regulations to certify, authorize and periodically check the quality of service being provided by these merchants of death, though there are people hired and paid out of government funds to ensure exactly that but who close their eyes to the rampant malpractices in return for significant remuneration. This not in any remote corner but in what we would describe as metropolises, of which both Murad Ali Shah, our Stanford-trained chief minister of Sindh, and the Oxford-returned Bilawal Bhutto are directly responsible. So the Nishwas, Sabas and Ahsans of this unfortunate society will continue to bear the wages of a wholly corrupt system.

What you have instead is a bright, promising, young Bilawal surrounded by the ordinariness that gets to be defined as politics. His alma mater at Oxford would have surely informed him otherwise. His current obsession is to somehow win a reprieve for his much maligned dad who has frequently been found to be on the wrong side of probity when in positions of power and influence. Suddenly a promising Bilawal appears more a captive of the maleficent in familial and tribal politics. That has begun to impact his own image even as he struggles to chart his own independent path in country’s politics.

The road ahead isn’t too pretty for him as he struggles to balance the needs of a highly polarized and ingratiating political purpose to the larger calling that he associates with BB and ZAB. In fending for the father he is presently between a rock and a hard place, politically. How soon and how effectively he can extricate himself will determine the kind of politics he may either sustain or help engender in the largely intellectually barren landscape of Pakistani politics. Sadly, for the moment he is losing both space and precious time.

What else may have he wished for? The opposition led by the Sharif brothers is effectively pacified given their specific challenges, personal and legal, as indeed their absence from the political scene even as they claim centrality through parliamentary appointments. The Imran Khan government is in shambles as it struggles to find direction and purpose. In an environment as fraught, Bilawal has a solo run – in parliament and on evening television. Fathers and brothers are loathe to give away control of established political forces as easily even if it be to their progeny. But here you are; a father desperate to save his skin and ready to encash the credibility of his untainted son to avoid being convicted. The irony is that such opportune bequest is being wasted as Bilawal fights a rearguard battle to save his and his family’s legacy.

The innovation on the presidential form of government or the invented threats of the annulment of the 18th Amendment, and now an added speculation over CPEC, and his intent to fight any attempt at diluting its centrality, are only conveniences which are meant to make him look bigger in political substance. These are as much farcical and quixotic meant to provide an occasion to seem stronger against invented efforts at settled parameters of the constitution some which form the basic structure of the constitution and will fail any test of review at any level other than complete abrogation.

To create an issue where none exists to seem relevant and bold and constitutionalist and principled, even as Bilawal fights for safety from trial for a tainted parent is sadly more opportunistic than a familial obligation. Political liberalism must come from a liberal social and economic framework not by openly vile comments on an institution. Indeed, if there are issues of an assertive military tradition these are best addressed within the confines of a closed-door setting. Making it public is playing to the gallery.

ZAB is respected because he had the originality and the courage to implement what he believed in, along with a lot more that was unique to him. Consider his success at agitating the common citizen to his political rights; and, how he restructured economy the even as it failed as an experiment. One worked well, the other didn't. He wasn't loathe though to carry beliefs and practice them. BB is respected for her courage despite the adversity that she had to go through in her personal and political journey. Bilawal has it all on a plate. What else may one ask for? Graduate from an Oxford college, and inherit the leadership of an established political force with a grand past – though in its present state it will take some doing to realise a promising future. This is what should consume most of his time.

Bilawal will not succeed with thoughtless and invented courage alone. The political process is a combination of deep reflection, empathy, a set of beliefs, knowledge of the social fabric through engagement with people of all hues and backgrounds and a handy experience in governance. Not merely by being mentored and tutored. He need not go too far. Rahul Gandhi refused to step into leadership position till he had worked his way through constituency politics and dealt at the grassroots to know more before he could lead. How can you be born into leadership? Imran Khan with all his lead-in to the position of power is finding it difficult to govern.

Larkana, Bhuttos’ hometown, has a plague-like outbreak of the HIV virus; the infrastructure is broken despite the Bhuttos always returning from that town for the last fifty-two years. Thar loses hundreds of young children on an annual basis to disease, hunger and malnutrition. The outbreak of quackery and its manifestations in Karachi plays out across the news. Working ones way up would have meant working with the people who vote for you on issues that plague and manifest weak governance. That is where political credentials to leadership positions begin to establish, not merely on genetic fortune.

The state of the party in power in the center and in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa isn’t too laudatory as well. Insufficient knowledge of governance, a lack of commitment as a poor ethic and generic disregard for delivery to the common citizen rule the roost. It is all-round ineptness and no man of consequence to set the rot right.

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