Raja Arsalan Khan
“Pakistan is passing through a serious crisis and external threats that require people to unite under a protected umbrella for the sake of national interest.” It is the constant mantra, which has been repeated meticulously as prescribed by Joseph Goebbels, in Pakistan for popular consumption. “Propaganda must be planned and executed by only one authority,” was the cardinal principle of Goebbels’ art.
The planning and execution by a single authority means that it should target some particular group or entity with simple and repeated messages to make it look like an evil. Thus, the sole malevolent identity in today’s Pakistan is the politicians, with all the criticism focusing them as if they are the real players and running the foreign, interior, defence and finance ministries.
The latest addition to the unending series of their sins is the 20th Amendment, which paved the way for impartial interim setups at the federal and provincial levels for a fair electoral process and helped outmanoeuvring the would-be political adventurers.
The disparagement on the part of PTI is quite surprising given the fact that it is repeatedly calling for transparent elections to get rid of corrupt political parties of the country. It gives strength to the rumours that they were hoping for an all-powerful provisional arrangement to ensure wiping out the undesirable elements from the equation to launch new ‘pure political hierarchy’.
Many believe that there are severe limitations, given the changed internal and external realities, and the plan does not have constitutional mechanism for a smooth and acceptable execution, but Pakistan’s unpredictable history with the same predictable outcomes gives weightage to every hypothesis.
So what were the possible scenarios, if the political forces did not act in a mature manner to shape the 20th Amendment? Obviously, a ‘semi-constitutional or unconstitutional intervention’ to create fear in the ranks of the political parties and to sort them out to a negligible size! It was more necessary given the fact that the tsunami did not trigger large-scale defections, while the hullabaloo about a public wave with the voters renouncing the PPP and the PML-N is also without substantive proof.
Moreover, there should have been 0 to 10 percent turnout in Multan by-polls, as the PTI boycotted the process, while two of its chief stalwarts, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Javed Hashmi, are from the same district. But it did not happen! Same was the case in NA-140, with both Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali out of the race. The Kasur example is more ironic that the two leaders previously represented two different parties, but the people still flocked to the polling stations.
Another thing must be kept in mind that the purge is not an easy process. It is a time-consuming task involving force and an alternative to dispose of the unwanted and obsolete characters. Besides, history too does not approve the idea, as experienced by the former USSR and the present-day China.
It is not a secret that the democratic process in Pakistan has always been controlled, through engineered polls and alliances. Innovations like the Council and Convention Muslim Leagues, PNA, IJI, MMA, Patriots and PML-Q were not ‘people-friendly’ and gave strength to the dictators, while damaging the country. There should be no doubt that another masterstroke will also be a failure.
The whole exercise aimed at keeping the popular leadership under control so that there is no paradigm shift in the state policy. No one can deny the fact that those challenging the ‘basic principles’ were either killed or sent abroad, and, in one case, hanged.
A two-thirds majority, which gave courage to an elected Prime Minister to defy the status quo, is not a viable model. Thus, a divided mandate seems the best option so that the political leadership is kept busy in a survival game. The next general polls will also produce a hung Parliament and multiple alliances can obtain the desired objective. However, another MMA-like entity is not likely, as it would not be effective without Fazlur Rehman, who is now among those questioning the security of the state. Furthermore, a religious alliance in the absence of the JUI-F cannot be victorious in a particular region or province and it would only slash Imran Khan’s possible votes.
The recorded history shows that swords may have destroyed and conquered some new lands, but never produced a society flourishing the lives of the inhabitants. The progress humans have made so far is a result of the independent minds, making contributions at various levels. If these exceptions were not there, we would still have been stuck in a pure life close to the nature. Therefore, there must always be room, both at the societal and state levels, for those who want to disagree and offer something new.
Every society follows some set patterns, but those unable to learn, unlearn and relearn are always the losers. No human is perfect and so are the politicians. But politics, like any other science, needs an environment where no superfluous element is allowed to disturb the equilibrium. Pakistan requires political wisdom and not stage management.
The writer is a political analyst.
Email: rajarsalan@gmail.com