The Nawaz government’s recent claim that it has finally said good bye to the IMF was too good to be true. Has the ruling party fulfilled its manifesto promise of breaking the begging bowl? With nothing to suggest a change in its debt-driven economic policies, there had to be a catch somewhere. And surely, there was. It has now been reported that the government has decided to borrow another $5.9 billion, not from the IMF but ADB. Beware of the words our so-called leaders speak.

Beware of the meanings they ascribe to each one of them. Clearly, ‘development’ does not denote what they do in its name; the extravagant over-priced projects and unproductive schemes of patronage they advertise under high-sounding slogans to benefit a few with borrowed money, loans that come with heavy interest and strings that are more like chains of slavery. Clearly, ‘democracy’ does not signify the lawless circus they lord over and the ‘mandate’ they tout does not come even close to representing a majority.

Should we be happy with just the sound of their words and the positive connotations those words carry? Even when our future depends on what they actually mean? Should we allow them to sing us lullabies devoid of any meaning and sleepwalk to our doom? Should we listen to the champions and cheerleaders of our fraudulent democracy and wait patiently for 2018 when we are supposed to get the chance of telling those in charge of our destiny what we think of their rebranded words?

Why can’t we tell them now? In fact, now, when the world is going through the birth-pangs of delivering a new order, is the time we must rescue the words from the greedy clutches of our self-serving ruling elite and reclaim their true meaning. After all, it is the hijacked words that give them the power to mistreat us so badly and provide legitimacy to their crimes in the garb of governance; words like ‘mandate’, ‘democracy’ and ‘development’.

Look closely at the mandate of those who’d like to be considered above the law because of it and call all shots without any accountability as if they were kings, and you’d find that it constitutes a small minority of the electorate they claim to represent. Even if we disregard the neighbourhood badmashi and the blackmail of biradari, the small bribes and the extensive networks of patronage, the illegal use of state funds and state machinery and myriad other shades of rigging that mark most electoral contests, the mandates our political leaders bandy about don’t amount to much.

The low turnout of voters and the patently undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system produces outcomes that are mind-bogglingly undemocratic but they are never questioned. A party like the ruling PML-N that polled less than 20 percent of total votes in the national elections can muster enough seats in the national assembly to get Nawaz Sharif elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. And MQM, with less than 10 percent of total votes in Karachi’s local bodies election, is able to bring in its mayor for the city.

Of course, it suits the oligarchy that rules Pakistan to call our system of governance a ‘democracy’. Their claim is based on these periodic contests among themselves called elections under the present system, a process that excludes more than 90 percent of the electorate who cannot afford to contest, let alone win, a seat to their august houses. That is what the debate about ‘electables’ in the PTI was all about and we all know who won it. Imran Khan had to eat his words about sidelining the entrenched power-players and now his party is dominated by them.

The so-called party of change was the first and last political party to hold intra-party elections but those who won it don’t have a say in the decisions it takes. The PTI, like every other personality cult disguised as a political party, is run by a coterie that has the leader’s ear. Similarly, the elected parliament and its cabinet, their committees and sub-committees, are decoration pieces that hide the undemocratic decisions taken behind closed doors. Time and time again, the democracy deficit within the parliament forces one party or the other to take to the streets.

Constitution is a shield taken out by the government every time its critics try to make it accountable for its crimes. It ceases to exist when it comes to protect the citizens, other institutions of the state or the state itself. Institutions like NAB, ECP, FBR and Police serve the oligarchs in power rather than serving the state and acting in larger public interest.

Development is the name of donor-driven imperialist policies that favour the mega-bucks multi-national corporations and local businesses that serve them. They bring kickbacks and opportunities for the oligarchs, extracting pound upon pound of flesh from less-privileged citizens and the natural environment. This is one point on which all political parties agree. None of them has any alternative vision to offer.

The other point on which they all agree is the multi-party parliamentary democracy. It doesn’t seem to matter that it is unrepresentative and refuses to work. It doesn’t seem to matter to the oligarchs ruling the ‘democracy’ roost that it serves no one but themselves. So who will speak for the people in 2018? Which party in the parliament, or even outside it, has put forth ideas for a new system that represents the majority and works for it?

There’s nothing sacred about man-made constitutions. They can be amended and even changed completely if the public so wills. To meet the ends of democracy, we need a new constitution that provides for effective decentralisation of power to more numerous federating units instead of the four colonial constructs called provinces. The patently unrepresentative parliamentary system needs to be scrapped.

We must not let the donor-driven neo-liberal political correctness stop us from calling a spade a spade. Where is it written that only the powerful and the moneyed have the right to define words?