There has been an important transformation in many aspects of political discourse in Pakistan: From one where successive governments have stressed the favours that leaders of their governments have bestowed on the people (or have not been able to do so because of intervening factors); to one where the rights of the people, guaranteed by Pakistan’s Constitution are being emphasised. This process of transformation of political discourse is not complete; because located as it is, and emerging out of the old political formation, it still carries with it more than  a stigmata of the old. An effect of the new discourse and its attendant practical outcome was clearly manifest in the Rehman Malik and Mr Kumar incidence where a PIA carrier took off without them, because it was held up by the two VIPs.

The sentiments embedded in the new political discourse has been galvanised by the PAT and the PTI. Both these parties assert that the entitlements which the people of Pakistan deserve cannot be the result of benevolence of individual political leaders, but flow from the rights and obligations inscribed in and flowing from the country’s constitution and expressed in specific terms in relation to the actual lived life: health, employment, justice, rule of law, freedom of expression, right of assembly, working age, old age pensions, work safety and compensation for injuries at work, and so on. A systematic development and administration of these and other similar items are the requirement of the present epoch and define a modern state. Of all Muslim countries, it is in Iran that one finds these policies in their more developed form.

Political discourse and political practice have a mutual affectation. When it comes to social and political life, the language of political discourse is not just a neutral medium at arm’s length from some independent socio-political reality but instead, is particularly constitutive of that reality. For among other things, this discourse carries the sentiments, hopes and fears of society. Political discourses and the political concepts they deploy are potentially (inevitably?) a battleground of political life carried out in the idiom of polemics and counter-polemics. Because when political discourses shift (hopefully for the better), as they have historically, and now under PAT and PTI, clever politicians set out to use these for particular objectives for the common good. When they do, they open up dramatically new possibilities for change and transformation of a polity, as is happening for example in Pakistan.

Pakistani political leadership, in the main has never had to exhibit their policies and projects as legitimate in relation to the constitution (getting enough votes by any method by itself has bestowed ‘legitimacy’ even when circumventing the constitution). Most Pakistani prime ministers in the way of Grandees have merely announced what their pleasure is in matters of state and government; they have not felt the need, or been compelled to enter the game of justification and legitimation of policy and projects through scrutiny and genuine debate in the National Assembly.  Because of this, the latter is a glorified talk shop characterized by negligence of affairs of the state, including stealing or stultifying Pakistan’s nationhood.

The present Pakistan polity is in its decadent stages where the leadership of the political parties and their ministerial minions in the National Assembly go through the motions of utterances on one aspect (elections) of democracy as a matter of ritual; winking, smirking and scowling anxiously with trepidation as to what their future holds. All the time, ironically, distanced from the substance and practice of democracy which they brandish to legitimize their presence in the House: rule of law, mandate, free and fair elections, etc. that is the elements that constitute democracy as embodied in the Constitution whose every principle has been subverted by them (criminality, corruption, rigged elections, and so on).

The PAT and PTI have entered the arena of Pakistani politics with a new transformational political discourse, but they still retain some elements of the matrix out of which they have emerged and in this sense the transformation of the political discourse is not complete. Leaders of both parties employ far too much of the ‘I’ and ‘Me’ – that is, one person taking precedence over the collective of the party – an all too familiar scenario of the present despotic style of politics of government and opposition.  More utterances and consistent use of ‘We’ and ‘Us’ would signify that a new political discourse is in the process of ousting, and not retaining the old and worn out style of Pakistani politics.   These minor criticisms are not meant to subtract anything from PAT and PTI’s massive contribution to raising the political consciousness and self-worth of Pakistanis – a phenomenon unprecedented in the country’s political history. The criticisms are in fact arguments for making PAT and PTI’s project more deeply historical.

    The writer is a freelance columnist.