Pakistan is under mafia rule mainly due to political patronage. The leadership is elected through a ballot that is manipulated by the Khakis, Baboos and Qazis. Once in power the favours have to be returned. The beneficiaries are not the masses who vote but the classes who ensure their victory. Some call it Election Day dynamics while others term it the ground realities of the country.

In the typical “Who’s who” of Pakistan there are established family links across political parties/divides, Khakis, Baboos and Qazis. One brother is a sitting minister, the other an opposition MNA, while the uncle is a Khaki General, the brother in law a Baboo and the father in law a Qazi. All avenues of change are carefully covered and blocked, thereby making mafia rule possible. In the May 2013 elections in a Lahore constituency, the contest was between Kaptaan and the current Speaker of the National Assembly. Serious allegations of rigging were reported to the Election Tribunal which was required to decide the case within 120 days. Then nepotism kicked in, a judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC) who is related to another PML(N) MNA from Lahore stayed the proceedings of the tribunal. Finally when the judge was elevated to the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), the stay was vacated and now the tribunal verdict is awaited.

Democracy has its own dynamics and cannot be manipulated. It was born out of need in 420 BC in the bazaars of Athens. In the 21st Century there is no going back despite the fact that the democratic order is under attack worldwide. The modes have been different. In India, the ballot is indisputable but convicts get elected and corruption is rampant. In the US, the two party systems have monopolized change which is true for the UK also. Pakistan’s scenario is unusual, the constitution remains under constant attack and the electoral process is rigged through connivance and patronage.

Party ideology and ideologues are getting extinct by the day. Almost all parties promise the stars but deliver nothing. Loyalty is a thing of the past. “Lotacracy” is the order of the day. There is no one to take on the mafia, state institutions have been rendered helpless. Mafia bosses call the shots. The United States of America was in a similar situation about a century ago. There were turf wars and battles for control. The dons were untouchable. Where all state institutions failed, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prevailed. El-Capone one of the leading bosses of that time was arrested for tax evasion which ultimately led to the collapse of his empire. Gradually, the authority of the state was restored.

The lawyer’s movement of 2007 in Pakistan, promised rule of law to overcome the excesses of the state but instead created a mafia of Black Coats. Courts have become non-functional and operate under patronage. The Mafia bosses have nothing to fear. Relief to the common man is no longer available through the legal process. Rule of law is now hostage to the bench and the bars.

In the 60s, the people of Lahore were exposed to “Jagga Tax”. It was a levy imposed by Jagga Gujjar on the sale of animals at the Bakar Mandi located on Band Road. The state seemed helpless against one individual. It was either patronage or surrender to Mafia rule, but it continued for a long time till the Governor was changed. With General Musa in the Governor’s house, Jagga was gunned down by the Police in a fake encounter.

Then the parking and car lift Mafia came. The fork lifts were provided by the city government. The parking lots were allotted to the favorites; the lifters were operated by private individuals in Police lookalike attires. Cars not parked in designated areas were lifted and taken to grounds near the thanas. For the release of their vehicles, the owners had to pay Rs. 200 with no questions asked. Finally the writ petition was filed in the Lahore High Court. The judge ruled that only Police officials in uniform could lift cars. Since then, the Mafias have been controlled and the menace has been removed.

Then the fee on ‘dish antennas’ installed in private homes was levied. There was a Rs. 2000 annual fee which was collected by private contractors on behalf of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). In the first case people opted for these dishes because the PTV programes were substandard. In addition to the PTV fee the viewers were required to pay for not watching state television. Finally the fee was withdrawn, since then the entire sector went barren. Now the cable operators have moved in to provide programes.

Most food markets are in control of the middle man mafias called “Arhtis”. On one hand the growers are exploited while on the other the prices are manipulated by these individuals who operate through political patronage and mafia cover. No government has succeeded in enforcing free markets in the country. Despite Pakistan’s huge Argi potential only a few people benefit from it.

Thanas and Patwarkhanas have become centres of political patronage which then provide cover to the Mafias who then exploit the common man. Recently the governor of the largest province resigned after failing to provide relief to the masses. In his own words: “the land grabbers are more powerful than the governor”. Where do these mafias get their power? Either the state has collapsed or has become a party.

Rule of ballot can shatter some of these evil networks as it will bring in much needed accountability. Political leadership that has to face the voter will then focus on delivery mechanisms and good governance. Media is playing its role to some extent but then this political patronage has been extended to this sector as well. An honest credible ballot seems to be the only way forward. Manipulated elections simply cannot deliver democracy.

 The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at fmaliks@hotmail.com