Pakistanis glorify the role of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah but ignore the limitations time imposed on him to create a nation. What followed was Inventive Nationalism based on debatable symbols. Many who joined the League did it for an interest and not a cause. Even today, many who join a popular party do it because of an interest. Though a state and Constitution exist, the nation is confused, divided and politically inbreeding.

The politics of Muslim separatism had dark Trojans in feudal support from Punjab and rich businessmen from Bombay. The Pakistan that was visualised in the first session of the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, is not the Pakistan that is. Pakistan’s political evolution is characterised by singular emphasis on the preservation and perpetuation of elitist interests. With time, neo-elitist, all-weather politicians and upstarts have joined the nexus. Constitutionalism laid guidelines and principles for a people-centric social contract that was never put to practice. The first 40 Articles of the Constitution of Pakistan have never been enforced with the vigour they deserve. Six decades hence, nothing has changed.

In any democracy, political parties form the strongest link between the aspirations of the people and the state. Though much has been written on the nexus of Feudalism-Bureaucracy-Mullah-Military-Industrialists, political parties that formed the main staging grounds are often ignored. Every political party since 1947 is unrepresentative. Misguided people are made hostage to empty slogans. The biggest tragedy is that the oft maligned left that once represented the working classes is non-existent. Most of its leaders are now pseudo liberals.  

In 1937, the All India Muslim League could win just two seats from Punjab and ultimately one defected to the feudal Unionists. This reflects how strong feudalism is. In 1945,  the  majority was built on Christian Minority votes.  After the death of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the KHOTA SIKKAS galvanised the feudal-mullah alliance. The bureaucracy and military joined them. Ayub Khan’s decade of progress saw this club expand to feudal cum industrialists through awards of preferential permits. Zia ul Haq continued the heist by gratifying select groups. During Musharraf’s tenure, a nouvelle generation of these cadres were inducted into cabinets that expanded their presence and influence within the system. Now they are all over, control Pakistan’s consumer economy, form strong cartels and influence good governance. The political parties of Pakistan are a tool of the chain.

According to a study by Omar Farooq Zain of Bahauddin Zakariya University, “political parties are a major ‘inputing’ device, allowing citizens to get their needs and wishes heard by the government. Without political parties, individuals would stand alone. Parties give people the feeling that they are not utterly powerless. In Pakistan, political parties have become a commodity that is readily available to the unconstitutional military rulers and non-representative elites for political manoeuvrings.” He is right, because those in power continue to expand their space and deny others. Those out of power perform a peacock dance to attract the establishment. The internal culture of all major political parties is identical. The leftovers from the 1935 Act that oversaw the interests of the viceroy continues to be the Achilles Heels of Pakistani politics. Unless this basic structure undergoes change, nothing will change.

A glance at the evolution of Pakistan’s political parties has a pattern. Religious parties are backed and supported directly or indirectly by elites. All populist parties have a majority of elitists in higher echelons. They use their money, baradari linkages and the manipulative governance model (Thana and Patwari culture) effectively to manipulate electoral results. Fish rotting at the head is evident from the fact that some rising upstarts are actually police and patwari touts.

Even Bhutto’s (himself an educated feudal) populism was short lived. PPP was the first party that challenged with slogans of Islamic Socialism. Earlier than expected, the cadre of social revolutionaries and leftists was elbowed out by industrial and feudal classes. They rot in oblivion for giving up without a fight. The party still clings to these slogans during election campaigns. With massive corruption and nepotism in its three tenures, the party is a reflection of the Orwellian Glass House that has nothing to offer to the sheep that follow it. Through the NRO, it has combined with the PMLN and its allies to pass constitutional amendments that facilitate corruption and violate the first three parts of the Constitution. Powers once enjoyed by the President under 58 (2) B have been passed on to party leaders who now wield an iron fist over their elected representatives that includes Chief Executives. If Shehla Raza of PPP is correct, the nation is yet to endure the trauma of NRO3 mastered by outside brokers. Surprisingly, PMLQ and MQM who now criticise the system were part of this daylight robbery of the Social Contract. MQM that rose as a challenger to these elitists has joined the glass house.

In any democratic system, political parties forge a crucial linkage between public demands and government support. They articulate this role within an inclusive political system that feels the public pulse, educates and organises its voters and evolves a political hierarchy intrinsically linked at all tiers as their surrogate. The leadership of parties revolves around specific roles for individuals with specific bench marks. The parties exercise internal accountability, democracy and a feedback loop that keeps their supporters linked. In chaotic times they act as public ventilators for change. In power, they become models of good governance.

But in Pakistan, the culture in political parties is opportunist. A long history of inventive nationalism and elitist politics produces leadership around a single individual who assumes an indispensable cultish stature. His word or logic is final. Charisma or clout of a leader is directly proportional to his ability to sway mass emotions with unquestionable obedience. The ‘know it all’ leader sets the agenda from the confines of the bubble he lives in.  He is followed by a group of ever green individuals who bash in his megalomaniac aura but represent elitism. They are chameleons that wait for their moment to strike. Fingers on the pulse of people, specified roles, training sessions, credible elections and bench marks are non-existent.

Effective separations of power weaken elitist centrality. It introduces an inclusive political system and promotes populism. Local self-government, the main engine of socio-economic and political growth and an inseparable part of the state is anathema to elites in political parties. They despise it.  For as long as Pakistan does not produce a true challenging class, neither the political parties nor the system will change.

Democracy in Pakistan will remain a farce as long as political parties and their leadership do not evolve.  

    Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.