Jalees Hazir MQM Chief Altaf Hussains invitation to patriotic generals to rescue Pakistan from the mess created by the entrenched political elite has attracted criticism from the mainstream political parties. His loyal partymen sharpened their rhetoric in defence of their leaders statement and came up with various justifications for militarys intervention but the contradictions were too many and too glaring to ignore. And it is these contradictions that need to be examined regardless of what prompted the self-exiled MQM leader to make such a statement. The already negative public perception of the democratic dispensation has suffered tremendously because of its ineptness and insincerity in the face of floods. The absolute failure of the government in taking any precautionary measures, the shoddiness of its relief operations and reports about political bigwigs drowning entire villages in order to save their lands and bungalows, have created among the people in general and especially those directly affected by the floods, a disillusionment that will be very hard to dispel by those in power. It is also true that the efforts of the armed forces in the flood-affected areas are being appreciated. This sharp contrast in the performance of the two institutions has triggered the man on the street to come to certain simplistic conclusions and it is not uncommon to hear people talk about how the army would do a better job of governing the country than the so-called democratic dispensation. The question is, how fair is it for the leader of a major political party to capitalise on such an undemocratic popular trend, rather than showing the disillusioned public a better way? No impartial political observer will disagree that the present dispensation in Pakistan is democratic only in name. Those filling the national and provincial assemblies work within political parties that operate like dictatorial personality cults, rather than democratic entities based on the principles of consultation and common good. The directly-elected Parliament is more of a rubber-stamp in the hand of an indirectly-elected President. The coterie of unelected advisors around the President dictates to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet and has virtually replaced the legitimate centre of power in a parliamentary system. The democratic concepts of rule of law, merit and public welfare have been reduced to meaningless slogans. So does the situation call for another martial law? Wouldnt it be better for a democratic political party to offer us something better? And mind you, the MQM, is very much a part of the governments in Islamabad and Karachi. The party cannot absolve itself of the blame by condemning its coalition partners. In fact, it has more leverage than the opposition parties to change things for the better. And that is the most glaring contradiction in the solution to our problems of governance presented by its leader. Such a statement would be absurd even if it came from an opposition party sitting in the Parliament, let alone an important coalition partner. And even if a political party comes to the apolitical conclusion that a martial law was the only solution, the only honourable way of advancing that proposition should require its members to resign from the assemblies before they take up such a radical position. But nothing of the sort has happened. The MQM has not even resigned from the governments that it wants to topple with the help of some generals. The problem with our current dispensation is not that it is democratic, but that it is not democratic enough. It is therefore strange that a political party would come up with such a sweeping non-political solution (military intervention) to the crisis of governance. It would make far more sense for the MQM, or any other political group or party hoping to fill in the vacuum created by the shortcomings of the entrenched political forces, to mobilise the disenchanted public around an agenda of change. In a way, the almost total disillusionment with the present political lot creates the perfect opportunity for a new political force to make inroads into the bases of power left ungaurded due to utter neglect by and opportunism of those who are supposed to watch out for the interests and well-being of their constituents. What we get to hear instead is an appeal directed at another traditionally well-entrenched power centre. For some time now, the MQM has been harping upon providing an alternative middle-class leadership to replace the feudal, capitalist, hereditary political empires that it says the other political parties in Pakistan are. While it might be correct to a great extent, to live up to its promise, it will have to do much more than mouthing slogans to that effect. And unless it wants to bring that alternative middle-class leadership riding atop army tanks, it must also come up with a political solution to the problems of democracy in Pakistan. Of course, any alternative leadership would be useless unless it stands solidly behind an alternative vision for the country. Inviting generals to take over is obviously not the alternative vision that Pakistanis are craving for today. It is a tried and tested recipe that might bring some sort of superficial stability in the beginning, but other than those who align themselves closely and loyally to the martial law regime, it has shown not to benefit the mass of Pakistani people and the institution of the army itself. Though the political leadership cannot be absolved of its part of the blame, many of its flaws are actually made worse due to its subservience to military dictators. Along with almost every party sitting in the Parliament, the MQM leadership shares the same legacy. In fact, the harsher criticism of the party aside, the MQM has very little to show that it is any better than other mainstream political parties. True, its leadership largely comes from urban middle class backgrounds, but that has not produced the democratic ethos within the party which still operates in a feudal fashion beholden to its quaid. On many instances, it has shown a propensity to treat Karachi and its other strongholds in urban Sindh as fiefdoms very similar to those lorded over by waderas that it criticises. Its leadership might talk of capitalists in a degrading manner, but it has yet to come up with an alternative economic model that would tackle the problems of concentration of capital. And above all, more than any other political party, it has been a part and parcel of the misgovernance it has now chosen to condemn so vociferously. The writer is a freelance columnist.