Saturday, August 22, 2009 A PERSONAL VIEW
Democracy is a messy business especially in the third world countries. Even India the largest democracy where elections have been held uninterrupted, for decades, is no exception. Reports about the criminal background and corruption of Indian MPs keep surfacing. Their unwholesome misdoings have been documented in reports and a number of publications. For sampling their conduct and behaviour, one may have a look at the Tehelka archives. In the length and breadths of India, dozens of insurgencies continue. Scores of districts are practically out of government’s control where writ of the state does not prevail. This has been duly acknowledged at the highest level. The state did little to bring the culprits to book, at Ayoudhia. Earlier after Mrs. Gandhi’s murder by his Sikh guard, thousands of Sikhs were massacred in Delhi. Hardly anyone was punished for this gruesome tragedy. How many fanatical and murderous Hindus have been punished for killing thousands of Muslims and burning of their houses in Gujarat? How many churches have been burnt in India and Christians killed in cold blood over the years?!
What has sustained India is its working political party system and intrinsic resilience to cope with crisis situations. Nehru’s major legacy was the establishment of supremacy of the civilian control, keeping alive a sense of sovereign independence while dealing with the outside would and creating a base for scientific research and development. Indra Gandhi’s authoritarian interlude failed and is now remembered as a gratuitous aberration.
Pakistan’s record is comparatively poor because of frequent military take-overs. Unfortunately we didn’t have the benefit of 17 years long leadership that Nehru, so very effectively provided to India. Pakistan’s weak political traditions and institutions and intermittent spell of instability in the 50s sucked the military into the body politic. The dictators, later did some good but on the whole, their arbitrary rule proved grievously disastrous. The biggest damage, done by them was the mangling of the political process and the weakening of the national and local institutions. These myopic potentates failed to understand that concentration of power in a few hands at the centre would shake the very foundations of the federation. That their unbridled handling of political and economic affairs will distort cherished values and norms. How we lost East Pakistan, how earlier the bloody Operation Gibralter was launched and how the Kashmir cause was terribly damaged by an ill-conceived misadventure at Kargil, to recall three blunderous debacles.
Prospects for Democracy were dealt a sever blow by the last military dictator when he scuttled the desirable evolving two-political system. Yes the political parties were underperforming and at times, indulging in undesirable acts of omission and commission but the fact remains that in the nineties the political process was moving ahead at a good pace and had it continued uninterrupted, the possibility of good days ahead could not have been ruled out. Musharraf on the one hand destroyed the nascent political edifice, and on the other foisted his own outlandish notion of real or “essence” democracy. How credible his “enlightened moderation” was may be seen in the light of his handling of the Lal Masjid syndrome and the killing of Nawab Bugti. The list of his sins and stupidities is long and will easily fill a big book. We are still suffering from the fall out of his shenanigans. His quick and unthinking surrender (mostly for personal benefit) after 9/11, his referendum fraud carried out with the aid of well-provided Nazims, the imposition of a made-to-order local government arrangement created to provide him with a political constituency, by-passing the sinews of the law and order system in the districts, feudalizing the local administration and flooding the civilian departments with military officers – serving and retired, inducting puppet prime ministers, reducing the parliament to a rubber stamp and pulverization of the judiciary – these are just some of the “contributions” made by him. What however was most galling and troublesome is not his vengeful treatment of PML (N) party and its leadership and his determination to keep PPP and Benazir out but the seeds of corruption and dishonesty he injected into the body-politic by entering into a horrendous deal with PPP which one the hand spawned the poisonous NRO and special safeguards for himself, on the other.
If a good man like Gilani says on the floor of the National Assembly that he personally has forgiven the dictator and that only a unanimous resolution of the parliament could persuade his government to proceed against Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution, he in is own characteristic way only proclaiming his helplessness. His boss, he knows is in the Presidency because of NRO. He also knows the commitments given to Musharraf and his foreign masters. Chaudhry Nisar may deliver earth shattering speeches and advance incontrovertible reasons for action against the dictator citing the Supreme Court judgment but he too in his heart of heart knows that he is up against a government and a party and some of its partners who have derived immense benefits from the deal struck with the dictator who has been assured of a safe passage. The National Assembly may provide him a platform to let his steam off but there is little chance of its passing a resolution to prosecute Musharraf for high treason.
While Shahbaz Sharif is grappling with a string of destabilizing happenings in the Punjab with Wattoo and Taseer once again sharpening their knives, how is the popular PML (N) chief Nawaz Sharif to deal with the emerging scenario. He may feel that the majority of the people generally back him, that the judiciary will remain upright and active and the media too will play a proactive role in exposing the corruption and other excesses of the government but does he know how he is to proceed to achieve his objectives. How much influenced is, he at the moment, by external forces working relentlessly in and out of the country? Generals, admirals, Holbrookes, Milibands and Lyall Grants keep hovering over the horizon and frequently descending on Islamabad, Raiwind, Peshawar and Karachi with the president and his subordinates ever ready to receive them and serve them faithfully. How weak the state has become may well be seen when killer foreign aircraft keep firing missiles in Pakistan territory, week after week, despite governments’ protests and a whole system of training, monitoring and surveillance is rapidly, being put in place by Washington in Pakistan on the plea that the corrupt and inefficient Pakistan administration cannot be trusted to properly use the money being given. No wonder acres of Pakistan territory are being handed over for building structures to house tens of hundreds of American personnel including marines. One will not be surprised if tomorrow the Presidency boasts that soon enough Pakistan would be blessed with a One Billion Dollar Yankee Fortress right in the heart of country’s capital.
In what I have written above there is food for thought for Nawaz Sharif and other patriotic Pakistani leaders and citizens. Will they join heads and forge a strategy to save Balochistan and the rest of the country from the looming disasters?
Tail Piece: A word to Prime Minister Gilani. Please concentrate on quick and drastic action against the corrupt, spend a week or two in Balochistan along with leaders of most of the major political parties and sort out the demands and grievances of the Balochi leaders without delay and take a firm stand against the increasing intrusion of American and British governments in Pakistan’s internal affairs.
The writer is a political and international relations analyst.