Under the depressing circumstances Imran Khan’s promised political tsunami is fast becoming the only hope for the people of Pakistan. Imran is not perfect – he has his flaws and can be politically naive at times. Yet he is gaining strength because he is generally seen as “clean” in a country where corruption has become the number-one obstacle to progress.
Completing five years seems to have become in and of itself a sign of true democracy; as if good governance is a peripheral aspect. The feudal system that controls its constituencies through reward and punishment ensures that the quality of governance does not become the determining factor in an election. When ethnicity and parochial interests take precedence over national interests – of which the welfare of the citizens is paramount – democracy remains a pipedream.
Asif Ali Zardari, the president, and co-chairman of the PPP, is running the show, although he was not elected by the voters to run the country. He calls the shots at party meetings. No-one would dare upset him, for he is the granter of favour and dispenser of retribution. Not a single MNA of the PPP, for example, had the guts to question Zardari’s choice of prime minister on the basis of integrity. If this is democracy, what is dictatorship?
Pakistan’s political mafias are interested only in securing their respective territories within the state of Pakistan. The aim is to remain powerful and a source of political patronage so as to sustain individual fiefdoms. The MQM, for instance, that never tires of harping on anti-jagirdar/wadera slogans, is hands-in-glove with the ruling feudal elite. Hostage to its Godfather in London via remote control, it is as feudal in its approach as the PPP. In this so-called democracy the allies have to be bought and appeased. It is, then, no surprise that, after taking over, the new prime minister visited not only the Quaid-e-Azam’s and Bhutto’s mausoleums, but also “Nine-Zero.”
During the four years of misrule, the “awam” who are supposed to be the “sarchashma” (fount) of all power have been rendered more and more powerless, and not only in terms of electricity. At the same time the ruling elite has filled its coffers and made a mockery of both law and common decency. The unfolding drama would have been amusing were it not so tragic. And it would have been worthwhile to calmly await its denouement if only one felt sanguine about the durability of the state. The argument that long winding democratic process would eventually bring the rule of law to this country rings hollow in our case because what is being taken as the democratic process is a charade.
In Pakistan democracy has come to be equated with corruption; it is perceived as an interim vocation for the politicians and their cronies in bureaucracy and public enterprises to exploit their transitory stint in power and make hay while the sun shines and before undemocratic clouds appear on the horizon. This time round the clouds seem to be taking their time, and this is exposing the thugs in political garbs as never before.
Human societies evolve at their own pace and according to their own socio-cultural norms. Each society may have its own set of peculiar problems that require specialised solutions. Democracy must be our ultimate goal but there cannot be a single route to this ideal destination – if we have to innovate, we must. The problems facing, or, rather, drowning, this nation require a specialised solution that cleans not only the scum on the top and the depths of the murky waters but also makes sure the gutter is dried up and politically dysfunctional.
It is essential that elections are held soon, are free and fair and that the corrupt do not buy their way back into the assemblies. Nor should corrupt elements within the bureaucracy, military, media, judiciary and public organisations be let off the hook. They must all be held accountable, and in this endeavour the military should stand right behind the people. It must help us clean the mess to which their uniformed bosses have contributed immensely over the decades. This should be done not by taking over the country but by openly supporting the Pakistani nation and the Supreme Court within the constitutional parameters. It is time that the armed forces, as the strongest institution in the country, took an unambiguous moral stand against corruption and the ongoing travesty of law. It must make certain that state power is not misused against anti-corruption supporters in the courts, the media or on the streets. Furthermore, the military must play its part in ensuring fair elections and a peaceful transition.
Gen Kiyani did not put his foot down when Zardari and his unelected coterie of loyalists were imposed on us – he owes it to Pakistan to make up for this omission by adopting a clear-cut stance against rampant corruption and the mockery of democracy.
We do not need the military to take over; it is only the people of this country that can bring fundamental change. And this is where Imran Khan’s PTI has a chance to prove its mettle. If Imran Khan is a true leader, then he must harness the anger on the streets (and in the hearts) into a national movement against corruption on a war footing. He is reaching out to smaller parties in other provinces, which is great; he must also convince them to join hands in building the momentum. This would provide a forum and an alternative to the ordinary citizen and help avoid incipient anarchy and lawlessness apparent in daily outpouring of frustration on the streets.
It is obviously of utmost importance that there be an independent Election Commission and Imran has been voicing this demand in unambiguous terms for a long time now. However, besides fair elections, it is the number of votes cast that makes the difference. Imran’s party has to find ways to ensure that the voter turnout is the highest in the history of Pakistan and that the so-called silent majority finally gets off its sofas in front of the TV and actually casts votes to offset the purchased constituents.
I am no seismologist so I looked up the general information on tsunamis. This is what I thought may be of interest to the PTI:
“In order for a tsunami caused by seaquakes to occur, the seabed must be lifted or lowered by the earthquake. If the sea bed is displaced sideward no tsunami will occur.” [Emphasis added.]
So let there be no compromise or escape side-routes for the corrupt, or the system will remain intact and the wave will be rendered ineffectual.
Most important: “A tsunami that is unnoticeable at sea may grow to be several meters or more in height near the coast.”
So carry on Imran Khan, and Godspeed!
The writer is a PhD student at Leicester, UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org