It’s a jungle out there. Of the 84.4 million registered Pakistani voters some 60 million live in Pakistan’s rural areas – out there where there is no state. There is no state to protect their lives. There is no state to protect their property. There is no state to provide personal security. And, there is no state to provide any economic security. As a matter of fact, the state never benefits its citizens who live out in the jungle. In effect, the only thing that the state’s coercive apparatus, thana-kutchery, can do for these people in the jungle is harm them.
These 60 million seek protection of life, limb and property. These 60 million seek personal security. These 60 million seek economic security. And these 60 million seek protection from thana-kutchery. This is the demand side of Pakistan’s democracy (this is what voters demand). Corruption, morality, character of the candidate, the Supreme Court and drone attacks can come later – much later (that in essence is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
Who will win the next elections? Answer: The ‘machine politician’ – someone who can put together a machine that provides voters what they demand; someone who can provide these 60 million out in the jungle what the state has failed to – the hope of physical and economic security. That’s supply and demand.
The term ‘machine politics’, I believe, was first coined by Dr Mughees Ahmed in his “Social system influences political system” in which the principal argument revolves around a ‘class system of machine politics’ that is based neither on national issues nor on morality. Machine politics is all about getting elected, capturing state resources and then the disbursement of patronage to complete the patron-client relationship between the voter and the elected.
The ultimate objective of the top-most machine politician, the prime minister, is to capture the largest pool of capital in the budget – the Rs873,000,000,000 PSDP (Public Sector Development Program). Of the Rs873 billion, Rs513 billion is doled out to the four chief ministers, while the remaining Rs360 billion is doled out to MNAs and senators.
This is how D Morgan writing for Fair Observer described Pakistan’s machine politics: “National and regional power brokers, usually in the form of the large political parties, award favours – cash, jobs and influence – to their supporters in return for votes. This means that most of the money that should be going into education, renewing decrepit infrastructure......and investing in electricity generation is actually wasted through patronage. While this allows the large parties to create the illusion of popular support in the short term, it beggars the country over the longer term. Supporters and functionaries of the PPP or the PML-N, the two largest parties, are able to amass personal fortunes...........for themselves and their relatives, while the country as a whole goes to hell in a handcart.”
A machine is an apparatus used “to perform a particular task”, while politics is all about “acquisition and application of power.” Our machine politicians have perfected the machine that collects votes for them so that they can acquire power. What is good for Pakistan or for Pakistanis has absolutely no place in any of this. We call the process ‘general elections’.
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: email@example.com