We say that Pakistan is a constitutional democracy but our history betrays the authenticity of this claim. The political process has been on flimsy grounds since 1958 and the role played by politicians has been, at best, questionable.
Take the recent case of the Dawn leaks and the ensuing tweet saga. Had it not been for the sagacity shown by the army chief and the prime minister, fractious opportunists in the garb of politicians and analysts would have spurred another institutional clash – much to the horror of those who genuinely want to see this country flourish – in the name of national security.
Addressing a press conference after the complete notification of the inquiry board recommendations was issued, the military spokesperson rightly condemned those who were hoping for another showdown between the federal government and the armed forces by projecting them as being at odds with one another. The public display of annoyance arose because facts were twisted, grand tales of conspiracies were spun, speculations were made and strictures were passed around publicly during this ordeal as the public watched with bated breath.
The entire episode is also instructive of those people who present themselves as sympathisers of the armed forces. As soon as it was announced that the recommendations of the inquiry board have been implemented and that the matter has been amicably resolved, the same brigade of self-styled ultra-loyalists turned their backs on the military high command. Regrettable comments and insinuations were implied on social media.
The impression of a compromised settlement or a deal was projected before the people. The previous narrative on the matter was also turned on its head. Consider the tweet by Imran Khan on April 29: “Dawn leaks was a deliberate attempt to malign Pak army…” Then, on May 10, he again tweeted: “Dawn leaks was never about Army and government…” However, I digress.
All those who voted for the first time in the 2013 general election have received a very poor political education ever since. This is because this period has been marred with the worst forms of agitational politics in recent memory. This has put the current generation at risk of repeating the same mistakes as their predecessors or the ones before them had made in the political realm.
Is this not tragic? It is our collective responsibility to discourage all those who support and cultivate room for extra-constitutional steps implicitly and explicitly. This can only happen with a reformed political narrative which stipulates that Pakistan’s success in the future lies in the continuity of the governance system with incremental improvements and the right level of awareness among the people.
Our common remorse for the lack of institutional mechanisms to curb social problems like corruption and crime are also inextricably linked with the right political narrative amongst the people. No institution or system can prosper or cement its place to regularly uphold the public good if the model of governance keeps alternating. The teetering institutions of today are being held back by the clutches of our historical mistakes. There are countless precedents of poor judgment and mal-intent in our democratic history.
Resorting to populism in every issue should be curbed and pragmatic solutions should be explored in the interest of Pakistan. Our competitors in the international arena will not wait for us to resolve our internal infighting as they continue to explore new avenues of shaping the world in their favour at a much faster pace than our inflated egos.
In the end, it is worth reiterating the positive role played by COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa in exhibiting the foresight, wisdom and the will to adhere firmly to democratic principles in the most recent challenge to civil-military relations.
The writer is a professional services consultant and a
freelance columnist based in Islamabad.