Politics influence every inch of our lives 24/7. From war against the enemy state to the prices of commodities in our kitchens, from laws which are enforced in the country to the number of hours we can sleep (especially owing to loadshedding), all in all the whole nine yards of one’s life rely on the policies embraced by the government which is run by politicians. Ideally, everyone should be participating in politics, but that is not the case in Pakistan. There are many reasons behind the prevalence of politicophobia among our public.
According to the Election Act, 2017 candidates who contest seats in the provincial assemblies, the National Assembly and the Senate can fritter away up to Rs2 million, Rs4 million, and Rs15 million respectively on their election campaigns. In most cases, this would prove only a nominal restriction – taking into account the expenditures incurred by candidates in the previous elections.
Such injunctions are openly mocked during election time. Candidates squander a staggering amount of money on canvassing. Many businessmen opt to fund campaigns of the topmost candidates to make sure that whoever makes it to the House is their friend (thus expecting the return of the favour in the shape of many concessions and approbations). This makes corruption, favouritism, cronyism, partisanship and prejudice inevitable.
Many political parties have their own militant wings which help them collect donations, extortion money, hides, and bhattas etc. They also help them in transforming a stable situation into sheer instability to make political capital out of precarious and volatile situations. Our biggest city has been the focal point of such nasty politics. Karachi would have been the economic hub of the region had peace and tranquillity been the norm here.
Generally, politics is understood to be an art of how to take the public for a ride, how to hoodwink and double-cross them. How does one call the Panama leaks a Western conspiracy against the fortress of Islam? How does one paint the Fata reforms as an abuse of the tribal culture? How does one play politics on the religious sentiments of the people? How does one tag the inauguration of the Lahore metro as a wasteful expenditure and term the one in Peshawar as a game changer for the city? How does one criticise only for the sake of criticism?
Electioneering is broadly considered synonymous with hypocrisy and deceit because to inflate their vote banks candidates make overambitious pledges and promises, which are never considered after being elected. Parties dispose of their political manifestos when they take up the reins of government. They, instead, focus first on how to compensate for the financial losses they incurred during politicking and then to make money to run with their campaigns for the next elections.
Mostly politics is played on the distribution of water pipes amongst voters, street-renewal programmes, Benazir Income Support Programme forms, and water tanks etc. The concerned MPA/MNA believes that by doing this, they have legitimated election to the office.
Major political parties are dominated by particular families. To become a legitimate leader of his grandfather’s party Bilawal Zardari had to change his name to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Jiyalas were thereby duped into thinking that their party was still run by a Bhutto. Although many among the party members surpass him in political astuteness, they remain subordinate because of family politics. The battle between the Sharif cousins for party control is also allegedly in progress. Time and again many among our political leaders stress upon democracy and democratic principles in the country yet they never ask for a democratic structure within their own parties.
All this clearly indicates that politics is not a poor or an average citizen’s business in this country. A common man can neither afford to run for a public office nor will he be allowed to by the feudal and political elite. The best choice for many would be: ‘none of the above’ on the ballot paper.