Monday July 15, 2024

The ostrich option

We, in Pakistan, are about to create a weak and unstable foundation for democracy. The democratic sy

By Ahmed Quraishi
March 13, 2013
We, in Pakistan, are about to create a weak and unstable foundation for democracy. The democratic system that will emerge from the coming election will hurt the chances of a stable democracy and a stable country over the short and long run.
This election is set to legalise the post-NRO political setup, which produced the most incompetent, deceitful and corrupt set of politicians in our history.
This election is also expected to be violent as every major Pakistani political party is now moving from maintaining secret militias to the next stage: establishing working relationships with criminal gangs and terrorist groups.
All of this happens within the context of weak federal and provincial administrations and passive state security arms where the police, the rangers, and the military are reluctant to act firm. The judiciary is overwhelmed and lacks the power to enforce its rulings.
Celebrating the completion of the five-year term of the elected government is a cliché that will not solve any problem. It won’t help improve a political system where thieves, opportunists and legislators who lied under oath control the state.
By now the Election Commission should have been successful in purging the system of powerful politicians who lied under oath and were found along with their family members to be involved in breathtaking corruption even by Pakistani standards. We should have decided the NRO case, where a former president allowed two foreign governments, the United States and the United Kingdom, to get involved in an arrangement where some of the most discredited Pakistanis were assembled to form a government tailored to serve a particular agenda.
Let’s not mince words here. The NRO of 2007 was the legal equivalent of what happened in Baghdad and Kabul through foreign intervention. It took a military intervention in the Iraqi and Afghan cases. But in our case, all it took was a powerful cooperative sitting president.
Today we have a country where the education minister owns a fake college degree, where key elected officials are involved in cases of massive corruption, where an aide to the president was nearly convicted of treason and is now fugitive from justice, and where several key officials and legislators lied under oath to run for public office, while having pledged secret allegiances to powerful foreign governments that have a known track record of meddling in Pakistan.
A disturbing new development is the emerging nexus between local political militias and external terrorist groups. Some of our political parties own and run formidable private armies capable of paralysing parts of the country at will.
There are disturbing initial signs that terrorists behind the recent attacks in Quetta, Lahore and Karachi have ties to the militant wings of major political parties in those areas. Some of these militant wings deal simultaneously with Sunni and Shia militant extremist groups. Already, the nexus between some of our political parties and the land mafia is well known.
We are about to enter a phase where militant wings of political parties will become so strong it will be nearly impossible for the state to control them. We already see how various political parties forged a quiet alliance to counter any move by the courts or the election commission to end corruption and reform the system. What’s the solution?
The judiciary and the military are not interested in any intervention to reform the failed system. The second best option is to work with failed politicians and parties and hope the system will reform itself over time. This option is apparently at play at the moment with partial success. It can continue for the foreseeable future but it will not solve any problem. It’s the ‘Ostrich Option’, where we hide our heads in the ground and hope we weather the storm.
We won’t. But we can enjoy the moment until decision time.