We have failed Pakistan

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Saturday 26 July—–August 1, 2008
By Javed Hasan Aly
last month a columnist pleaded in these pages for opportunity for politics (and politicians) as in his opinion politics has not been allowed enough space to be practised unhindered in this country, resulting in the crisis we face today of a rudderless state.The underlying assumption can only be made under the misconception that bureaucracies, particularly the military, do not play politics during their continuing wielding of power, directly or indirectly. Nothing could be further from the truth.Politics is a calling that is not pursued in a vacuum or in isolation. It is interactive, not only with the citizens directly but also with various state institutions, forces of reality and the international community. These interactions define and mould the shape politics takes in a society and also reflect the strength or otherwise of the participating politicians. So if politics by professional politicians failed in this country in quality and sustainability, it was not only because of the stranglehold of the civil-military bureaucracies’ nexus but also due to the poor capacity, and even poorer intentions, of the politicians themselves.The military has practised politics, as a player or a puppeteer, right since the early fifties and the politicians have eagerly played into its hands satisfied with the lollipops on offer. It plays more politics than its ostensible role, with pliant, selfish politicians playing eager second fiddles. Politics has not been strangled due to lack of opportunity.Barring most of the founding fathers and a noble and notable minority of exceptions we have all betrayed Pakistan in some measure and manner, particularly inasmuch as narrow, selfish motives have driven our energies. The country to us has been no more than a mere slogan used for politicking and as a deceitful cover for extraneous agendas.Ethnic, sectarian, regional and economic divides have pitted people against people. The successful opportunists have amassed wealth and influence to further enhance their advantages to the detriment of the country and its people at large. The state apparatus is so geared to the security of the elite that even when, like now, the government is visibly inert, it continues to protect the interests of the powerful elite through an institutional momentum and habit. Vital national interests are of no concern to us.Every group, vested interest or institution – be it the mullahs, the military, a political party or any coterie of corrupt interests – can have agendas in conflict or variance with the interests of Pakistan. Their aim is to pursue their self-proclaimed higher goals. Pakistan’s interests are irrelevant, or at best secondary, to them. To achieve their objectives they are ready to cajole the state and government through blackmail, selfishly and persistently.Politicians have betrayed this country through poor governance, weak capacity and evil intentions. During the fifties they demonstrated a sheer lack of capacity to discern and defeat the manipulations of the bureaucracy. They were conveniently embroiled in infighting, intrigue and inveterate selfishness. For them Pakistan could be postponed.Since then the military has taken over politics. It produces its own political progenies and trains them, tries them, manages them or dismisses them – not for the sake of Pakistan but for the sake of one institution’s supremacy. A vast majority of the current crop of politicians was sowed, manured, nurtured and harvested by their patrons in the military. For them Pakistan is secondary; their primary loyalty is to their genetic engineers within the armed forces.Whatever the ex-servicemen’s society may now say in a futile attempt to rehabilitate the armed forces in the hearts of the people, the military has failed Pakistan as much as all of us have. Every time the military has acted beyond its mandate (and this has happened several times, the retired generals admit), it has failed Pakistan. For decades it has claimed to be the sentinel of our ideological frontiers, something that is not the charter of the armed forces. And the ideology it purports to protect is one of its own creation and not of the founding fathers who created this country.The mullah as a political force was created by the army and America, and it flourished on the fertile soil of circumstance. Exploiting illiteracy and blossoming in a greenhouse provided by the military umbrella, obscurantist religious leaders have come to acquire an influence not justified by their personal endowments. They live in an imaginary world, feed on ignorance and are inspired by quixotic and unreal explanations of the world. Islam for them is only a slogan, something to justify an irrational explanation of religiosity. Pakistan as a nation state of tolerant Muslims is not their goal, and betraying it perhaps religious duty for them.Now the bigots – any bandit with an unkempt beard and a flowing mane can claim to be a Talib these days – have acquired military weaponry to fight the state (of a garbled political conviction) and betraying Pakistan is part of a higher mission for them. Unfortunately they are guided by a half-baked scholarship of dubious intellectual content.The irrelevance of Pakistan for such religious ‘scholars’ is revealed by a recent pronouncement of Umme Hassan, now an influential seminary leader. She has declared that Islam can only be established through khilafat and not through democracy. Obviously she finds some fundamental contradiction between khilafat and democracy – perhaps without comprehending either. For her these are terms of endearment, or the opposite; her knowledge is purely a product of propaganda, not learning.The civil bureaucracy, true to its inclination and postcolonial heritage, is not to be left behind. It has demeaned itself to the depths of servility for the sake of some crumbs of authority and state largesse. They will gladly treat Pakistan as a cumbersome mother-in-law – any time, any day.Civil society is perhaps the only hope. Energised by the struggle of the lawyers, it seems now to have discovered Pakistan as a purpose in itself. It could force politicians to change their objectives. All credit to the leaders of the bar, for Aitzaz and his noble companions have reinvigorated the elite with a compulsion to recognise and resurrect the purpose and function of a state.Recently there have been attempts to belittle the lawyers’ struggle – it was suggested that the long march had petered out into a picnic party. Whatever the reasons for its less than dramatic finale, we cannot ignore its marshalling of national emotions and its repeated knocks at the consciences of state institutions to wake them up to a show of loyalty to this country.—Dawn

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