Democracy’s Last Stand

Corruption is no stranger in Pakistan. Over decades, a culture of corruption has become so ingrown in Pakistani politics that it would be impossible to uproot in an instant. This deep-seated corruption among political parties and politicians has created an understandable, in fact, predictable backlash from the citizenry. Tired of seeing self-serving politicians sacrifice the good of the nation for their own personal gain, Pakistanis are speaking out about these abuses. With the spread of electronic media, their voices have become amplified and are making a real impact on politics. What does this mean for democracy in Pakistan?

Nadeem Paracha’s column in yesterday’s Dawn makes several important points about the history of the corruption in Pakistan, how the press has played a dual role in exposing corruption, and what the new paradigm means for the future of democratic Pakistan.

What’s especially interesting is how things are not always as they seem. Where the press has, in the past, been “exposing corruption,” they have actually been playing the pawn to some very sophisticated political maneuvers.

The press, due to the dictatorship’s many curbs, was left fighting dictatorship on a more macro, ideological level; the relative freedom that it got after Zia’s death made it go all micro now that it was able to name names. The press was right in doing so as the watchdog of society, but what was missed in the process was the fact that corruption scandals that suddenly erupted in newspapers and magazines were really not broken by objective reporters.

This was the beginning of a dangerous trend in which only those journalists who were said to have had dubious connections with intelligence agencies were able to get the best of most crackling stories—a practice that still holds true. Again, evidence is ripe, but it is also true that though much of the rancour was aimed at the two Benazir Bhutto governments, backed by the opposition led by Nawaz Sharif and the Jamat-i-Islami, it came back to bite Sharif himself during his second stint as prime minister.

Of course, today’s darling is tomorrow’s target, as Nawaz Sharif discovered when he was no longer useful to the anti-democratic forces.

By 1999 counter-democratic forces — politicised intelligence agencies and their lackeys in the industrialist/ business communities, political clergy and sections of the media — seemed to have decided that they had built the ground for democracy’s toppling, good enough to even send their once darling democrat, Nawaz Sharif, packing and bring back the normative fold of dictatorship.

But all hope is not lost. In fact, we have reached a historic period in the development of Pakistan’s political class, and leaders are beginning to open their eyes to the sinister manipulations of the anti-democracy forces.

What is being ignored by the cynics is that, perhaps for the first time ever, nearly all democratic parties in parliament are on the same page as far as their understanding of Pakistan’s recent political history is concerned. This is owing to their understanding that each one of them will be a loser when certain counter-democratic moves are set afoot by exploiting the differences and grudges among them.

This is a refreshing phenomenon. It can be the main spoiler for counter-democratic forces bouncing between non-parliamentary parties and individuals, even patronising certain media men in their desperate move to send democracy packing — because the system breeds corruption.

Ultimately, in a democracy, decisions are made by voters, not by scheming men in back room deals. This is a lesson that all the world’s major democracies – from the USA to Japan – have learned over time. By exposing these anti-democratic manipulators, Pakistan can continue its progress away from corruption and towards a prosperous democratic future.

PPP committed to Charter of Democracy: Wajid

LONDON, Aug 26 (APP)- Pakistan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Wajid Shamsul Hasan has said PPP was committed to the implementation of Charter of Democracy in letter and spirit as the document was the best way to consolidate democracy in the country.
Addressing a delegation of the PPP UK wing led by its president Hasan Bokhari which called on him at the High Commission Wednesday, the High Commissioner said the present Government was striving to strengthen democracy and the institutions with the support of all the political parties in and outside the Parliament.
He said the real democracy has been ushered in the country after a long struggle and for which Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto laid down her life.
The High Commissioner also noted that PPP had rendered great sacrifices for the cause of democracy and it was the duty of all the political forces to lend support to preserve and fortify the system.
Hasan praised the Pakistani Diaspora for its willingness to come forward and help the motherland in its difficult times such as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and support for the internally displaced persons of Swat and Malakand division who were uprooted when the Army launched operations against the militants.
The High Commissioner assured the members of the delegation that no stone will be left unturned to  resolve the issues facing the UK-based Pakistan community and sub-missions in other principal cities have been instructed to deal with them on priority basis.
The PPP UK Chief Hassan Bokhari discussed various issues confronting Pakistan including energy, price hike, unemployment, terrorism and praised the conciliatory politics of President Asif Ali Zardari and his efforts to develop consensus on all important issues with other political parties.
He said successful foreign policy, mature thinking and the efforts to boost development and attain progress in all socio-economic sectors have been the hallmarks of President Zardari’s leadership.
Other members of the delegation included Ibrar Mir, Deputy Secretary General, Khadim Hussein Nasir, Shehzad Kazmi, Chaudhry Arif,Chaudhry Muhammad Aslam and Chaudhry Nadeem Qaiser.
Minister, Community Welfare, Salis Kiyani and  Welfare Counsellor Shahnaz  Mazhar were also present at the meeting.

LONDON, Aug 26 (APP)- Pakistan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Wajid Shamsul Hasan has said PPP was committed to the implementation of Charter of Democracy in letter and spirit as the document was the best way to consolidate democracy in the country.

Addressing a delegation of the PPP UK wing led by its president Hasan Bokhari which called on him at the High Commission Wednesday, the High Commissioner said the present Government was striving to strengthen democracy and the institutions with the support of all the political parties in and outside the Parliament.

He said the real democracy has been ushered in the country after a long struggle and for which Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto laid down her life.

The High Commissioner also noted that PPP had rendered great sacrifices for the cause of democracy and it was the duty of all the political forces to lend support to preserve and fortify the system.

Hasan praised the Pakistani Diaspora for its willingness to come forward and help the motherland in its difficult times such as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and support for the internally displaced persons of Swat and Malakand division who were uprooted when the Army launched operations against the militants.

The High Commissioner assured the members of the delegation that no stone will be left unturned to  resolve the issues facing the UK-based Pakistan community and sub-missions in other principal cities have been instructed to deal with them on priority basis.

The PPP UK Chief Hassan Bokhari discussed various issues confronting Pakistan including energy, price hike, unemployment, terrorism and praised the conciliatory politics of President Asif Ali Zardari and his efforts to develop consensus on all important issues with other political parties.

He said successful foreign policy, mature thinking and the efforts to boost development and attain progress in all socio-economic sectors have been the hallmarks of President Zardari’s leadership.

Other members of the delegation included Ibrar Mir, Deputy Secretary General, Khadim Hussein Nasir, Shehzad Kazmi, Chaudhry Arif,Chaudhry Muhammad Aslam and Chaudhry Nadeem Qaiser.

Minister, Community Welfare, Salis Kiyani and  Welfare Counsellor Shahnaz  Mazhar were also present at the meeting.

 

Misleading Interpretations

By Former Ambassador B A  Malik

Three articles, one each by Shireen Mazari, Ahmad Qureshi and Asif Ezdi (The News August 26) interpret current events in a questionable manner. Defence Analyst Shireen Mazari blasts the present rulers for what she  calls the latter’s  submission to USA as well as wealthy investors from Gulf states. Can she tell her readers as to when since 1947 did  the United States  not interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan? The USA  has traditionally behaved towards Pakistan as a master not as a friend as correctly assessed by FM Ayub Khan. Why then dump the entire debris of US domination at the doors of  the present leaders? As regards the investment by rich Gulf states in our country the writer needs to study the economy of the global village. Pakistan is not an island. We have to live with others in a world economy which has become increasingly integrated and inexorably interdependent. If however the author  wants to get rid of overbearing US interference in our domestic affairs is she prepared to promote SAARC solidarity on the pattern of European Union? Her answer please…

Ahmad Qureshi on the other hand may not have understood the philosophy of Jinnah who articulated it in his famous speech on August 11 1947. Jinnah’s marvelous growth from an ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity to becoming the creator of an independent Muslim state culminating in his August 11/47 political testament makes a convincing exposition  of the life and times of the great leader. Qureshi may wish to take a fresh look at the dynamic political character of the founder of Pakistan before advising others to avoid details. Mr Qureshi has not interpreted “Pak nationalism” in synch with the spirit of our times and  Jinnah’s progressive school of thought. Jaswant Singh while interpreting Jinnah has done a better job than our own intellectual from Geo TV.

The third writer, my former colleague Asif Ezdi, should know that the courts will take care of NRO and Mush trial. Why then is he making a big deal out of what have already become sub-judical matters?

Our intelligentsia need to capture the sense of our times which have changed beyond recognition. I am confident the Parliament will restore the constitution of  1973 very soon  and the courts will take care of the legal business of the state  including the ones which Ezdi is trying vigorously to agitate. In case the Parliament fails in it’s duty God help Pakistan!

Aug 14 and the perpetually carping brigade

By Ayaz Amir

To whom this nation has given the most, it is usually from among this hallowed lot that arise its most virulent and merciless critics. This is a mild word, denunciators is more like it. More than ingratitude it is an attitude so benighted that it needs the services of a shrink to fully comprehend it.

Ordinary people at the lower rungs of the social order may complain about their lot in life, but they refrain from magnifying their discontent into a wholesale assault on Pakistan. Dysfunctional and meltdown are words alien to their frame of mind. When they see their cricket team in action, especially when (for a change) it is doing well, their our overjoyed. When it plays badly they are downcast. If this is not a sign of nationhood — and active nationhood at that — what else is?

Ordinary folk have no great respect for their leaders and much less for politicians, which is as it should be. A nation in love with its politicians would need to have its head examined. Punjabis have a droll sense of humour, much of it directed against the bombast and self-righteousness of the good and the great.

But ordinary Pakistanis, without going through any elaborate intellectual exercise, usually make a distinction between humbugs in power and their country. Go to any bazaar of any town, large or small, in Pakistan and it will be bustling with life and humour and anger. But what passes for our intelligentsia is mentally constipated. All it can see around it are portents of imminent collapse. Ordinary people never ask why this country was created. The same cannot be said of the intelligentsia.

Part of the problem lies in idleness and underemployment. Many of us in the newspaper or talk-show business have nothing else to do. Many self-appointed pundits are retirees, pensioners or property owners who don’t have anything to do for a living. Is it surprising if they excel at half-baked theories about what afflicts the nation?

If this nation did not have to endure — much against its will and temperament — the rigours of prohibition, if for the embittered of heart or the disappointed in love (or the thwarted of passion) there were places to go to in the evenings and there in some half-lit corner in moderate measure to drown their sorrows, if there were more theatres, even if of the Nargis and Deedar kind, in our towns, we would all be better off, and there would be more employment opportunities for that small but vital class which makes its living from song and dance and, as one is informed, from pastimes related to these activities.

But since, as penance for our many political sins, such enlightened alternatives are denied to us in what we insist on calling our sacred republic, what we are left with is politics. We talk politics morning and evening. We have nothing else to talk about: nothing about the arts or literature or the better aspects of life. Politics and gossip related to politics are the staple of our national conversation.

Since God knows when, and I have been in this business for a long time, we have been saying that this country cannot co-exist with the shenanigans or alleged corruption of this or that political figure — we said this of Benazir, then Nawaz Sharif, now Asif Zardari. But Pakistan has survived the worst predictions and is still there. It will survive the real or alleged misdeeds of the present dispensation.

One thing we can’t seem to get into our heads: Pakistan is bigger and more enduring than the sum of its military or political leaders. It is bigger than its dictators, bigger than its political failures. Our political and military scumbags will come and go but the Himalayas will always be there as will the Arabian Sea and all the land in between.

Bad things have happened to Pakistan and there is no denying this but why do we so resolutely close our eyes to the good things that have also happened?

This was a land which in 1947 fed 35 million souls. Now it sustains a population close to 170 million. Nor can it be said that standards of living have fallen. They haven’t. Pakistanis as a whole — and I am speaking in relative terms — eat better and live longer than they did at the time of Partition. If I speak of my own Chakwal, how dramatically it has changed. It was a backwater all those years ago. Now there are roads connecting most villages and most villages, although sadly not all, are electrified. The great popular demand nowadays is piped gas in every home, a luxury which many parts of Pakistan enjoy but which our cousins in India do not have.

Yes, there is poverty, and there is bureaucracy and the cruelty for many of life’s evil circumstances. But, like it or not, these are aspects of the human condition. You have only to read Dickens to get an idea of the rampant poverty of the lower classes in Victorian England; and only to read Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath to get an idea of the social dislocation and suffering caused by the Great Depression in the United States.

We have our problems, and may they grow less with the passage of time and the best of our efforts, but if we look around us — whether in the sub–continent, where mass poverty is greater than ours, or at Afghanistan which has been devastated by 30 years of uninterrupted upheaval and warfare, or even further away at the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia — we should count ourselves lucky that while our tribulations, constantly magnified by our ever-expanding tribe of cynics and pundits, have been great, they could have been much worse.

The rentier class — living off its rents and pensions — should be ashamed of itself: living off the fat of this land, yet going on and on about the destruction and perdition lurking around the next corner. I could cite examples, of metaphor piled upon metaphor and no attempt at an argument, but that would get personal, something best avoided.

About closing one’s eyes to something good that may have happened, why, on the part of the pundit class, is there such a deafening silence about the success of our military arms in Swat and Malakand, and the return of the displaced to their homes? Things aren’t wrapped up completely and much remains to be done, and there is still curfew at night in most parts of Swat, but can’t we appreciate what already has been done?

Only in April which is not too long ago, the best of us were saying that the country was in mortal danger from the Taliban. After gaining control of Swat, the Taliban were extending their tentacles into Buner and Dir. In those circumstances the army, left with no other choice and goaded to the limit, started an operation against Fazlullah’s armed followers. From the massed ranks of punditry arose the cry that preparations were inadequate and the displacement of the local population had not been fully catered for.

Yet in a mere matter of three months the tide has turned against the Taliban. While they have not been eliminated from Swat they are on the run, and the displaced have begun to return to their homes. In Waziristan the army, very sensibly, is relying on an indirect approach, launching not a full-fledged assault as in Swat, but throwing a noose around the Taliban and tightening it gradually. Whether Baitullah Mehsud is dead or not, the Taliban for the first time are on the defensive. The army both in Swat and Waziristan has taken heavy hits but it has persevered. Why are we being so squeamish in rendering it our praise and thanks?

We criticise the army, very rightly, for its coups and shall do so again if, God forbid, it repeats its past follies in that direction. But when our soldiers do a good job they deserve to hear of it, without qualification, from our lips. After the 1948 Kashmir war (which gave us what we have of Kashmir) this is the only necessary and useful war the army is fighting and, thanks to the heavens above and its own efforts, it is winning.

So here’s to the army, and air force, and here to the source of all our delights and sorrows o
n this its 62nd birthday. Ah, what’s this? The clink of ice in a crystal glass. On this of all days there should be no sound more welcome than this.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/print1.asp?id=192960