Politics of entertainment

What will restore our democratic values?

Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan July 26, 2020
The writer is a member of the faculty of contemporary studies at NDU Islamabad

What will restore our democratic values? Will these lost values be restored through Supreme Court judgments? In democracies there is a given standard of government and opposition’s behaviour that is essential for continuity of democracy. In Pakistan violation of these standards is a norm and more than debating the political ideas our democracy is mostly busy discussing individual personalities.

Norms are unwritten rules and traditions and customs that carry them are indebted to the originators and creators of these norms. Whom should we credit or discredit for creating our democratic norms? Not the usual justice, equality, liberty and fraternity, our democratic norms have glided more in the direction of injustice, inequality, unhappiness, intolerance and lack of accountability.

One is forced to ask: Is democracy seriously interested in the wellbeing of this country? It has been 12 years since the last military dictator was removed from power and in 12 years of uninterrupted democracy all we have seen is this country further slide into social, economic and political difficulties. Democracy in Pakistan simply doesn’t wish to understand the world in which we live. When Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were engaged playing political sea-aw in the 90s, globalisation and information age passed by our side as we kept looking at it from the sidelines. Our archrival India at that stage was growing at a slow and consistent growth rate of 3% but Manmohan Singh’s government changed all that and the country benefited from the blowing winds of globalisation and information age to register annual growth of over 7%. The Y2K moment at the turn of the millennium brought the IT world to the Indian doors. Thousands of Indian IT engineers lashed on to the opportunity of the world getting digitalised and since then India hasn’t looked back with some of its states registering an annual growth rate of over 10%. All this was made possible by Indian science and engineering specialists and professionals who were not only locals but some of them had returned after completion of their studies from abroad. Even now over 25% of engineering workers and between 40 to 50% of PhDs in USA are immigrants and many of them are from India.

Why did we lose our priorities? Why did our resources get misallocated? Why did our country lose its direction and potential? The answers to these questions matter and if we lost our opportunities we are still doing no good service to our country by giving it no democratic direction. How can there be any reform under the spirit of collectivism when people live in different worlds in the same country.

Eighteenth amendment has created the different worlds in which people live in this country – one world (federation) wishes and stresses that “impossible is necessary” whereas the other world (Sindh) resists and responds “the necessary is impossible”. Our leadership feels humiliated as it is being made fun of on YouTube channels and other social media tools and there is this talk of banning them. No we should not feel humiliated for being joked about and mimicked, we should feel humiliated for not doing our job and letting this country down.

How can any political disorder be repaired if the federal and provincial resolve to do that lies at the two extreme ends of the political spectrum. Is there any ‘democratic humiliation’ that our democrats feel for this country having been left so far behind? They still continue to dig their heels in the national assemblies and the senates and maybe all that matters to them is their political status and position. While the whole world is converging and building windmills to take benefits of the winds of change, our world is still locked in the medieval mindset of banning, blocking and building walls.

The disorder that we experience resides in our inability to provide basic freedoms to our people – food, housing, education, health and employment. This country continues to pay a huge price for neglect of the past years. The contributors to this neglect are both the democratic and non-democratic forces of Pakistan.

What the people today need is hope. We live in an age of acceleration and what looks like wants today become the needs of tomorrow. If our needs are growing by the day then we also need to create the industry to meet those needs. Energy poverty groups us in the have-nots energy countries in the world. With energy poverty can we keep pace and take benefits from the opportunities that today’s accelerated world provides?

When the rate of change exceeds the ability to adapt, it results in dislocation. Our societal structures are not abreast with the changing world – they are disjointed, disrupted and dislocated and unable to keep pace with the change. In this age of acceleration if our politics and democracy do nothing about deteriorating social order and continue to avoid visiting disorder in the society then it is disorder that will visit it – and that will be disastrous. Apparently, till today there is not even a single leader who ever lied, cheated or betrayed this country and yet we have our country hitting the rock bottom.

Yet again our democrats on the opposition side are gearing up to hold another all parties’ conference. However much they claim that they are responding to the call from an economically suffering people, their desire to get together is not to serve the public interest. They will get together to serve special interests – their own interests and not the public and national interests.    

Devoid of democratic norms, politics in Pakistan instead of being credible and constructive has gradually turned into a parasite that doesn’t serve but actually eats the national interests. Politics in Pakistan is not the story of clash of political ideas and serious business of political party’s engagement, it is more a story of individuals and their political legacies, their political hold on power or removal from power and their unwillingness to admit fraud, failure or any political shame.

Our external debts multiplied by loads, our institutions corrupted, our social services collapsed and our industry ruined but none of the political or military leader who ruled this country ever claimed that he or she was at fault.

Without political accountability we will never have politics that will benefit the people of this country. We will continue to have more and more all parties’ conferences, more political amusement, more fun and more and more political entertainment.


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