The failing political system

People are fast losing faith in the country's political system


Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan May 02, 2021
The writer is Dean Social Sciences at Garrison University Lahore and tweets @Dr M Ali Ehsan

The dismal performance of PTI in the by-election of NA-249 Karachi is reflective of the growing under-confidence and distrust that people are increasingly demonstrating on the ability of the PTI government to address their woes. PPP won this seat after a huge gap of 23 years. Given the general disinterest and low turnout of voters in this by-election, it will be difficult for the PPP winner to claim that he rode to victory on the shoulders of people’s power. I think the victory was more determined by the majority of people that boycotted the elections and chose to stay back home.

So, let’s not talk about the winner but the real loser in this by-election — politics — because people are fast losing faith in the political system and the manner in which people of this constituency disassociated themselves from the process of voting is an indicator of how fed-up they are of all these politicians who all promise to be great socialists but once in power they give the people back nothing in return.

Democracy in Pakistan is like a forest or a jungle — a place to go if you want to lose your way. Sunlight hardly filters through the jungle and thus all our politicians and most institutional heads remain prone to strategic blindness. It’s a jungle in which there are strong incentives for laying ambushes, lying and cheating.

No wonder, DG FIA Bashir Memon stayed quiet while in office but now is unrelenting in spilling some beans. Not that he doesn’t have the right to say what he has said, but it is the choice of timing that makes his statement so controversial. Also, remarks from the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court that the “military is the greatest of the qabza mafia in the country” are saddening. The honourable judge also asked a serving Brigadier of DHA Lahore to “leave his uniform, stars and cap at home” when he comes to attend the hearing as he might be sent to jail. This was an unreasonable comment that any judge would make in any court let alone a judge retiring in three months’ time after completing his distinguished service.

The remarks came on the heels of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Justice Qazi Faez Isa. Actually, the Supreme Court has left many people in this country dumbfounded and the old glitch of “who will judge the judge?” has again become a talking point. In its judgment the court declared ‘illegal’ all the actions taken by FBR and all other forums related to the assets of Justice Isa’s wife and children. Was any money laundered involved therein? A common man can still not find answer to the question. The court was quick to give Justice Isa the reprieve without clearly handling the ‘how, when, why and ifs of the case’. This judgment puts the people of this country in a state of absolute disarray: can they expect anything from the system without the right connections?

There are three important stakeholders in this country. We have a state, we have the people, and we have a system. The state is hijacked by the creators of the old system and will remain hijacked till the new system is allowed to emerge. The people have gradually been frustrated, impoverished, manipulated, and made to lose their will. The system or whatever is left of it is being held together by the military and no wonder for this very reason the military is under attack by the enemies of the state, not only from the outside but also from the inside. Astonishingly, politics should have been a key stakeholder too but it has gradually lost its significance — why?

“An insignificant ape becomes the ruler of the world” is the theme of Yuval Noah Harari’s book, Sapiens — A brief history of humankind. “How human beings might eventually become gods” is the theme of his second book Homodeus — a brief history of tomorrow. Our history of failed politics aptly reflects the two themes of Harari’s books. Insignificant people becoming politicians and rulers in this country and then acquiring God-like powers to subjugate the people. This failed political system didn’t fail in a day. Incompetent and corrupt people gradually rose to the positions of authority in a system which facilitated and pushed them up the ladder. Such people have little or no time to see beyond their perks and privileges. The unhappy and miserable life of the people in this jungle eludes their sights.

There are many disappointments that one can associate with our political system but if one was given a choice to name one big disappointment that is contributing to the failure of this system then it will be judiciary. Being the branch of the government, which administers justice which clearly makes it an important stakeholder in the political system, it has largely failed to provide justice. If the prosecution in the cases has been below par it has even failed to punish them. Whenever the courts have been petitioned on matters of extreme national importance and looked upon by the people to give just verdicts against the looters of this nation’s wealth the courts by virtue of some of the decisions they gave have created an impression that they have more conveniently sided and concurred with these looters than with the state.

There are no elections to be won, there is only this country that needs to be put right. Who will do that? If it was not just a myth and a genie can actually come out of a lamp and can give me an opportunity to make one political wish that could be fulfilled I will ask him to board all the politicians of this country on a yacht and take them away to a place from where they can never return — because this country today is what they have made it — a jungle and under the current failed political system this country will continue to remain a jungle with all this talk about creating a democratic welfare state or ‘Madina ki Riyasat’ only but wishful thinking.

Lastly, some bold decisions will have to be taken by not so weak but courageous civil-military leadership in this country to bring any meaningful change in the rotten political system in this country. This country needs a leadership like MBS, Putin, Xi, Modi or Erdogan to set its course right. Without such a leadership and with people finally shaking away their traumatised lives and waking up from their long nights of ignorance they may just push this rotten political system over the cliff. That will be when the people will become their own kings and no talk with the journalists or politicians will then be able to stop the coming Armageddon.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2021.

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