Rising to the occasion

Our political culture breeds division, greed, nepotism and corruption

Inam Ul Haque January 26, 2023
The writer is a retired major general and has an interest in International Relations and Political Sociology. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @20_Inam

He is a senior retired civilian officer from defence establishment with deep family links to the armed forces. A friend for life, and a relatively level-headed amongst many; so, it was strangely weird to hear him complain about the moorings of this country, and his innate desire to emigrate elsewhere even in these twilight years of life. For being politically aligned with PTI, it was OK to hear him passionately support everything Imran Khan and PTI, like most retirees beholden to the Azadi narrative; but it was shocking once he held the Establishment responsible for all the ills that afflict this country. And that without the Miltablishment, this country would do just fine.

And this is just one example among many, and it is disturbing. And if we do not wake up to its dangerous reality, there would be no Pakistan left for politics, no legislature left for horse-trading, no judiciary left to lord over, and no country to defend.

And we are all seemingly sleep-walking into an economic disaster and a mismanagement and misgovernance crisis entirely of our own making, and we hardly realise it. TV debates are full of rhetorical battles of no consequence. The movers and shakers apparently are clueless and the state machinery is in limbo. The society meanwhile suffers from deep-felt apathy and denial, and the state is adrift on a ship timed to self-destruct. One crisis after another hits us in the guts. It is shameful that an agricultural country like ours has a wheat crisis, despite the government-owned godowns full to the brims. That the whole country is plunged into darkness for some 24 hours due to some technical glitch in the national power grid. Our ability to forecast and plan for anticipated crises seems to have been flushed in the dirty toilets of endless politics and useless talk shops.

We are all collectively culpable in this national hara-kiri but thanks especially to Gen Bajwa; Imran Khan in particular and PDM in general for increasing our collective worthlessness. Otherwise why would sane politicians and others not sit together, pulling back from their insane rigidity, to find and implement palatable solutions to right the present state of national affairs, and steady the ship.

One can put any spin to facts and ground realities, as this is one of the very few areas we have excelled, but the stark certainty remains that our political culture breeds division, greed, nepotism and corruption. That capability and capacity are alien values to our movers and shakers, and that we lack a national sense and direction, despite the steady diet of patriotism starting with Noor Jehan’s dhol sipahia and continuing in the many current soaps produced by the ISPR. That given an opportunity, we shall enrich ourselves, our clan or biradari, our party and our ethnicity...while Pakistan can wait, being Mumlikat-e-Khudadad (an endowment from Allah). When leaders have no scruples, why would others! And in the absence of role-models, we breed armies of gullible and jobless youth, steeped and brought-up in corruption, that they consider just normal, and a way of life.

Meanwhile in politics, the polarising narrative goes like this. IK has personified the ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s mantra of mujhe kyon nikala (why oust me?) by cleverly manipulated and perpetually agitational politics of haqeeqi azadi (real independence). All this through vilification of Pakistan’s Miltablishment by taking potshots (rightly) at Gen Bajwa, but in the process maligning the Military in general, to the glee of PDM and all those stalwarts of ‘civilian supremacy of the Armed Forces’, besides the external nemesis of Pakistan, who consider Military as the only stumbling block preventing conquering the soul of Pakistan.

In his not-so-discreet desire to regain power, IK does not seem willing to talk to the ‘corrupt cabal of PDM’, as angels are waiting to descend on the Land of the Pure for him to work with, the moment PDM is ousted from power. And that Khan Sahib’s lofty principles are sacrosanct, despite the convenience of countless ‘U-turns on principles’ he has taken, in PTI’s short stint in power, and after.

On the other hand, the PDM cabal, when questioned on the sagacity of ousting IK, who was politically on the death throes before the no-confidence vote, cite their not-so-innocent patriotic credentials. PDM opines that allowing IK more time in office was akin to destroying Pakistan economically. As if PDM’s one year in power has done wonders to the economy. As if default on loan repayments is not enough a looming reality. As if the soaring inflation and the series of man-made crises are of somebody else’s making.

The simple deduction by the silent majority of Pakistan is that it is an unholy power struggle with the winner making tons of money to enrich generations. Maryam Nawaz et al walks wearing designer stuff worth millions, that was made in Ittefaq Foundry. Political have-nots of yesterday drive Land Cruisers and other plush luxury vehicles and buy mansions, after selling votes and conscience (whatever is left) in assemblies. It is money stupid, as simple as that.

And in this rat race, bureaucracy, civil and some in the military also partake, as conveniently possible. The Spartan simplicity of yester years is dead under the weight of opulence, protocol and arrogance. Gen Bajwa’s stories of financial indiscretion are sadly, too pervasive and viral over social media. In this age of preferring financial legging over legacy, Pakistan is impoverished and humiliated by those, who were to care for it.

Crystal-gazing sees violence in Pakistan and no revolution, as demography and political culture do not support transfer of power to revolutionary power centres, there being none. Elections would produce more of the same, if emotions are set aside in rational deliberations. Neutrals are badly bruised and under tremendous pressure. And the present class of rulers, having no love-last for the country and its people, have no clue and no desire to deliver on governance and economy. And Khan Sahib and his cohort are uncompromising in seething rage, missing their good days in power, when some in PTI too made fortunes. And the debate in intelligentsia and media is courting dangerous narratives and alternatives, that were until recently very unpalatable.

Will somebody rise to the occasion?

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2023.

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