The misdeed of seeking ‘intervention’

The misdeed of using shortcuts instead of arduous path of good governance to assume power

Durdana Najam June 14, 2024
The writer is a public policy analyst based in Lahore. She tweets @durdananajam


Imran Khan wants to talk to the establishment. What is the establishment in Pakistan’s political parlance? Is it the Pakistan army? But why does Imran want to talk to the army? Does he not believe in democracy? Does he not talk incessantly about the democratic process being allowed to run its course in Pakistan? Has he not, since time immemorial, been castigating the army’s intervention in politics? But then he is also blamed for being a product of the establishment. For that matter, every political party is considered a product of the establishment. Even PPP, which was built on a purely ideological ground, sought the establishment’s shadow for survival post-Benazir assassination. Instead of winning the hearts of voters through the painstaking and strenuous path of good governance, the party preferred the shortcut.

Remember what Asif Ali Zardari said about the Charter of Democracy, which both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif created to shut the doors of martial laws in Pakistan? He said it was not a binding agreement on the likes of a holy scripture. Later, he slipped into the lion’s den.

The Sharifs too have a lineage that connects them to the establishment. Providence gave them a chance post-2017 to take off the cloak. Instead of getting fair relief from the judiciary on the sleazy financial deals and the empires built overseas through laundered money, the party chose to compromise. We may call the vote of no-confidence against the PTI government constitutional, but given Pakistan’s democratic condition, the best way forward was to call early elections, surrender before the public, tell them the truth about the missing money trails, face jail trials, bring the stolen money back and rehabilitate both the exchequer and the trust of the people in the system.

That did not happen. Instead, what happened was May 9th. Mayhem. Further political disintegration, further manipulation of politicians, another political party thrown into the dungeon of their own misdeeds.

Misdeeds. That’s the word. That’s where both the prognosis and the treatment lie. To understand the word, we would have to go back to where I began this column — Imran Khan’s insistence on talking to the establishment. For a better understanding, we can even go back to the last century.

The so-called 90s. The era of democratic revival in Pakistan. The era of the two-party system. The era of revolving governments. Also, the era of political parties washing their linens at the doors of the establishment. That’s the misdeed of our politicians. They don’t talk to one another. They cannot tolerate the other sitting at the helm. They do not want to compete with their rivals in the realm of governance. They want people to choose them, but not the people they have served, but the people who are thrown into the ballot boxes without their consent.

We talk so much about the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report. The indictment of all those who severed this country into two. Lately, Prisoner 804 ran a social media campaign on the report. He asked the people of Pakistan to read it. But lo and behold, the 71-year-old politician had never read the report before he got into jail. Speak of reforming the country without knowing true history!

Let’s go back to the misdeed part. Had Bhutto given, not as a matter of generosity but as a matter of constitutional right, the right to become the prime minister of Pakistan to Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the shape of Pakistan would have been different.

The misdeed continued in the 90s. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir — both knocked at the GHQ doors to rid them of one another. The 8th Amendment came in handy every time the request was placed. As expected, both were soon out of the political equation.

When Musharraf came to power, he quickly eliminated two forces from the political landscape of Pakistan — the left-wingers and the so-called architects of NGOs. They fell like a ripe fruit into the lap of a dictator who threw money and stature at them as bait. The tainted pasts of the politicians, their hunger for more power, their shameless decision to ditch their parent organisations to form a new one — the PML-Q. This is all part of the misdeeds the politicians have been committing.

The misdeed of looking to the establishment for power.

The misdeed of becoming a Trojan horse to combat the parliament.

The misdeed of using the judiciary and the GHQ to wash their dirty linen.

The misdeed of using shortcuts instead of the arduous path of good governance to assume power.

The misdeed found a hiatus, though momentarily in 2008, when PPP and PML-N decided to allow the democratic process to continue. PML-N refrained from toppling the PPP government. Though no government was fallen, the misdeed surfaced masked in the support of the Memogate and all other tactics that weakened the government. Instead of talking it out with the party, instead of activating parliament, instead of settling the matter within, the judiciary was involved.

The interesting part is that whenever the judiciary is brought in, it brings all the darker sides of Pakistan’s history to light. In due course, the Asghar Khan case unfolded, and FIA told us that Rs140 million were distributed among politicians, including Nawaz Sharif, to defeat Benazir Bhutto in the 1990 elections. The jury is out on who gave the money and with whom the politicians joined hands to grind their own axis.

Every political party is divided within. All political parties are divided among themselves. The system reeks of mistrust. Look at the PTI. There is a Gandapur, then there is a Chicago IT Cell, and there is an Adiala Broadcast. All humming a different language. For the PML-N — the two brothers are playing good-cop and bad-cop. The PPP is okay with Sindh as long as the 18th Amendment remains a sleeping dog.

Speaking of democracy! Without putting polity first, it is not possible. When politicians do not talk to one another, when they invite the third party, when they prefer elitism over nationalism, then don’t be surprised to see them disrespected, dethroned, and dismantled on the charges of May 9.


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