In these very interesting and frustrating times, people at large appear to be pessimistic and anxious about their future and that of the country. They seem to be losing faith in their elected representatives, particularly the individuals and parties that are in government.
There are many understandable reasons for their disappointment. Most of these disappointments stem from poor governance, a sense of insecurity, unemployment and an unending spiral of inflation.
While the country faces these and other challenges like insurgency, terrorism, and political violence, the various political forces present here remain polarised. But that is only one dimension of our complex politics. During the past four years, we have seen political forces reaching out to one another and building a national consensus on some thorny political issues like the Eighteenth Amendment, provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan and the NFC Award. Although it was short-lived, we also saw the political partnership between the PML-N and the PPP which are major political parties.
Pakistan’s problems today — the multiple challenges from economy, security and governance — are neither the creation of present elected governments nor can we expect any future government to resolve them quickly with a magic wand. Some of the structural problems in three vital areas — economy, security and politics — are the legacy of the last martial rule of Pervez Musharraf. With his rhetoric, manipulations and machismo we lost national direction, and lost a decade full of opportunities. The present governments started with complex issues, many of which were inherited: judicial crisis, terrorism, insurgency in Balochistan and the energy crisis.
The scale of troubles left by martial rule is much higher if we include the fragmentation of political parties, the ruin of state institutions, and the trashing of the constitutions twice. The top military man did every wrong for personal interest, primarily to protect his job and use his position in the military to rule the country. Three of his predecessors have done the same thing with tremendous negative impact on the Pakistani state and society. Let me be clear: a great part of the political troubles that we face today is the legacy of the past martial rule.
The chaotic political situation, even with so many of points of confrontation among a multitude of political forces, is better than the calm and quiet of martial rule because the later eats up quietly like an insect. Pakistan for its own integrity, progress and internal cohesion cannot afford yet another martial rule.
While we often critique the political leaders on all forms of media, continuously, we support their rule unambiguously. They have popular legitimacy, meaning right to rule. We cannot condone corruption, mismanagement and promotion of pigmies and non-entities into formal positions of power and influence. Our history is evident on how those from the military who portrayed themselves as clean and patriotic, committed the same wrongs they accused the political class of. Clutter and political confrontations are normal in developing democracies. We need more democracy to make it better. The basic condition for allowing democracy to get more democratic is that it must continue, and the democratic tree even with fall leaves must not be rooted out. It was this impatience with democracy in the past, along with the hubris of men in uniform which harmed Pakistan the most.
Democratic polarisation and conflicts result in establishing a natural equilibrium. The present chaos, if allowed a democratic solution, will achieve exactly that.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2012.