I hate to be cynical about our political process or over critical of the political class that hold power in the provinces and at the centre. But when I look at the challenges that Pakistan is facing today — the worst floods in history, militancy, unabated target killings of political workers and innocent people in Karachi, economic downturn, massive corruption and governance problems — I cannot escape a bitter reality hitting my face. All these issues are on the minds and tongues of people in Pakistan and dominate their social conversations.
Everyone has a common, legitimate question to ask: why is everything in Pakistan going down while nations around us, notably China, India and many others in the developing world, are on the rise? Everybody in Pakistan has an answer as to why Pakistan has become a troubled state and the reasons given in this answer usually depend on which group, person or institution one hates the most.
In my view there is no single reason for Pakistan’s current state of affairs, though I am inclined to look at the social structures, culture and social formations that produce our elites, the ruling classes. Reflecting on why we are in the ditch now is as important as finding a way out — but we need to first get out of it first, re-settle and then avoid making the same mistakes.
Sadly, neither are we learning from history, nor are we planning any long-term strategy and reforms so that we don’t stumble back into the ditch we have fallen into many times before. The starting point is unity among the ruling groups, the dynastic political parties and the coalition partners at all levels. Looking at the past and present conduct of these ruling groups some may argue that if they have not understood or done what the people and the country want, wouldn’t it be unrealistic to expect anything good from them? It is a valid question, but the reality is that if we want democracy to grow in quality, popular legitimacy and inclusiveness, we cannot do so without those who get elected by whatever social base they have. It will be unfair to treat every member of the ruling groups and parties, assemblies and cabinets as if they were all in the same category. Quite a few of them feel the pain, the suffering that we all have and they have ideas on how we can solve problems, but they lack influence within their party structures.
My suggestion is not about acting against any other member of the ruling parties, now in the opposition in the name of ‘national reconciliation’ but rather to think collectively on solutions, to deepen cooperation in the national interest, and to honour the commitments made to one another as well as to those who elected them.
Currently, the political scene of the country is distressing. In the face all the challenges, there is a simmering confrontation, frequent outbreak of open conflict among the coalition partners in Sindh and uneasy accommodation in Punjab — and there seems to be no sign of this ending any time soon.
Unless some social revolution in terms of voter rebellion against the traditional ruling classes ensues, we will have to work through the current lot and try to hold them accountable and responsible. For doing this, civic engagement, strengthening rule of law tradition and exposure of misconduct through responsible media reporting may help.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2010.
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