The PPP government is in distress but most of its sufferings are self-inflicted. Since it mastered the art of using victimhood to the fullest, it has dragged its feet on virtually every serious issue. Just recall former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s short-lived decision to bring the ISI under civilian control right before his US debut. Under President Asif Ali Zardari, the PPP-led government does things, not for obvious reasons but to seek maximum political mileage. This can be an effective political strategy but as it turns out, it is a deeply flawed one.
A government embarked on such policies ends up spoiling its term in office. The ruling coalition’s achievements are the Eighteenth and Twentieth Amendments and the NFC awards — which were done without taking into cognisance the lack of provincial capacity. Moreover, it further polarised an already deeply polarised society, failing to make an economic course correction and consequently, ending up depriving people of whatever ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ they already had. It is a foreign policy disaster undermining parliament and other institutions.
When General (retd) Pervez Musharraf was on his way out, the media, judiciary, civil society and democratic parties were considered the four pillars of hope for a truly democratic future. The sad part is that the government has quite painstakingly taken them apart brick by brick and today, we stand on the great rubble of our broken dreams. The fatal flaws of the media and the judiciary, the ineptness of our political class and poverty of national spirit stand exposed as a consequence.
This could be considered a good strategy if the issues that the government keeps toying with were not seriously complicated already. Consider Aasia Bibi’s case when one fine day, the president decided to send his governor to her rescue. That governor is dead and Aasia Bibi is right where she was to begin with. Of course, it helped show the world how benighted the people of the country are. Similarly, after introducing the Aaghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package, the government swiftly lost interest in the Balochistan crisis and the matter was outsourced to the Supreme Court. The same goes for the current government’s confrontation with the judiciary. If the party leadership had to finally bring a new contempt of court law to save the new prime minister, it could have brought it in time to save the old one, too, but it would not have been able to exploit the victim card. The civil society and what passes for our liberal class are under stress because instead of supporting them, the government has tried to use their sympathy for further political mileage.
Benazir Bhutto once called democracy the best form of revenge. The present government is, however, trying to market revenge as the best form of democracy. There is no harm in confessing failures and seeking help to overcome weaknesses. However, when realisation of failure is replaced by hubris, you can know something is woefully wrong. Somewhere down the line, the government forgot that staying in power is not an end in itself but a means to offer better governance.
The irony is that despite all of this, we still have to fight for the government’s and parliament’s right to complete their terms for true democracy cannot come until the term is completed and we don’t get a chance to elect the incumbents out of power.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.
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