Analysing the political gridlock

Published: September 24, 2014
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The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

Imran’s strategy to beat down Nawaz Sharif is two-fold. He keeps beating the drum endlessly with the narrative that the elections of 2013 were widely rigged according to a well-conceived plan. According to him, this fraud was authored by Nawaz Sharif and had the backing of the judiciary elements within the bureaucracy and the election commission. As a consequence, the present federal government is illegitimate and to regain its legitimacy Nawaz Sharif should resign to enable an independent recount. The verbal salvo is meant to psychologically demolish the legitimacy of the government and this Parliament and create conditions in conjunction with the PAT, and as the rumour goes, with the help of some disgruntled elements in the intelligence agencies, Nawaz and the government should remain paralysed. Simultaneously, day in and day out, with laborious monotony, Imran hammers into his ardent followers across the country that he represents the ‘new Pakistan’ and that his party is the agent of change. His speech is meant to bring about awareness among the people about their political and economic rights.

In addition, he informs them how Nawaz Sharif and his close family circle are exploiting the masses and depriving them of their rights in a planned manner. According to Imran, it is only by getting rid of the prime minister and most of the present political class, that Pakistan will be able to rid itself of the feudal and patriarchal social system. In essence, the Pakistani leadership is corrupt and inefficient and that essentially is the root cause of Pakistan’s present ailment. His concept of a ‘new Pakistan’ has elements of Marxist thinking as well as Islamic values of truthfulness and unity — a society based on merit and equality of opportunity. He plays on the sentiments and yearnings of the broad masses and makes them dream of a better Pakistan that can only be realised if he was saddled with power. His style is similar to that of the Athenians of ancient Greeks who decided matters of public interest and governance in public meetings. Naturally, in a country where there is a common desire for a better life, where the majority is living in wretched conditions, his message is well received. Although Imran professes lip service to the Constitution and the rule of law, his actions clearly suggest that he is impatient with the current system and would cast it aside even if it meant using support of politicians with blemished records. Running deep in this delusional state of mind is the mistaken belief that he has been cheated and had fraud not taken place he would have been the prime minister.

Leaders who do not share the perception of Imran are looked upon with contempt and according to him will be pushed into oblivion. By continuously attacking political leaders, state institutions (with the exception of the armed forces) he aims at weakening an already fragile state structure. He deliberately overlooks the fact that if society, through continuous indoctrination and promotion of civil disobedience, is used to achieve his political objectives, there is strong likelihood that the country will drift towards anarchy, seeds of which are already prevalent. On the surface what Imran says resonates with the common person. There is depravity all around and to criticise the prevailing conditions it sells well with the disgruntled public. But to dream and to promise a land free of equal opportunity is an easy thing to say but to bring about change in the real world is a different matter. Equality of opportunity, and to be treated fairly is what every Pakistani aspires for. Our society, being patriarchal and feudal, denies women their rights. Imran stands for their rights and has been trying to give them greater space and importance in his public utterances. This clearly is a matter that will receive support from women. But, here too, it would require legislation and developing consensus in Parliament and not working outside the system. Declaration of a grand vision and good intent is one thing, implementing it in Pakistan is the hard reality.

There are disgruntled elements in society that are raising their voice against the government. Most of their grievances are genuine as our society is besieged by militancy, poverty, a stagnant economy and lawlessness. All these factors justify clamour for change but the question is whether Imran Khan’s approach of harnessing public discontent to topple the regime should be preferred to strengthening institutions from within.

Regrettably, Nawaz Sharif’s response to the entire political crisis has been defensive and directionless. Firstly, he has failed to forcefully counter the ongoing onslaught by Imran on him and his system. Secondly, he should have accepted the weaknesses in his governance and taken the dharnas as a wake-up call. Nawaz Sharif’s style and substance of governance also needs radical improvement. Criticising Imran and Qadri for their insensitivity to the feelings of the flood victims and IDPs, not supporting the armed forces in their courageous fight against militants and blaming them for dragging the army into politics, is important for highlighting the failings of the opponents. The fact that all major political parties in Parliament rallied around the prime minister to support the democratic system and the Constitution sent a strong message to Imran and the people about the commitment of the political parties to upholding the Constitution and the integrity of Parliament. But this is not enough. The people expect improvement in the quality of their lives and look up to a leader that gives them hope and results.

People are also not sure whether this movement is going to vitalise democracy or undermine it. The disclosure of Javed Hashmi that a conspiracy was hatched in London to support Imran and Qadri to undermine the government, has cast doubts on the motives and credibility of these leaders. It is only when full facts are known that any firm conclusion can be drawn.

Pakistan needs a change on which there is broad consensus. The real question is whether it should be progressive and evolutionary or violent and chaotic.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Abid P. Khan
    Sep 24, 2014 - 1:26AM

    @Author:
    “His style is similar to that of the Athenians of ancient Greek….”

    Your slip is not so uncommon yet needs to be corrected.
    Athenians were Greeks who were citizens of Greece.

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  • ObserverUSA
    Sep 24, 2014 - 7:50AM

    @Abid P. Khan:
    I usually like your comments. But this statement of yours that follows is wrong: “Athenians were Greeks who were citizens of Greece. ” In reality Greece, during Classical times, was not united but fragmented into city states, such as, Athens, Sparta, Arcadia, Ellis, and other. Hence, although the Athenians were ethnically Greeks, yet they were citizens not of Greece but of Athens.

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  • ObserverUSA
    Sep 24, 2014 - 7:56AM

    @The Author
    Sir, I like your analysis. But you have ducked the very important question that you have yourself asked: “Pakistan needs a change on which there is broad consensus. The real question is whether it should be progressive and evolutionary or violent and chaotic.”
    Please analyze and recommend the answer to the “real question” you have posed. That contribution of yours will be a real service to the nation. Thank you.

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  • AVPMPolpot
    Sep 24, 2014 - 9:08AM

    ” Pakist­an needs a change. The real questi­on is whethe­r it should be progre­ssive and evolut­ionary or violen­t and chaoti­c”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Sir the real question is does this world need Pakistan?

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  • Observer
    Sep 24, 2014 - 10:12AM

    Talat , Pakistani society has decayed to the point that I do not see any hope . When I see the so called educated people of Pakistan in PTI or it’s supporters living abroad , I literally have to pinch my nose and change the channel . Similarly , the so called intellectuals of Pakistani media cannot be more at the abysmal pit of mental advancement . What a joke !

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  • Navers
    Sep 24, 2014 - 10:29AM

    Very fair analysis of the current situation. General Sahib keep up the good work. You have always been a voice of sanity in this country. May Allah Bless you and keep you in good health.

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  • Imad Uddin
    Sep 24, 2014 - 11:11AM

    @Author
    “The real question is whether it should be progressive and evolutionary or violent and chaotic.”
    Its surprising that an analyst sees violent and chaotic as the only alternative to evolutionary. How about catalytic?And hasn’t anyone heard of evolution through mutation?
    Further, what could practically mean by strengthening the institutions from within in the scenario of Pakistan? Any strength institutions earn is by chaotic struggle with the others. Even if its the “ideal” solution it is as impracticable as a non-chaotic catalytic change.

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  • Parvez
    Sep 24, 2014 - 12:28PM

    One of the best write ups supporting the continuation of the status quo……and why not ? The armed forces, the senior judiciary along with the handful of politicians are major beneficiaries of the status quo.

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  • Tughril Sabir
    Sep 24, 2014 - 1:28PM

    @Imad Uddin:
    There are always numerous angles of analysing the situation .he mentioned the most anticipated outcomes. There might be many more scenarios which can result from this fiasco.
    Tughril sabir

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  • Waqas Alshafi
    Sep 24, 2014 - 2:22PM

    Good Read! 12 minutes well spent :D

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  • Abid P. Khan
    Sep 24, 2014 - 3:45PM

    @ObserverUSA:
    “@Abid P. Khan:
    I usually like your comments. But this statement of yours that follows is wrong: “Athenians were Greeks who were citizens of Greece. ” In reality Greece, during Classical times, was not united but fragmented into city states, such as, Athens, Sparta, Arcadia, Ellis, and other. Hence, although the Athenians were ethnically Greeks, yet they were citizens not of Greece but of Athens.”

    What I said lacked details. Before the uniting under “one flag” and quite a few battles, “Greece” as you mentioned consisted of “cities”. Even Troy lay in Miletus, part of Asia Minor, Western Turkey. My reason was to keep my comment as brief as possible, not risking it to become a 404 uber course in history.

    That’s one reason I did not mention the Corinthians, Ionians (North Western Turkey, Smyrna), Macedonians etc. Besides, not mentioning “Eastern Greece” that included Ancient Persia (Babylon) as well as parts of India gained after the defeat of Porus.

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  • Rizwan
    Sep 24, 2014 - 4:02PM

    Let’s assume Imran becomes PM tomorrow morning. He will have two choices: either keep this rickety system or to completely revamp the “system” so that resources, power, and wealth are more equitably distributed. His statements suggest he will take the second route. In this route he will have to reduce the slice of the cake for those in Pakistan who have grabbed a larger-than-their-deserved-share of the cake at the expense of those Pakistanis left with little or no cake (the majority) . So who are these groups who have large slices of the ‘cake’, also known as “state resources” and “taxpayer money”? Firstly, the military. Secondly, the bureaucracy. Thirdly, the politicans. While Imran targets the third group in his speeches, he hardly ever touches on the second group. And to my knowledge not once has he targeted the first group which possesses the biggest piece of the cake. This to me means he is being dishonest in his claim that he will usher in a Naya Pakistan in which resources and status will be taken from the biggest parasites and transferred to the unprivileged majority.

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  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 24, 2014 - 7:24PM

    This was a good articles by Talat Masood and so were some of the critiques, including the citizenship status of ancient Athenians. That is because one of my favorite forms of recreation is to read the Greek classics. However, moving on and widening the discussion even further, perhaps it would be of some use to compare Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan with the current crop of world leaders, and in my view they compare well. Going well back into history Pakistan’s main cricketing hero, Imran, makes a good substitute for Ulysses from Homer’s Odyssey. I am not exactly sure where Nawaz fits into the hero picture. Perhaps we could compare him to Menestheus conducting one of the Trojan wars. Certainly, President Obama could not be compared with Alexander the Great. Alexander defeated Iran when they were referred to as Persians.. Perhaps Obama will have to be regulated to the status of a minor Spartan King because we know he loves fighting, dropping bombs and dispatching drones. Finishing up, this minor missive would not be complete without mentioning Mr Howard, the Australian Prime Minister of Australia who so bravely supported President Bush, and helped him to destroy Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of people. Mr Howard is now saying he is very embarrassed that he got the intelligence wrong in regard to Saddam Hussein’s WMD’s which apparently did not exist. Mr Blair still does not know how he got it so wrong. Where Mr Howard or Mr Blair fit into ancient Greek heroism has me somewhat perplexed. I will leave it to wiser heads such as Observer or Abid B Khan to fill in the gaps. Can I finish up by saying that Pakistan has my sympathy. The current Pakistan situation, which is a direct inheritance from the 13 year debacle created by America and now the international situation being moved into new lows by President Obama, has all the earmarks of a Greek tragedy. .

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  • Ali
    Sep 24, 2014 - 7:38PM

    @Rizwan
    You have touched quite a sensitive strings. As you highlighted three beneficiaries

    1- politicians
    2- bureaucracy
    3- Armed forces of Pakistan.

    These are kind of powers that collectively make a system/country. Another invincible power is called ECONOMY. Now your point about Pakistani Armed forces is more or less right but it’s again driven by economy. The healthy the economy healthier the Armed forces (or any other system) are going to be. The inability and corruption of our politicians makes it difficult for the systems to prosper. Considering the nature of the geopolitical events Pakistan is surrounded by, the role of Armed forces become even greater. They are not only influenced by internal but greater external forces too. To counter these issues without resources is second to impossible if not impossible. If our Army is defeated so would Pakistan and Pakistani nation. They (Armed Forces) know it very well so they influence political class to keep their requirements in check.

    To understand the influence we first need to understand the nature of Power. The very nature of Power is that it exercises/asserts itself. The flow of power should be People -> Political System -> Armed Forces but unfortunately this isn’t the case. Because of lack of morality and excess of corruption they are not in a position of influencing any other power. Over the years the people of Pakistan have become so impotent that they don’t even know the extent of power they possess. The only capable system left is Armed Forces. This makes it look like as if the power is flowing Armed Forces -> Political System -> People of Pakistan.

    Now let me get back to the point of invincible power (“ECONOMY”). Political system is the spine of every other system because this is the system responsible to define/make laws. Without law no society can prosper. So by targeting Political system Imran is touching almost every aspect of the society which is tightly knitted to LAW. He talks about independent systems that is only possible through the political system. Once your house is in order, economy is on track and courageous leader then you wouldn’t even see Army anywhere on the streets of Pakistan because they don’t have to. They know their duty is to protect borders and they don’t have to interfere with the Political system when it’s doing it’s duty properly. They don’t have to influence our foreign policies specially when they know it’s not defined by any other country which is, unfortunately, the case at the moment.

    The lack of central leadership makes them visible and then certain part of media starts doing what they do best. To weaken Pakistan. The day Armed Forces are weaken we wouldn’t be different than Iraq and Syria. You can mark my words.

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  • gp65
    Sep 24, 2014 - 7:59PM

    @Parvez: “One of the best write ups supporting the continuation of the status quo……and why not ? The armed forces, the senior judiciary along with the handful of politicians are major beneficiaries of the status quo.”

    Are you saying Imran will reduce power of judiciary if he comes to power? HE certainly has never claimed so. In fact his party translated in English means ‘Justice Movement’.As far as reducing amount allocated to army, if you see some of Imran’s interviews right before the election when he thought he had a real shot at becoming PM, he said strong army is necessary and we cannot reduce money alocated to defense. Finally, when it comes to politicians – are most of the politicians in PTI not status quo politicians barring a couple like Asad Umar?

    The issues that you define as status quo are not the ones being opposed by Imran anyway.

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  • Unimpressionable
    Sep 24, 2014 - 9:16PM

    @Ali:
    “They know their duty is to protect borders and they don’t have to interfere with the Political system when it’s doing it’s duty properly.”
    The very political system you purport to correct all maladies is being disrupted by Imran although he talks about protecting it, he is actually subverting it and if the present dispensation is dispensed with there will be a political vacuum which unforeseen forces are going to fulfill. And, no one knows where the chaos is going to lead the country and whether it might be able to survive in its present form.
    Leadership is not demagoguery but that is the hallmark of Imran’s politics.
    IK is a force within the system itself and let him work to correct the electoral inadequacies so he can win the next elections by proving good governance in KP and by good opposition to the Federal Government. He should work patiently and should not show inordinate haste to get into power by disrupting the system and by hook or by crook.

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  • Unimpressionable
    Sep 24, 2014 - 9:23PM

    @Abid P. Khan:
    You still did not get the point, which is that Athenians were part of the State of Athens as no united Greece existed in ancient times.

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  • Not Surprised
    Sep 24, 2014 - 9:27PM

    @Parvez:
    I am glad that an Indian lady has tried to educate you about the relevant realities regarding the status quo and Imran Khan. I hope you shall be able to learn.

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  • Sincerely
    Sep 24, 2014 - 9:54PM

    @Sexton Blake:
    “Imran, makes a good substitute for Ulysses from Homer’s Odyssey. ”
    I am sorry but Imran Khan is no Ulysses but a demagogue in the sense of a person, especially an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. Imran is more likely like a Mussolini or a Hitler.
    Thanks for taking interest in Pakistan affairs.

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  • Heuristic
    Sep 24, 2014 - 10:32PM

    @Sexton Blake:
    Do you believe in demagoguery?

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  • Parvez
    Sep 24, 2014 - 11:33PM

    @gp65 and @Not surprised……….I can understand @GP65 confusion as to what I am referring to but apparently @Not Surprised being a Pakistani, I am surprised that you failed to or deliberately chose not to understand.
    In short when I talk of being beneficiaries I refer to the huge, repeat huge, monetary benefits / perks / privilages, completely out of proportion, that go to these people during their service and long after ( all paid for by the poor people )….so why would they wish for a change ?

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  • Actually
    Sep 25, 2014 - 12:34AM

    @Parvez:
    Even IK and Qadri are part of the elite and so struggle for political power is a competition between elites. The poor and deprived would still be really unrepresented no matter who rules.

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  • Actually
    Sep 25, 2014 - 12:39AM

    @AVPMPolpot:
    Whether anyone needs Pakistan or not the soon those who do not like it get used to it the better. Unless you reconcile to the reality of Pakistan, you cannot build mutually trustworthy relations, which are essential for peace in South Asia. Get real. Madam GP65 can guide you better.

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  • Sep 25, 2014 - 12:40AM

    The esteemed well informed author has written an excellent thought provoking article.
    The Cricketer is making, remarkable numerous promises, some will require years to accomplish.
    Like discrimination, or women’s rights will take tedious long years. Requires every single
    Pakistanis participation. Daily. So a fraught, long road lies ahead. The best harrowing example would be Pakistan’s Saffron Neighbor. From an up and coming progressive everything,..to an arrested development. Regressing into a Hindutva Apartheid. Jingoist promises were made.
    And an election won on a hate campaign. “Teach this country a lesson, show that country some muscle.” From a bright light,.. to a Dark Asian Star. Malevolent, steaming, angry, making every one nervous and cagey. As long as India carries it’s 1200 years of baggage, left by
    foreign rulers, there are nil chances of moving on. Into the future.

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  • Abid P. Khan
    Sep 25, 2014 - 1:15AM

    @Unimpressionable:
    “@Abid P. Khan:
    You still did not get the point, which is that Athenians were part of the State of Athens as no united Greece existed in ancient times.

    Not to dwell too long on the Grecians; here is a rather extensive but loosely written quotation from Wikipedia which may clarify my stand. I have already pointed out earlier that union under “one flag” happened after quite a few battles:
    “Ancient Greece was a Greek civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity (ca. AD 600). Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era.[1] Included in ancient Greece is the period of Classical Greece, which flourished during the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Classical Greece began with the repelling of a Persian invasion by Athenian leadership. Because of conquests by Alexander the Great, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea.”

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  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 25, 2014 - 3:26AM

    @Sincerely:
    Dear Sincerely,
    I will not go too deeply into whether IK is a good substitute for Ulysses or a demagogue, and mentioning Ulysses was supposed to be a humorous suggestion.anyway. However, if you remove Bollywood/Hollywood, politicians and military personnel the main heroes left are sporting personalities. I do not think there are too many sporting heroes of IK’s standing emanating from Pakistan. Obviously, I cannot guarantee that IK will make Pakistan a Shangri-LA, but then who has over the last 66 years?

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  • Sincerely
    Sep 25, 2014 - 5:57AM

    @Sexton Blake:
    “Obviously, I cannot guarantee that IK will make Pakistan a Shangri-LA,… ” No one can guarantee anything about IK, not even he about himself. Let us keep our fingers crossed and see if he is able to disrupt the political system beyond repair. God forbid.

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  • Parvez
    Sep 25, 2014 - 12:11PM

    @Actually: As of now what IK and Qadri are saying resonates with the wishes of the people.
    As of now what Nawaz and Zardari have done and are doing completely opposes the people’s wishes. Is the choice THAT difficult ?

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  • Nasir
    Sep 25, 2014 - 9:18PM

    Let’s assume Imran becomes PM tomorrow morning. He will have two choices: either keep this rickety system or to completely revamp the “system” so that resources, power, and wealth are more equitably distributed. His statements suggest he will take the second route. In this route he will have to reduce the slice of the cake for those in Pakistan who have grabbed a larger-than-their-deserved-share of the cake at the expense of those Pakistanis left with little or no cake (the majority) . So who are these groups who have large slices of the ‘cake’, also known as “state resources” and “taxpayer money”? Firstly, the military. Secondly, the bureaucracy. Thirdly, the politicians. While Imran targets the third group in his speeches, he hardly ever touches on the second group. And to my knowledge not once has he targeted the first group which possesses the biggest piece of the cake. This to me means he is being dishonest in his claim that he will usher in a Naya Pakistan in which resources and status will be taken from the biggest parasites and transferred to the unprivileged majority.

    Recommend

  • Unimpressionable
    Sep 25, 2014 - 10:00PM

    @Parvez:
    No way to prove that the majority sides with IK and Qadri. But subjective views abound.

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  • Parvez
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:29AM

    @Unimpressionable: Suggest you go on the street and talk to the common man….the car mechanic, the barber, the waiter, the guy who repairs your TV, the lady who fixes your wife’s hair, the teacher in a government school……..

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Sep 26, 2014 - 3:43AM

    Sir we need something any thing Marxist thinking with greek philasphy or islamic value but these
    crrupt rullers whether civil or millitry …. we support imran khan untill the last drop of our blood.

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  • Ali
    Sep 27, 2014 - 1:25PM

    @Actually
    Even IK and Qadri are part of the elite and so struggle for political power is a competition between elites. The poor and deprived would still be really unrepresented no matter who rules.
    Elite? I think what as a nation we should look at is the education system. how many educational systems do you think we have in Pakistan? give me the count if you have any? I am sure there are more than you can count on your fingers. Good education strengthen/broaden your vision whereas our govt education system is a machine to produce labour without mind. If anyone read about Willie Lynch then he would also know that he was one of the most notorious slaves masters in West Indies. His methods were to keep the slave stronger but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. So the simple method was to “keep the body and take the soul”.

    Do you see any difference in mr. Lynch and our current political class. They deprive you for your most basic needs and make you so dependent on them that even a drop of water will please you.

    The elite you are talking about is of two kind…status quo as you see it and the other one is IK. One is working hard to keep you psychologically as weak as possible and the other one is trying his utmost best in fighting those politicians to take your righteous mind back from that political class and give back to you. But I pity that how many of us are fond of being slave that they don’t want to be independent. They are so dependent on this slavery system that they are scared to death that if someone destroys it then what is going to happen with them. There vision is either limited or they don’t want to take risk for their own good.

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