Thursday, January 22, 2015

No. 1 enemy of the people of Pakistan

پاکستان کے سیاست دانوں نے، خواہ وہ جمہوریت کا لبادہ اوڑھے ہوئے ہیں یا مذہب کا، قریباً ستر برس سے یہاں کے شہریوں کو ٹرک کی بتی کے پیچھے لگایا ہوا ہے!

This Urdu saying means: Paki politicians, whether they are clad in the garb of Democracy or Religion, have got the citizens running after the back-lights of a Truck! In other words, the citizens of Pakistan have been made to run after a mirage so that they are never going to reach any destination.

Recently, there was a book-launching in Lahore. The book’s title is: NauAbaadiyati Taaleemi Dhaancahy Ka Tasalsul (The Continuation of Neo-Colonial Educational Structure) and it’s written by a Marxist. All the talk there focused on castigating the British for their doing everything in their own interest. Two or three sane voices, speaking common-sense, tried to make other commentators realize not all that is bad had been done by the British; we did a lot of bad things ourselves.

It’s simple arithmetic: the Indian Sub-Continent was taken over by the British Crown after the revolt of 1857; they left us with two states of India and Pakistan to be shaped by our own genius in 1947. That makes about 90 years. Last August, Pakistan attained the age of 67 years. So what did we achieve in quite more than half a century needs to be compared what the British achieved for us in less than a century! But we are still obsessed with our own pseudo-identity, sort of puritan spirit, which we believe and claim the British distorted and admixed; otherwise, probably we were the Shining Star of the World!

In effect, most of the Far Left in Pakistan is still beating the Anti-British drum. They have other Drums too to beat. They are Anti-America; Anti-Imperialism; Anti-West; Anti-Globalization; Anti-Trans-National-Corporations; Anti-Multi-National-Corporations; Anti-Corporatism; Anti-WTO; Anti-WB; Anti-IMF; Anti-ADB; so on. That’s the international side of their ideology and politics. They have certain local indigenous enemies also. Thus, at home, they are: Anti-Feudalism; Anti-Capitalism; Anti-Big-Business; Anti-Bourgeoisie, i.e. Anti-Ultra-Rich; and in a Marxian sense, they are Anti-State also, i.e. they want to make the state wither away by annihilating the classes which is in their view an instrument of exploitation of the poor at the hands of capitalists; so on.

Presently, there are a good many number of Leftist, Marxist, Socialist groups working in Pakistan. In 2012, three parties, Workers Party Pakistan, Labor Party Pakistan, and Awami Party Pakistan, merged to form a ‘united party of the Left’: it’s Awami Workers Party. That above-mentioned list is as true for this Party as it is for almost all the other Leftist groups.

As far as the Far Right is concerned, its enemies are no different from those of the Far Left. To this day, most of the Rightist parties and groups denounce the British for their disservice to the Muslims of the Sub-Continent, especially Lord Macaulay for “modernizing” the Muslim education. For the Rightists, there is another eternal enemy, the West. The USA fulfills all the criteria to act as a perfect enemy, so it is. In its Imperialistic role, it becomes more of a complex enemy, which dictates everything which happens in Pakistan; it makes use of UN, The World Bank, ADB, IMF, etc, to the extent of fixing prices of commodities and various utilities in Pakistan. One thing that distinguishes the Far Right from the Far Left is the way they present these enemies of the people of Pakistan: the Right dubs them as the enemy of Pakistan and Islam; whereas the Left hates them as the enemy of the poor!

The mainstream political parties in Pakistan differentiated as falling on the Right or Left have got the same list of enemies; though they make use of it mostly only when needed, or when they are in the opposition. For instance, PPP-P is understood to be a party on the Left; PML-N on the Right; both are open to opt for such uses. More often, they make use of these enemies in a circumlocutory way: they promise to break the Begging Bowl!

Never ever anyone questioned this wisdom of the Right and the Left which declares the West, Colonialism, Neo-Colonialism, Europe, America, and Imperialism on the one hand, and Feudalism and Capitalism on the other as the enemy of the people. Either they mislead the people deliberately; Or they do not know the Pakistani social and economic reality! In the second case, they or their thinking is totally Ashraafist. Whoever lives through the social and economic reality of Pakistan cannot help realizing that the number one enemy of the people of Pakistan is the State of Pakistan!

Mainly it is on two counts that the state proves to be an enemy: First, it completely neglects its foremost function of ensuring protection of life and property to each and every citizen. Contrary to that, it lets various groups form and flourish and dictate the citizens what to believe and how to live and then kill them if they don’t do their bidding. The state doesn’t protect and does not provide justice requires no proof; it’s in the air. That means the state completely breached the trust of the people they put in it; rather it turned criminal.

Second, the state misuses the money taken from the citizens as taxes. Not only does it allow other groups extort from the citizens, the state itself robs the citizens also on this or that pretext. As far as electricity, gas and petroleum products’ supply is concerned, it is exacting billions of rupees from the citizens’ pockets. Add to it, the corruption-money in trillions of rupees. It’s the state’s machinery that sucks citizens’ blood in this or that government department regardless of its nature, whether it is a service or a collector. The writer has demonstrated in his Pakistan Mein Riyasati Ashraify Ka Urooj how Riyasati Ashrafiya has captured both the state and the market and lives off the resources that the state accrues. In a nutshell, it’s the state which exploits the citizens it is supposed to serve; not the feudals and capitalists, who can never in case the state decides so! That makes the state of Pakistan a Robber-Criminal state! 

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on January 22, 2015 with a different title "The real enemy."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cynicism and the political evolution of Pakistan

The discussion of the political cynicism here focuses only on the sections of society which exercise influence on the formation of public opinion. These sections may be considered as the mainstay of political cynicism in Pakistan. As far as the general citizenry is concerned, the myth of its political apathy evaporates with every general election held in the country. One may object: the turnout in the elections is too small to break this myth. However, the statistics belie it: the turnout in 2008 stood at 44 % and in 2013, 55 %. In the world’s largest democracy, India, it was 64 %.

The mainstay of political cynicism in Pakistan comprises academics, intelligentsia, journalists, TV channels talk show hosts (as well as announcers!), Urdu/English newspaper columnists and op-ed contributors, and authors of books on various subjects but with a political tilt, which include history, Muslims history, memoirs, novels, etc.

As for the academics, both public and private, they may be termed as unique creatures. Except some of them who have somehow found a place mostly in print media and so they need to take a position, the large majority of them thinks it’s not for them to think and write about the government and the state, i.e. politics, and they are there to teach and earn their living. Their only mantra is: “Politics is not our cup of tea; and thinking and writing about the government and the state touches the boundaries of the political.” One more thing: a sizeable section of them is now busy in doing research which pays. That’s how they judge the quality of their research.

In case, the freelance thinkers and writers, who are not attached with entities which somehow interfere with their thinking and writing, are included in the larger group of intelligentsia in addition to journalists, TV channels talk show hosts, Urdu/English newspaper columnists and op-ed contributors, that will allow for another group of thinkers and writers to exist within this fold as intellectuals who whether they think or not but do write for their political masters or parties. This later group consists of writers who have open political affiliations; their writings paraphrase the policy of their parties and leaders. Since political parties are very much directed in their aims and politics and in no way can be diagnosed with any type of cynicism, the views of these writers do not form part of the context which the present analysis is set in. A bigger chunk of the Pakistani intelligentsia thinks and writes in religious terms and since most of them think and write out of sheer sanctity of their belief, this analysis which aims at listing independent opinions does exclude them.

After identifying the sources from where the views and arguments based on political cynicism generate, it’s time to examine them. For want of space, only two will be discussed here. First, most of the thinkers and writers hold that for Pakistan there is no way out of its crisis, and it’s because of the defects which it is afflicted from its very birth. A child with birth defects! That amounts to saying that Pakistan is inherently un-viable. The arguments put forward by them are quite convincing. They say: Because it is inherently un-viable, it is unstable from the day one. The history of 67 years attests to that. It’s no place to go into the details of the defects which make Pakistan un-viable. Nor is it of any use to sort out those who cherish such views and why. What is of value and needs to be refuted is their argument!

What is a viable country, they must be puzzled with this question. Whether USA was viable; whether Rwanda, North and South Sudan are viable! Actually this tribe of political cynics is involved in endless debates on what is it that makes a nation, and what role religion and language play in making a people a nation, and how to distinguish nation from nationality. To them, people, nations, countries are like academic entities or intellectual categories the criteria of the definition of which they must fulfill. However, in contrast, it may be asserted that communities, people, nations, countries, whichever form they get together and appear in, are entities of living individuals. Likewise, for any good or bad reason, or in this or that type of circumstances, they may come to bond themselves in the form of a new people, nation, or country.

So even after 67 years, columns, articles and books questioning the rationale of Pakistan’s coming into being still find place on the paper, air and websites. It is this cynicism which is intellectually holding Pakistan back from moving ahead and evolving politically. The fact is that countries may break and give birth to new countries, as Pakistan gave birth to a Bangladesh and a Pakistan.

The second tribe of political cynics has a good philosophical argument on their table to offer. It is the Theory of Lesser Evil. Like the perfect cynics, they believe that nothing exists but the evil. In clear terms, that means every political party or whatever takes place in the political realm of Pakistan is evil. The most popular form this Theory acquires is during the elections days, when this view is widespread:  Out of all the evil parties, let’s choose the lesser evil! That’s so much characteristic of the political cynics that one may use it as a yardstick for their who’s who. Also that view gives rise to all the revolutionaries who aim at building the Pakistani society from scratch.

Not only theoretically, but practically also, it’s not possible that in a situation all the things are evil. Imagine a situation where nothing prevails except evil, even there something evil may cause something good to happen. For this focus needs to be shifted on smaller and effective things. Revolutionary total view may not work in this context. In every situation such good things exist to be realized by those who may have a vision to grasp them. But the Pakistani intelligentsia does not want to wake up from its cynical slumber and remains broiled in its futile debates. That has retarded the intellectual evolution as well as political evolution of Pakistan.

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on January 15, 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The 21st point: Overhaul the state

Presently there is happening quite a serious debate on the 20 points envisaged in the National Action Plan. Its thrust is on two points: i) All these measures should have been in their place since long as a matter of routine, probably from the day first when Pakistan came to exist; and, ii) Due to the past negligence of the governments, doubts and questions are being raised about the efficacy of these measures. The argument the present writer aims to make is a bit different; he wants to propose a 21st point to be added to the NAP, which focuses on overhauling the state. Let’s be precise in judging: It’s the state that played havoc with the society of Pakistan, and now it needs to be back to the basics!

First and foremost: The politicians of Pakistan should stop behaving like Haakim and Ashraaf; they are empowered by the vote of people and are bound to act in accordance with the provisions of the constitution; they are the same citizens albeit with certain responsibilities and duties with which strings of accountability are attached.

The citizens of Pakistan while they participated in the Lawyers’ Movement learnt about: Constitutionalism; Rule of Law; Fundamental Rights; Independence of Judiciary: these must materialize into reality. That amounts to minimizing the role of the politicians which they exert on the society and market through various instruments of the state and government; and that will strengthen and enhance the civil society and its role in the life of the citizens.

There are two domains wherein an urgent overhaul is required: Political and Economic. In the political domain, following practical measures are needed:

i) The role of the state be redefined as a protector of the citizens' life, property and their freedoms and not as an institution of welfare, and not as a proprietor of Business;

ii) Constitutionalism should be the only way to run the affairs of the state;

iii) Top priority be given to the protection of all the citizens’ life, property and their fundamental rights; especially the right to religious freedom be ensured to every citizens whatever his/her faith is;

iv) Institutions and agencies responsible to dispense justice and extend protection to the citizens, such as Police, Courts, be made autonomous and accountable to the parliament or the provincial assemblies as the case may be;

v) Civilian authority be retrieved and restored both in letter and spirit; formulation of defense and foreign policies constitutionally rests with the elected government and parliament, these should go back to them; as in accord with the constitution the Army has nothing to do with any other matters save related to its professional duties, it must confine itself to the role assigned by the constitution; also not only the Army but all the intelligence agencies be made accountable to the parliament;

vi) Any interference in the matters of the state and its institutions whether it comes from the political or military quarters be not heeded to in the least and violators be brought to the book;

vii) Judiciary be completely made independent financially and in matters of its appointments especially;

viii) All the institutions of the state, such as Election Commission, National Accountability Bureau, be made autonomous absolutely impervious to any external influence;

ix) In the matters of Army’s and Bureaucracy’s appointments, posting, transfers, promotions, Prime Minister’s, or any minister’s prerogatives be done away with, and the principle of merit and seniority strictly be followed;

x) All the legislation regarding the citizens’ right to information be it at the federal or provincial level is a farce; in fact all the information regarding the affairs of the state and government belongs to the citizens; why should they pay and be asking for it; so it be posted on the respective websites for their examination;

xi) The role of all the elected representatives be confined to the matters of legislation and they should enjoy no other status or powers; no funds, be it for development or for any other purpose, be given to them;

xii) Foreign visits of state and government officials be drastically curtailed; no visit be allowed without prior budget sanction;

xiii) It be legislated that only professional politicians could contest and become elected representatives, and no one doing or having any business interests could join politics and government.

In the domain of Pakistan’s economy, following radical reforms need to be introduced:

First and foremost: The state must come back to its original protective function and focus on its regulatory and facilitatory role and be doing no business at all.

i) All the lands gifted/allotted by the British to anyone be taken back and distributed to landless peasants and homeless citizens under a uniform policy;

ii) All the monetary privileges and tax exemptions be abolished;

iii) All the discretionary powers, discretionary or secret funds be stopped;

iv) All the state enterprises be privatized be they incur profit or loss;

v) As growth is a function of citizens’ entrepreneurial efforts, and state or government creates not a single penny of wealth, this be adopted as a guiding principle while formulating any economic policies;

vi) As in its role of a taxman, the state by heavily taxing can hamper the economic growth, so it must commit itself to the principle of lower and flat rate taxes;

vii) As a regulator, the state should commit itself to the principle of regulation for facilitation, not for control;

viii) All the restrictions on domestic or international trade be lifted; it’s for the producers/traders to see and decide where to export to and where to import from;

ix) In the spirit of a slim, smart and strong state, unnecessary ministries, departments, etc. be downsized or done away with altogether;

x) As the state machinery, i.e. departments of the state which collect tax or render various services, such as permissions, licenses, has become an enemy of the people, a complete overhaul of it is long due; with an iron hand it be made citizen-friendly;

xi) All the accounts of the state be posted on the respective websites and even a single penny be accounted for, i.e. political and economic parasitism must come to an end.

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on January 8, 2015. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Military courts - a moral perspective

A person who is murdered, has he any rights? That question may seem strange. Let me add another dimension to it: What’s the spirit of law? Does it exist for the rights of the murderers to be protected? Or, it exists for the alive so that they enjoy their life safe and sound? Last year, in a seminar on the citizens’ fundamental rights when I made a comment that most of the NGOs are always ahead in safeguarding the rights of those who are accused of capital crimes but why they never turn up to defend the rights of those who are murdered, one activist really turned up to throw an angry question upon me: “What do you mean? The accused has no rights? And we defend murderers?” I said: “What I mean is that the one who was murdered he too had a right to his life, why was he deprived of that inalienable right? Who was supposed to protect that right of him?”

Here too, my contention is the same: What about the rights of those who are murdered, and that whether law has anything to do in the first place with the protection of their life? I presume who were murdered for a reason or for no reason at all the state was bound to protect all of them. My question those who have chosen the duty of defending the rights of the accused especially of capital crimes, why don’t they give a thought to the rights of those unfortunate ones who lose their lives? Partially in this sense, idea of the military courts makes sense.

Let’s try to delineate the issue as a solution for which the establishment of military courts is under discussion and which is one of the 20 points of the National Action Plan to tackle the menace of terrorism and extremism. In fact, the normal law is not able to take and complete its due course as is required: Delays, inefficiency on the part of the prosecution as well as the courts, fears and threats, complicity, etc. mar its performance. Both types of arguments for and against the military (speedy or special) courts are influencing the debate and public opinion in both directions. The military courts established by martial law regimes in the past are being used as a model to judge the proposed courts. That’s misplaced.

Leaving aside the both camps, I want to argue from the point of view of Law, and from the point of view of Morality. As for the first, so many others are also emphasizing that the measures which the 20 points envisage should have been taken quite earlier, since the day Pakistan came into being. That delay of about 68 years is more than criminal mainly on the part of the politicians who utilized the state for their Ashraafi interests and led it astray to what we witness happening today.

In principle, the first and foremost function of law is to protect all without any discrimination and make sure that no unlawful activity takes place, i.e. no such conflict brews which culminates in anyone’s murder. In Pakistan, however, the law has completely been negligent of this function of it; mostly because here the civil society and media took inspiration from the advanced world which has already achieved a peaceful lawful society and that’s why their point of focus is on ensuring the rights of the accused. Our society, on the contrary, is miserably a violent and unlawful society; that’s why in the first instance it requires its focus to stay on ensuring everyone’s right to life, property and liberty.

As for Morality, no debate in Pakistan, including the current one on military courts, has ever been mindful of it. It’s a non grata issue in the Paki intellectual, political, religious milieu. Let me remind that Law grows and flourishes in the soil of morality; in the absence of morality, no law can make any difference. Nonetheless, it’s Law which helps morality gain its lost dominion as it did in Europe. So in a lawless and devoid of morality Pakistan, we can start with establishing the rule of law, which with time will restore morality to its due status.

It needs not arguing that Law in an important sense is morals codified; in that it presents a moral view also. However when codified, Law takes its own course, be it moral or not. It is in this context that I want to introduce a moral problem, which the Peshawar massacre of children has brought to the fore in bold relief. No qualms about that: Let the Law take its course, which for innumerable reasons it has not taken; and it’s no time to inquire about its whys, while about 50, 000 innocent citizens have already become the victims of terrorism and extremism. The circumstances have put us face to face with a moral choice: Let the innocent citizens die at the hands of terrorists and extremists or take extraordinary measures to exterminate the murderers!

In the US, moral philosophers are employing empirical research and experiments to see how people respond to such moral dilemmas. One Problem of Trolleyology is being heatedly argued about; one variant of it is like this: Pull a signal lever and divert a trolley-car which otherwise is going to kill five persons tied to the track; but by diverting it to a side track you kill a person tied there. So what’s your choice? Most people want one should die, not five persons! In contradistinction to it, our choice is far too clear since on the one side are hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens and on the other “jet black” murderers! The only risk in setting up the military courts is the miscarriage of justice in some cases, the magnitude of which may only be measured after the legislation stands completed.

In a broader perspective, that would help shift the emphasis especially on the protection of everyone’s right to life; and though it requires a wider approach and a lot of other measures to succeed in the longer term, it may serve as the first step towards putting the state and society on a peaceful and lawful track.

The article was carried by Pakistan Observer on January 1, 2015.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The road ahead is quite straight

Beware of the politicians! They cannot think and act out of their politically blocked mentality! They are a victim of paradigms made of their own choice; that’s why they disdain rules, laws and the constitution, which require and bind them to act accordingly. They won’t break the paradigms, which ensure their short-term survival, and it’s seldom that they shift to newer paradigms of thinking and action in a broader perspective. Whenever that happens, that happens temporarily and perforce due to the force of the circumstances, like the one which the December 16 Peshawar massacre of the children generated, or under the pressure of the “Subjects,” “Awaam,” like the one which got Iftikhaar Muhammad Chaudhry former Chief Justice of Pakistan restored against the will of the whole “state” of Pakistan, which its politicians consider themselves to be the “Ashraaf” and “Haakim!” So the moment that pressure releases, they are the same politicians - Haakim and Ashraaf!

What are these paradigms of Paki politicians? First, see how they respond and react to such tragedies of unfathomable magnitude! Try to empathize the immense grief the Peshawar massacre caused: 132 is the number of those innocent souls death of whom has devastated hundreds of families, thousands of their relatives and friends, millions of their dreams, and shocked billions of human beings all over the globe! The unimaginable tragedy has jolted Pakistan’s “imagined enemies” also! And how the politicians, whether they are in the parliament or out of it, took it is more important, relevant and pertinent in the sense that it will show at the end of the day how the state of Pakistan is going to tackle the menace.

The first political paradigm comprises the narrative which includes:  condemnations, consolations, condolences, resolutions; and the likes. The second paradigm calls for meetings, conferences, APCs; and the likes. An APC of all the parliamentary parties we have already seen happening. Another highlight in this regard is the Pakistan Peoples Party’s demand to call for a joint session of the parliament. The third paradigm opts for constitution of commissions for inquiries, investigations; and the likes. There are various inquiries and investigations, announced and unannounced, already in the process. The fourth paradigm focuses on setting up commissions, committees for devising action plans. As a result of the above-mentioned APC, a parliamentary committee has been formed to devise a National Action Plan, which has already set up a Working Group. The political imagination never goes beyond these paradigms. Hence, it’s rarely seen that the action plans thus devised by such committees are put to work or put through. Nor are implemented any findings and recommendations of any inquiry commission or investigation committee thus formed.

Right from the beginning: Justice Munir Inquiry Report (1954), the only report the original text of which along with its official Urdu translation the then government made public, never put to any use; Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, which inquired into the military debacle of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) never saw the light of the day nor were implemented any of its recommendations; Saleem Shahzad Inquiry Report, which inquired the mysterious murder of Saleem Shahzad, a renowned journalist, did not bear any fruit; and, Abbottabad Commission Report, which inquired into the circumstances under which Osama Bin Laden safely resided for years in Abbottabad, a military town, remains dumped in all respects. So that’s the fate of all the political paradigms!

As mentioned earlier the politicians seldom come to alter their paradigms, it amounts to saying that they won’t change them this time too, and though there is unprecedented outrage against the politicians as well as so-called powerful Generals of the army, the politicians won’t do anything worthwhile but such measures which help them water down the social and psychological heaviness that the Peshawar massacre of children has begotten. Most probably, they will drag the issue and allow time to lessen its intensity and finally bury it. Although executions of certain terrorists have started making headlines, whose dead bodies otherwise should have by now worn out in the graves, there is nothing substantial in the offing as the “measures and actions” the government is deliberating and taking now attest.

In contradistinction to it, what may be termed “cash politics” in point of fact takes no time to get launched; for instance, a number of power generation projects are in the pipeline, whereas no attention is being given to the real cause of the acute power shortage, i.e. mismanagement in the power sector. It is such opportunities that the Paki politicians are most interested in. In other words, it’s Cash Politics where the political paradigm of action may only be seen working actively. All other issues, whatever their magnitude and fatality, do not interest the Paki politicians.

In case, someone starts analyzing the present troubles, his findings will reveal that the miseries and killings the ordinary Pakistanis are undergoing today may be traced to such issues which were deliberately delayed and complicated by the politicians, and that they were never dealt with sternly and with determination. That list includes Terrorism, Extremism, Sectarianism, Non-Civilian Supremacy as the top most issues. The question staring us in the face is: Do the Pakistani constitution, rules and laws on the one hand, and the courts, police and other related institutions and agencies on the other are not competent enough to deal with these and like issues? The courts had already handed those terrorists death sentence whom the government is executing now! Also, if new legislation and new institutions were required in order to cope with these menaces, why it was not done in time promptly and efficiently! Why relaxing in political paradigms remained the way of the politicians? In conclusion, it may be said that the state of Pakistan has already got all that paraphernalia it requires to dealt with these issues; do not give it turns and twists; leave your political paradigms; the road ahead is quite straight; have courage to tread it and focus on the Unity of Action, not on the Unity of the Nation, and Unity of the Politicians!

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on December 25, 2014. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What’s the game, politically speaking?

In democracy, only a majority party is allowed to rule, and it may turn out to be a tyranny; no smaller party alone can lay a claim to that privilege. That’s the advantage of democracy one can cite while arguing with its enemies. Pakistan and other countries like it are an exception. In such countries, parties of every size can unleash a rule of tyranny under the banner of populism. Thus all the gatherings and processions of every size which such parties hold are quoted as a referendum against the government. Both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have been quite vocal in delegitimizing the government after each Jalsaa of theirs; thus PTI’s Faisalabad “lockdown” of December 8 in their wisdom has already unseated the government.

That’s because in countries like Pakistan the states have transformed themselves into Jelly States. Years back, a Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987) denoted them as Soft States; he meant to say: They have rules and laws and various agencies to implement them but they do not do so, and that makes them Soft. He termed them as ridden ‘by deficiencies in legislation and, in particular, law observance and enforcement, a widespread disobedience by public officials and, often, their collusion with powerful persons and groups ... whose conduct they should regulate.’ Since then that quality of Softness of states has further deteriorated; it appears that quality has now acquired the characteristics of Jelly, a shapeless thing which fits in with any shape under any type of pressure. That’s how Pakistani state looks like now!

On the one hand a group of just a few hundred or thousand men armed with sticks can paralyze the Pakistani state; that has already happened this August in Islamabad; that happened in Faisalabad too, and is destined to happen in other cities; and on the other hand, though the present government is all determined to try a military general for allegedly committing High Treason but is facing formidable hurdles at every step; all that testifies that the Pakistani state is but helpless in establishing its writ in every domain. Here it doesn’t matter whether it has got the will to establish its writ or not, because there is no way to know but through its own efforts which it may put in establishing its writ and with the help of which it may be ascertained that it is intent upon establishing its writ.

Let’s pick out three areas to see are there any efforts being made on the part of the state to establish its writ. First is Taliban, who openly challenge the state and want to capture it through an armed struggle. The state completely failed on this count; for many years it let thousands of innocent citizens to be killed by these fanatic warriors and remained mired in its own policy of appeasing them and their supporter groups and parties. Now there is an operation going on, whose range and scope is still not clear. The second area relates to politics. A number of religious and political groups and parties openly challenge the state just like Taliban; they rather blatantly indulge in unlawful rhetoric and behavior so often that makes one wonders are they above the law of the land. Not only are parties like PAT and PTI part of this club of privileged politicians, there are a number of groups and parties which use religion to further their political aims and objectives and though their social base may not be more than a few thousand supporters but they and their leaders work like mafias using arms and fascistic ploys and whenever they want they paralyze the whole cities, and the state seems totally helpless!

As has already been mentioned the third area is where the present government, which is at the moment in command of the state of Pakistan, is trying its hardest to bring a usurper general to book; that the Pakistan Muslim League (N)’s government is doing that in the face of fatal odds is no secret now. And the do-and-die and destabilizing politics of PTI needs to be explained in that context also.

In view of the above, one lesson, which every political analyst and politician be he in the government or outside of it needs to learn, is that political actions are not judged by the intentions of their actors, i.e. political parties and leaders, but by their impact and consequences. That’s the first and in a sense last tool of any political analysis; because in its absence no political action may be understood in terms of its impact. As for the intentions of anybody, one can never be sure of; and of course, when a murder occurs, it’s a murder only, though the circumstances are taken into account which prompted that murder; however, the fact of that murder is never disputed, which is a consequence of the circumstances. For instance there may develop a consensus what impact the PAT and PTI politics during this August-October and PTI’s present politics is having on various things including the state and its writ, but never on their intentions.

Unfortunately, from those who are at the helm of affairs of the state and the politicians to those who form the circles of opinion and political following no one is serious in taking into consideration how the present politics of PTI is weakening not only the writ of the state but state itself. Hence, it is this third area of politics where the present government which manifests the state of Pakistan at the moment must establish its writ. It ought not to be afraid of martial law the prospects of which are zero presently, rather minus. It ought to bring the state of Pakistan into the shape which the provisions of its constitution endow it with. It ought not to allow any politics throw the society of Pakistan into a chaos which may result in a civil war. It’s time the state of Pakistan must act to establish its writ in the political domain where it is required to be established first!

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on December 11, 2014.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Crimes and the political alibi

“I am a politician; I cannot commit any crime; I am perfectly innocent!”

That is how, as we know at least in Pakistan, politicians argue. That manner of political self-defense clears the two-way traffic: criminals may become politicians; and, politicians may become criminals. Pakistanis have enough of both. And the breed is multiplying like rabbits. All the more, species belonging to other realms of social, economic, military, cultural, religious have started aping the politicians. They have learned the art of politics from them. That’s a hundred percent fool-proof method of overcoming any odds.

Also, that has rendered all the systems of accountability inefficacious. Why? Because, and it is awfully baffling that, all the systems of accountability are conceived, detailed and legislated by the criminal politicians or political criminals. Who can forget the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)? And it is these politicians, tainted with criminality, who appoint the heads to these accountability systems, just like Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, has been appointed Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Just like the leader of the opposition party in the National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, has been made Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Such systems are a product of the political-criminal complex in Pakistan.

The latest episode from this complex unfolded a few days earlier when on May 29 an anti-corruption court issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, former commerce minister and a member of Gillani’s cabinet. Both are senior leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party. Seven others include the list of the accused in this case which allegedly involves major irregularities of Rs.7 billion in granting freight subsidies to fake trading companies by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). Previously both politicians were issued three notices to appear before the court. As the notices were ignored (note their arrogance!), then bailable warrants were issued. Now non-bailable warrants have been issued with hearing adjourned till June 17.

The same day the former prime minister issued a statement and said: no case in this country was completed without implicating him whether it was the case of OGRA, NICL, NRO, TDAP or Haj scam. He added: the beneficiaries of the NRO had been exonerated but he was still facing the music. His political alibi was worded thus: ‘He asked the government to avoid crossing the limits of victimization and unleash it to the extent they could also bear it tomorrow. They had no stomach to tolerate even the fraction of what was going on against him.’

No sooner this news item flashed than the political machinery of Peoples Party got switched on and statements started pouring in the newspapers and TV channels to beat the drum of political victimization. Very next day co-chairman of the PPP and former president Asif Ali Zardari ‘deplored the victimization of former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and former federal minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim behind the façade of accountability as witch-hunting.’ He warned: ‘that bodes ill for the politics of tolerance, accommodation and reconciliation.’

This narrative of Political Victimization is very much typical and repeats itself on various occasions and for various personalities. Now it’s Asif Ali Zardari’s turn to mouth it: in his statement he pretended to be shocked while, according to him, the PPP was seeking to protect the democratic system through political reconciliation the government was chasing political opponents and thereby undermining the unity of political forces. His tirade is totally based on political alibi: he said that decisions in national policies whether in the rental power plants or subsidies or concessions in importing commodities were taken collectively and transparently by the cabinet in the light of objective realities and singling out the prime minister is patently wrong and smacks of political victimization. Also he found a poignant similarity between the hounding of Benazir Bhutto in late 1990s for the decisions jointly taken by the cabinet at the time and the chasing of Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Makhdoom Amin Fahim now for decisions taken by the cabinet. He advised the government to review its policies and stop witch-hunting and victimization of political opponents.

This narrative of political victimization amounts to this: all the decisions politicians make while they are in government, whether they prove to be good or bad, must be treated as unquestionable; since by dint of their electoral mandate they are innocent; and more than that by virtue of their being politicians and representing the people they cannot make any wrong decisions. In short, in their capacity of being politicians, they are infallible. And while they win elections, they place themselves beyond every norm, value, principle, and morality and law; thus, their infallibility perfects. Gillani’s and Zardari’s words quoted above are based on these presumptions. They may be termed as the Political Alibi.

Thus the political alibi claims the politicians must be considered and treated as beyond the law of the land. That means they are King, who used to be law unto himself. So they, the politicians of Pakistan, are law unto themselves. No need to try Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, or Asif Ali Zaradri for any wrong-doing; they are infallible; they are themselves law of this land.

Or otherwise, if this or any other government think of trying or tries them, their narrative by implication means to say that, they will not protect the democratic system; they will give up political reconciliation; and so on. In this sense, the political alibi conceals threats of undermining the system. Just as psychological alibis provide criminals with excuses for their crimes, such as harming others, or murders in the name of honor, etc; in the same way, politicians use the political alibis as excuses to hide their inefficiencies, incompetencies, corrupt and dishonest practices, scamming, nepotism, cronyism, and misappropriating the public exchequer.

Finally it may be reminded that the law of Pakistan provides for no such alibi to any one, be they politicians. That was why they took recourse to the NRO; otherwise, such a law would have come to their rescue. If any charge is made against any politician, he / she should present himself / herself in the court of law and prove his / her innocence. Political alibi is no way of proving ones innocence; it may prove the guilt, instead!

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on June 5, 2014.