Will Pakistan go Middle East way?
Patience should be the name of the game if political stability is intended across the board in Pakistan. In politics stability comes through institutions. Unfortunately, during six decades of our independent existence there have been so many extra-constitutional interventions-- Praetorian instigated and backed by civil and judicial bureaucracy-that the democratic and liberal sense of direction chosen for us by the founding fathers was waylaid.
We, however, forget--notwithstanding military interventions-that extra-constitutional interruptions drew strength from their respective institutions while political leaders and elected representatives did not contribute towards strengthening the institution of Parliament or media that could withstand a political crisis and serve as fountain-head of all power. This view is least intended to malign any one. To the credit of political leadership, indeed, is their dauntless determination to withstand dictatorial onslaughts and to never give legitimacy to dictators despite the machinations of Trojan horses in their ranks and files.
What is regrettable is despite being extra-constitutional odds against them our political parties have been most of the time at daggers drawn. Many among them have been in cahoots with praetorian powers and settled for a rent-a-politician role in order to sustain their existence as a second fiddle in national affairs. They lacked wisdom to bring about stability in the country and being a stakeholder play their rightful role in the national life despite the fact that majority of our political forces always waged a heroic struggle against totalitarianism. Since our political institutions are still fragile and political workers are learning the ropes we easily get swayed by half-baked analyses, especially on the electronic media.
For instance, now our analysts are spending too much time in drawing a parallel between the ongoing wave for democracy across the Middle East hoping that Pakistan might follow suit. In fact they are talking of an impending revolution in Pakistan as well.
In doing so these doomsayers conveniently ignore differences in the political culture of Pakistan and the Middle East. They forget about the persistent struggle waged by our political forces against military dictators since decades which was missing in the Middle East. Similarly, unprecedented role of the media and civil society in helping shape up the political life in Pakistan has not been taken into account.
Without being judgmental in drawing comparisons, we can safely say that today's Pakistan is way ahead in political development than say during the past one decade or even the political culture which we followed during the nineties. Let us see the state of affairs in Pakistan in the institutional context and, where possible, draw parallels or otherwise about the future outlook in Pakistan.
First, there is a visibly steeled resolve amongst the major political parties to keep armed forces away from politics, which is why despite noisy opposition these parties have been resolving their disputes through dialogue and consensus with the objective of consolidating national reconciliation to bridge schism brought about in the society by vested interests. Unanimous adoptions of 18th and 19th Amendments in the constitution, NFC Awards are the glaring examples of this maturity. This phenomenon was missing in the nineties.
Second, there is consensus to tackle the scourge of terrorism and extremism with iron hand. This unanimity was missing during General Musharraf's time. No more, the government is blamed of pleasing the Americans on its actions against miscreants.
Third, all political parties agree that rising cost of living, growing unemployment and law and order are the problems which should be tackled by the government on top priority basis. At the same time the major political parties also agree that priorities set by the government are correct and that it would be a time consuming exercise to get over with the socio-economic problems. No magic wand can do away with the issues of monstrous proportions inherited from past decade of misrule and economic mismanagement. However, through collective wisdom, primarily through the parliament, all major issues could be resolved to the satisfaction of the people.
Fourth, the government's external policies enjoy broader consensus whether it concerns relations with the neighbours or with big powers. This consensus was missing during the dictatorial regimes of Gen. Zia and Gen Musharraf although both the dictators became darlings of the West due to Afghanistan crisis. While these dictators sought external allies to keep themselves alive politically, the democratically elected governments did not need external crutches to acquire legitimacy.
Those who talk about revolution are either too naïve about the term per se or try to be verbose to mesmerise their audiences. We all know that revolutions in the 20th Century failed because of lack of support from the masses. Whether theocratic or secular, such revolutions tend to muzzle dissent and freedom of choice. More so in the known history revolutions have been bloody and always left a trail of fear and hatred which continued to simmer during the "triumph" of the revolution and ultimately erupted into chaos. And the brains behind such revolutions became the first victims of it. This is what we witnessed in the French revolution, former Soviet Union, and are now witnessing in some of the Middle Eastern countries.
What we need is evolution which may be slow but provides stability to the political system and inculcates a sense of belonging amongst the wider section of the society. Fortunately, Pakistani society is blessed with all those ingredients which are necessary for a durable evolutionary process in the country. We have an independent judiciary, a ferociously free media and a vibrant civil society-all kept together by a sovereign Parliament. Our political parties are gaining maturity with a view to sustaining the present political order for stability and progress in the country. So let us build on the evolutionary spirit and make Pakistan a stable, moderate and progressive country.
(The writer is Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK)
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