Apr 272008

Amina Jilani
As was only to be expected by the more sober amongst us out here the euphoria generated by the media over the February 18 election results is evaporating fairly swiftly. Not only has the realisation dawned that nothing is likely to change in a hurry but the nation as a whole has realised that it has been taken for a ride by the National Reconciliation Ordinance, that wicked bit of law gifted through expediency which has relieved some politicians of a goodly deal of money.
Our collective brain is neither entertained nor is it inspired by those now shot in by the elections. We are regaled with a proliferation of dyed heads, transplants, toupees and other select hair pieces, with the main spokesperson assuring us that between them reigns perfect harmony (which it obviously does not) on the non-people related issues with which they are obsessed and asking each other and us to have patience. The elected representative who has been made the prime minister is, if his demeanour is anything to go by, not a deliriously happy man. His initial euphoria seems also to have evaporated as realisation has dawned upon him as to his exact position in the scheme of politics Pakistani.
None of it is reassuring, none of it provokes optimism. The point to be taken is that the two main players now negotiating are far too well known to us. Neither has democratic credentials, neither is either a born or a made democrat. Mian Nawaz Sharif has been part of the political scenario since 1981 when picked up and made the finance minister of the Punjab. From there he grew to chief minister, to prime minister, to leader of the opposition and again prime minister. None of his amendments to the constitution were made in the name of democracy – and certainly not his 15th amendment from which we were saved by his totally erratic behaviour on October 12 1999.
He is now utterly obsessed by the issue of the judiciary, although his real thoughts on judicial independence are well known to us. In November 1997 his party organised the physical storming of the Supreme Court. His intent to restore (not that it has ever been there) what he terms the independence of the judiciary has all to do with his neurotic hang-up about ridding himself of President General Pervez Musharraf. His party is not known for its internal democracy.
It is said that democracy cannot come about or thrive in Pakistan as long as the landowning classes maintain their stranglehold on the social base from which the majority of politicians emerge in our elections. To quote from the April 3 New York Review of Books and an article by William Dalrymple, A New Deal in Pakistan: “As the Pakistani writer Ahmed Rashid put it, ‘ In some constituencies if the feudals put up their dog as a candidate, that dog would get elected with ninety-nine percent of the vote’.”
The main leader of the feudal forces is the PPP which contrary to its socialist-sounding name is based on feudalism and has never even considered breaking the power of the landowners or holding intra-party democratic elections. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir were solid feudals, so is widower Asif Zardari now preaching democracy and its sweet revenge.
Zardari has been part of the political scene since 1988 and has never, whilst serving the nation, exhibited strong democratic tendencies. He is now, quite sensibly, stalling on Mian Sahib’s Murree conditions. His benefactors, the mighty USA and the other western powers, have no desire to see the immediate removal of Musharraf and he obviously has his own reservations about the reinstatement of a thoroughly politicised and unpredictable judge.
Sadly, we seem doomed to continue to have what is said to be a democracy devoid of democrats. Confusion and disillusion abounds with a vast majority of the 175 millions living precariously uncertain lives whilst, thanks to past policies which the present government has no time to rectify, inflation compounds and the prices of their basic foodstuffs increase by the day. The insurgency in the northwest frontier area has not been tamed, though it has of recent days been less intrusive.
One positive point to come out of the present judicial set-up is the abolition of the graduate requirement for our elected representatives. This legislation was the height of hypocrisy, with many graduates purchasing dicey degrees or sitting for bogus exams in places such as Mandi Bahauddin, Mingora, Mach or Mitthi. It made more of a mockery of our assemblies than they already were. So that is one good riddance.
Our neo-democrats, or rather non-democrats, need to get over issues such as the judicial rearrangement, the removal of the president, and the unviable and unrealistic demand for a UN probe into the tragic assassination and try and get on with some form of governance that may benefit the people at large.
To quote again from Dalrymple: It is not at all clear whether the members of Pakistan’s flawed and corrupt political elite have the ability to govern the country and seize the democratic opportunity offered by this election, rather than simply use it as an opportunity for personal enrichment. But they are unlikely ever again to have such a good opportunity to redefine this crucial strategic country as a stable and moderate Islamic democracy…”
Are they listening?
E-mail: arfc@cyber.net.pk
Source: The Nation, 27/4/2008

 Posted by at 8:33 am

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