Jun 132008

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Just five months ago, Asif Ali Zardari was a nobody in Pakistani politics, albeit in the public arena, although he was fully operational behind the scenes. The exact nature of his involvement in Pakistani politics prior to the Dec 27th assassination of his wife remains unclear, but it is certain that he was part of the negotiations that led to the USA-brokered deal between Benazir Bhutto and General Musharraf. Whatever his role may have been in the pre-December wheelings and dealings, he suddenly emerged as the most powerful man in the country after the February 2008 elections. This unforeseeable development occurred for two reasons: Benazir’s assassination left behind a political vacuum which was quickly filled by her shrewd husband, who simultaneously made certain that he gains a long-term role in Pakistan’s future through his son Bilawal who was made the dummy head of the PPP in a move that can only be called undemocratic.

The second reason for his sudden power is the lack of any genuine process of grassroots politics in Pakistan. Political power in Pakistan remains in the hands of a small number of people, all of whom have shown great cunning in hereditary politics. As such, Pakistani politics itself allows for sudden turns in individuals’ fortunes. The case of Mr Zardari is typical.

His sudden rise to power has nothing miraculous or unexpected about it. He has certainly shown himself capable of simultaneously playing at different pitches: he has made and broken several promises to the nation in the short span of four months since the elections; he has signed deals and agreements with other politicians with no intention of keeping them; he has threatened to impeach and remove the General several times without really meaning to do so; he has sided with and supported the lawyer’s movement without really meaning to take any action on the restoration of the deposed judges.

Zardari has been able to bowl his googlies in so many directions because there is no real and genuine political process in Pakistan. Power is held by individuals who wield it in the name of political parties which do not operate on any moral or democratic principles. Members of these political parties are treated like kummies by a handful of vederas and industrialists who have dominated Pakistani political scene for decades. Individuals who are elected to become members of Parliament can be made to sign on anything their masters prepare. Most of them have no personal opinion on any matter of state or governance. For the most part, they are a pack of dummies whose combined weight is used to make deals, but who themselves have no weight or say in the deals.

In a polity dominated by lawlessness and lack of any moral principles, it is easy for any shrewd individual to gain control of state institutions. This is exactly what has been happening in Pakistan during the last sixty years. A general, a cunning bureaucrat or a clever politician comes out of the pack, gains control over state resources and tries to mould the lives of millions of people according to his limited and often corrupted vision of how this unfortunate nation should live. Most Pakistanis have no say in who should rule over them, and how. Their lives have been reduced to the most basic survival struggle.

There has been a great surge in the power of the media during the last decade, but the media itself is interested in individuals and the soap opera that has dominated Pakistan’s political scene for months now. There are no higher goals anywhere. The lawyer’s movement has achieved a certain degree of strength on the basis of its adherence to principles, but even that noble cause is overshadowed by individuals who are playing a very complex role in the murky politics of the country. Even the man who has steadfastly led the struggle for the restoration of judges is an important member of the ruling political party which can restore the judges in one day by simply fulfilling the promises and agreements it has made with other political parties. Yet, he is unable to bend the dark and unbending will of a man who has been bowling his googlies left and right since the sudden departure of his wife from this world.

What is really most painful and degrading in all of this is the fact that Pakistan as a nation has entered a state of servitude to the unknown players behind the scene who have gained unprecedented control over the long-term strategic goals of our country. The dark deals made by individuals to secure their personal survival are ripping apart the very fabric of the country. This loss of independence means that there is very little that anyone can do to regain a sense of control in sectors such as economic, education, foreign policy and defence.

Once these crucial sectors of Pakistani polity are bartered for the sake of personal gains, no government can make any independent decisions. Thus, it is not surprising that over the last few years, Pakistan has not been able to make any independent decision regarding its role in the American war of terror, its educational and economic direction, and its defence-related policies; everything has been dictated to us. And those who have taken this dictation have done so trembling with fear, because they are inherently spineless weaklings beholden to the foreign masters for their own survival.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

Source: The News, 13/6/2008


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