Pulao politics – II – By Sardar Mumtaz Ali Bhutto

The essence of the article by Dr Meekal Aziz Ahmed in this newspaper on Sept. 11 was that since everyone else in society is corrupt, what is the harm if we elect a president who is also corrupt. If this is acceptable then we have no right to call this country Pakistan. It should be called Corruptistan and, shedding all pretences, we must get down to the already advanced practice of murder and loot. This is pulao politics, the basic objective of which is to ride roughshod into power, or get as close to it as possible, for the sole purpose of making instant material and social gains. In pulao politics the people do not matter and the whole edifice of the state is balanced on the shoulders of the politicians who manipulate the people to land advantageous positions.

The general elections of 2008 unfolded a unique scenario: The absolutely disastrous eight years of Musharraf’s misrule had brought people out into the streets demanding security of life and property, protection against corruption and inflation, an end to the war in FATA and Balochistan, and so on. Change had become inevitable, and this once again brought Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and her party into focus. The dismal state of affairs, the unprecedented publicity blitz and most of all the tragic murder of Benazir, gave the pulao politicians, who have hijacked the PPP, the chance they had been waiting for since 1996.

Instead of going into a long mourning period and following the tracks of the killers of their leader, in whose name they still thrive, her successors reinvigorated their election campaign to take full advantage of the reaction of the people to her murder. “Democracy is the best revenge,” they said but did not explain how the killers of Benazir would be brought to book. No FIR has been filed and those responsible have absolved themselves by throwing the matter at the United Nations, knowing that it will be buried like the Rafik Hariri case.

The murder provided a chance to Asif Zardari to end the banishment imposed on him by his wife, reportedly for making a deal some three years ago with the intelligence agencies to be their man in the PPP. Not only that, he even produced a will which made him lord and master of all that his wife stood for. Given the background, this document was questioned by many, but by not the pulao politicians of the party, who had their sights firmly set on the rewards of power that lay just around the corner.

The PPP’s electoral victory brought all kinds of people into lucrative high positions, including absconders abroad, as well as friends of the “Friend of Friends.” Patronage at government expense stretches even to Zardari’s servants, who occupy VIP rest houses and move about with police escorts. Meanwhile, anyone called Zardari seems to have assumed a status above the law. They are going and involving themselves even in things like depriving the poor fishing community of Chotiari Dam of their fish.

The PPP stalwarts seem to have forgotten that the vanquished masses did not vote for pulao politics, but for the apprehension of the killers of Shaheed Benazir and instant relief from the many agonising problems they face on a daily basis. Asif Zardari has chosen the prime minister, chief ministers, the composition of the cabinets, and ordered hundreds of postings and transfers during the last six months, but kept none of the promises made to the people. On the contrary the people have been told that promises are not sacrosanct, and that there is nothing final in politics.

Thus, it is not surprising that whereas 60,000 jobs were promised immediately after the budget in Sindh, 80,000 employees of National Council for Human Development have been sacked. In his first press conference as president (what a mess that was, made all the worse by the schoolteacher-like interference by the ubiquitous Sherry Rehman), Zardari grandly announced that following the legacy of Shaheed Zukfikar Ali Bhutto, his very first visit abroad would be to China.

True to form, he did a U-turn on that and scurried off to the UK. This is no way to treat China, which is the most reliable friend Pakistan has. It is not a good omen that the day before he took the oath, American troops landed inside Pakistan and conducted a lethal ground assault.

It has now been made abundantly clear by the Americans that they will not only continue to use drones against targets in Pakistan but also enter our territory at will. The nation waits with bated breath to know how the new “awami” president will deal with this.

The government is already at war with its own people in FATA, the NWFP and Balochistan. Is it going to take on the Americans too? The prime minister has already said that it cannot. There is no Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to declare that we will fight even if we have to eat grass. Pulao politics may fool people but it cannot guard the frontiers of the country.

Similarly, war has to be declared on lawlessness, corruption and the economic crisis. Pulao politicians have neither shown the ability or the inclination to deal with these problems. How can they, with so many skeletons in their closets? Lawlessness can be significantly reduced in a short span of time by simply making the police do its job of enforcing the law. But who is to do this? The “awami” government feels so threatened that ministers, and indeed the prime minister and president, cannot venture out without dozens of security personnel escorting them. Recently when the president came to Naudero there was a virtual curfew in the whole of Larkana district. A government that lives in such mortal fear and depends on the police for survival can do little to control its own malpractices and combat crime.

As for corruption, this is no longer an offence. Musharraf made it a part of our culture by allowing it to the extents that even those in jail or under trial for corruption were inducted into the cabinet, while his pets, the nazims, were given huge sums to gobble up with impunity, as long as they continued to be loyal to him. Those pulao politicians who have long observed such feasting from a distance are certainty not going to miss the chance now that it is their turn to gorge. And let us not forget the immoral and unconstitutional NRO which has cleansed those accused of murder and serious corruption, so that these offences are no longer an obstacle in the march to the highest positions in the country.

The basic formula for improving the economy is to spend less and produce more. The government is applying this in reverse. The greatest setback to the economy is the huge government spending resourced by deficit financing and massive borrowing. This leads to inflation and a fall in the value of the rupee, which in turn leads to high costs of imports and a deep imbalance in trade. There is also the menace of uncontrolled smuggling, in which not only the bureaucracy but politicians also are reported to be involved. With such vested interest at stake who will dare interfere?

Thus, all the evils are rooted in the practice of pulao politics which has a stranglehold on the nation and allows no improvement or progress. This is a vicious circle which can only be broken with the advent of an Ataturk, a Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or a Mahathir Mohammad. But there is no such person in sight.

The writer is chairman of the Sindh National Front.



Source: The News, 20/9/2009


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