No democrat would hold a brief for military dictators. But if a dispassionate analysis is made, one comes to the conclusion that elected leaders are also responsible in equal measure for having brought the country to the present pass
Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has said at an election rally at Chilas Rest House that the primary reason for all the problems of the country is frequent violations of the Constitution. One would agree with Mian Nawaz Sharif that all organs of the state must work according to the parameters defined in the Constitution and no one should overstep into the other’s domain. He is also right in demanding of President Asif Ali Zardari the annulment of the 17th amendment and withdrawal of 58(2)(b), and it should be done in days and not weeks and months. But Mian sahib has to be reminded that during his second stint as prime minister, PML-N leaders and workers had stormed the apex court. The treatment meted out to then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah can only be described as despicable. Second, it has to be borne in mind that almost all leaders or parties on the political scene today have at one time or another aided and abetted dictators, despite claiming to be champions of democracy.
Of course, power has its own dynamics; and the key to social dynamics that Marx found in wealth, Freud in sex, Bertrand Russell found in power. It has to be mentioned that Hitler and Mussolini were also elected leaders who were instrumental in the death and destruction of millions of people before and during the Second World War. Arundhati Roy, in her article titled ‘The end of imagination’ wrote: “Fascism is as in the people as it is in the governments. It starts in the drawing rooms, bedrooms and becomes a national psyche.” In Pakistan also we see tendencies of fascism in some religious and even so-called democratic and liberal parties. Their leaders are devoid of clarity of vision and sense of proportion. Paul Johnson, author of several best-selling books, during his lecture delivered on November 1, 2007 said: “In statesmanship, personal self-restraint in the search for and exercise of power is a key lesson to teach.” Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been lucky to have genuine leaders after the demise of the Quaid-i-Azam.
No democrat would hold a brief for military dictators. But if a dispassionate analysis is made, one comes to the conclusion that elected leaders are also responsible in equal measure for having brought the country to the present pass. They failed to establish their parties on democratic principles. Even today heads of the major political parties run their parties as personal fiefdoms, as the leadership of these parties revolves around the founder or his family members. In fact, since the inception of Pakistan, the ruling classes comprising jagirdars, members of the civil and military bureaucracy and comprador industrialists have ruled the country under different denominations. In other words, there has never been democracy; at best sometimes it could be described as quasi-democracy. Unless jagirdari is abolished and the feudal mindset is done away with, Pakistan cannot have even the semblance of western democracy.
It is the responsibility of the leadership to take measures to stem the rot. It should ensure socio-economic justice in society, which in turn would unite the nation and eliminate the threat to internal security. It has the responsibility to put the economy on an even keel, as a strong economy is the sine qua non for a strong defence that can counter any threat to security. In essence it is the leadership crisis that has given rise to multifaceted crises, as most leaders lack leadership qualities and are devoid of vision, statesmanship and prescience. Political parties and leaders remained involved in nasty wrangles and internecine conflicts that provided opportunities to the military to overthrow elected governments.
According to Hegel, a leader has to be conversant with — rather in harmony with — the spirit of the age. A real leader is a master strategist and a great tactician who blends pragmatism with idealism to achieve the desired objective of a better life for his people. To understand how a leader can use the immutable laws of society and lead the masses to vitality and stability, one must look at the methodology of a botanist with his plants or an agricultural expert with an orchard. An agricultural scientist observes all the factors affecting the growth of the trees in an orchard, including the effect of laws of nature, climatic and environmental conditions, the culture and type of trees, and then using his knowledge, experience and expertise, manoeuvres these laws for the benefit of fast growth and the best quality fruit. So does a genuine and conscientious leader with world vision and conscious of social, cultural and economic conditions.
He approaches the innermost feelings of the people, mobilizes them against the decadent system and puts society on the road to development. The destiny of a nation depends on the determination of its people, but there has to be a leader with vision, courage and wisdom to inspire them to unite in their struggle for safeguarding the sovereignty and independence of their country, and to put it on the path of progress and prosperity. In Pakistan, the myriad political and religious parties, intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals, or government and the opposition parties have variegated stances and perceptions about various issues and challenges facing the country. But there appears to be a consensus that Pakistan is facing a multifaceted crisis, which is the result of the ruling elite’s lust for power and flawed decisions over half a century. It was due to the lopsided policies of various governments that only a few regions were developed to the neglect of others, the gap between the rich and the poor widened, and contradictions became irreconcilable.
Though a lot has to be done to reverse the cycle of deprivation, the jagirdari system has to be abolished to start with. The Chief Justice of Pakistan should take suo motu notice and reopen the case closed by the Federal Shariat Court that had obstructed land reforms, considering these as contrary to Shariah. Today more than 60 percent population lives in rural areas, which is at the mercy of waderas in Sindh, jagirdars in Punjab, sardars in Balochistan and khawaneen in NWFP. This hapless and neglected community is living in miserable conditions. How can one imagine having a democratic polity in a society where a majority of the people is living below the poverty line? Remnants of feudalism and the present system of exploitation have to be done away with to introduce a democratic culture in the political parties and society with a view to inculcating the spirit of tolerance and establishing democratic traditions.
The writer is a freelance columnist
Article reproduced by permission of DT