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Friday, April 12, 2024

From political mentors to monsters

Dr. Farid A Malik |

Pakistan has been devoured by ‘political monsters’ of all kinds and sizes. There is an Urdu verse “Kaaba kis Munh se Jaoge Ghalib” (with what face will you go to holy Kaaba?). Though the moulds were put into place much earlier but the deadliest period started in July 1977. In these forty years every civilian institution has ceased to function. Even public records have been destroyed or tempered by this handpicked and imposed leadership. Reformation has become an uphill task as so many obstacles and roadblocks have been erected on the way which now seems insurmountable.

This is for the first time in the 72 years chequered history of Pakistan that both the ex-President and ex-Prime Minister (PM) are being tried for corrupt practices which includes money laundering as well. Another ex-PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has also been charged for corruption by NAB (National Accountability Bureau).

Ghalib was so ashamed his liberal personal habits that he did not have the face to face “Kaaba”. Perhaps the most emotionally charged component of pilgrimage is the “Rummi” or stoning the Satan. It is self a cleansing or exorcism exercise to get the ‘Demon’ out of one self. For Hajj and Umrah one is required to spend from his own pocket yet people in authority do not refrain in cheating God by passing the tab to public funds.

Political Monsters lack public support as they do not work for common good instead they create loyalties by using their influence over the administrative set-up.

It is easier to create monsters but difficult to get rid of them. Now that their designers, creators and benefactors have decided to get rid of these evil souls that they created, there is some hope for the nation. Unfortunately the list is very long starting from the fifties all the way to date. All of them cannot be tried at the same time some pick and choose has to take place.

Benazir suggested the formation of a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” on the lines of Nelson Mandela’s South Africa. While Pervez Musharraf jelled his own ‘political monsters’ he greatly underestimated the powers of the earlier evil souls created by the three dictators before him. The ill-fated NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) provided them space which eventually resulted in his fall.

Benazir’s assassination in 2017 followed by elections in 2008, changed the scenario in favour of the ‘monsters’. The Charter of Democracy (CoD) which was signed by the two main parties was only partially followed. Instead of strengthening democracy it justified plunder of state resources.

Read more: An overview of Pakistani politics from 1947 to Gen. Zia

In ten years of this misrule massive borrowing was done. Today the external debt has exceeded $90 billion. Revenue collection has not been able to keep pace with the spiralling burden of loans. After interest payments and defence expenses there is nothing left for human development hence more borrowing. The nation feels trapped in debt, security expenditure and corruption of political monsters with no relief in sight.

Only credible elections can stop monsterization of politics. Unfortunately after the 1970 debacle, the establishment has moved away from this constitutional requirement. After ten manipulated ballots between 1977 to 2013, the 2018 electoral contest was relatively peaceful. Local police and the civil administration was not allowed to intervene.

The MQM high handedness in urban Sindh, the PPP influence in rural Sindh and the PML-N in Punjab was contained to a great extent. Political Monsters lack public support as they do not work for common good instead they create loyalties by using their influence over the administrative set-up.

The big Political Monsters are already in the net but it should not stop here otherwise their juniors will take their place and the process will continue.

Political mentors of Pakistan were all elected in the 1946 elections most of them were able and honest individuals who served the nation to the best of their abilities. They believed in giving not taking. Ayub Khan’s EBDO (Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance) sent all of them home. Through a controlled, manipulated electoral process corrupt but subservient political leadership was created.

After the fall of the first dictator, in hope for a split mandate, the establishment opted for free and fair elections in 970. Though the country fell apart the quality of the elected representatives was exceptional. The unanimous 1973 constitution is a gift of this assembly.

The democratic era was short lived. The usurpers came back to haunt the nation. This period stretched from 1977 to 2018. Now an elected government is trying to correct the course to get rid of the political monsters. Bureaucracy has a key role in this transition but their loyalties remain divided. Service to the people has never been their agenda.

Read more: How Pakistan was ‘Created & Lost’: A journey of ‘Blood & Tears’

In order to move forward Pakistan needs political mentors not monsters, those who work for common good. A few weeks before he died I had the chance of meeting Rana Shaukat one of the founders of People Party. Making full use of this opportunity I asked him a straight question, ‘Can Bhutto’s party be revived? He said no, because now the party has been taken over by the takers, the givers are all gone.

Assets beyond means is an important mechanism to net the corrupt. All elected representatives since the 1985 partyless elections should be investigated by audit of their assets. Either corruption or misuse of authority will automatically surface. In case the money trail is missing, such assets should be confiscated. The big Political Monsters are already in the net but it should not stop here otherwise their juniors will take their place and the process will continue.

Read more: Administrative versus political structures – Farid A Malik

These free lunches at nation’s expense must come to an end my father used the term Dawat-e-Walima to explain this phenomenon. Nation building through common good is the way forward. Political Mentors emerge from credible elections, manipulated ballots only produce monsters that are now being pushed out of the arena to put an end to this misadventure.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.