The people of Pakistan are suffering from a false dream, that the current political parties will bring about change by reforming state institutions and uplifting the masses. It is a misconception. The leadership of these parties is comprised of elites: rural, urban, and beyond. The political parties are autocratic to their bones; they are run like empires or one-man shows. They work on the whims and wishes of party heads without concrete policies or policymaking procedures. They work like businesses, but in the guise of politics. They pursue political persecution and revenge only for the sake of power.
Our political history shows that politics in Pakistan has nothing to do with common welfare. The people are deluded by populist narratives carefully constructed by aristocratic politicians and sometimes supported by the vested interest elements in elite institutions. Even 75 years after Pakistan’s creation, the majority are denied even the basic necessities of life i.e. health, education, and employment. The masses have been generally misled by false narratives such as “roti, kapra, aur makan” and “haqeeqi azaadi” or “riasat-e-medina.” They have been exploited in the name of welfare, accountability, and religion.
The national economy is collapsing; the justice system is failing to deliver; resources are limited to elites; our parties are captured by those elites. There is a divide within key state institutions.
In each constituency, a few families vie for power. They have been contesting elections under the banner of one or the other political party. These families consider their constituency as their kingdoms. They accumulate huge sums through political connections and corruption; they battle for impunity, with supporters who hope to benefit from the same. The voters are intimated by guns, coercion, and false cases linked to those with incumbent connections. Some are won over through political bribes and favors with help from the local police and administration. This continues generation after generation. There is a class of elites (rulers) and voters (population). They are linked by their competitive pursuit of impunity. Our political system is characterized by competitive authoritarianism.
The general public can contest elections in theory but not in practice. Our election laws prescribe a limit on election expenses, e.g. Rs. 1,500,000 for a National Assembly seat, and Rs. 1,000,000 for Provincial Assembly. But the investment for a party ticket from a political party or leader, collected as a donation to the party fund, is huge, and this limit on expenses is never enforced. There are cosmetic proceedings here and there, without any effective action. Furthermore, the district administration is used as a tool of coercion against those who dare to participate in the political process against the will of mighty political families. An educated person with honest means and expertise can hardly afford such funds, so is practically disqualified from the political process at the initial nomination stage. Thus, one can easily imagine the outcome of so-called democracy in our country.
Our political system is characterized by competitive authoritarianism.
The events that have taken place over the past few weeks are alarming. Those who have attacked military installations and scaled gates in the Red Zone must be tried and punished following the law. No one can be allowed to threaten or weaken our army and the judiciary. At the same time, these ugly episodes should be looked at in a broader context. It is an indication of a rising hatred against elites or elite institutions. It shows that, political wrangling aside, the basic rights and needs of the people are not being met by our elites. The bond between citizen and state is weakening. Amidst this crisis, we are facing the challenges of military trials of civilians, the composition of benches, and parliamentary protests and action against Supreme Court judges. It will intensify institutional rifts, and might lead to a constitutional emergency or break down. Unfortunately, given the composition of our political parties, significant structural change in our state institutions cannot be expected. Long-term reform requires institutional consensus and support alongside political awareness of the masses.
The national economy is collapsing; the justice system is failing to deliver; resources are limited to elites; our parties are captured by those elites. There is a divide within key state institutions. Sagacity is lacking in our national discourse. Should it change? Without the engagement and empowerment of ordinary people, both domestically, and on the part of international friends and allies, Pakistan faces collapse. To start, we need to educate and empower our youth to prepare them for an effective role in our constitutional democracy. Beyond this, our institutions, and especially our political parties, must look beyond their current leaders to expert forms of advice on critical issues of national importance. We cannot rely on existing or revolutionary elites. We need a well-educated population and more visionary leaders, engaged with global expertise, to strengthen our fragile democracy and reform our institutions.
Fab article but why are you recommending the arrest of citizens when you yourself state that the main culprits are at the top level of military and political institutions?
Why divert attention and resources towards arrest of the citizens who are the victims?
Reading this article, it becomes obvious that the people of Pakistan have not derived any benefit from partition, in fact just the opposite.
Start with teaching people to tell the truth, ALWAYS! I can guarantee that you will fail.