IT is of course entirely politically incorrect to miss the doctrine of necessity, and still more reprehensible to think wistfully of the Eighth Amendment. I would hate to appear on the side of our uniformly distinguished dictators who (fairly successful in some ways though toxic in others) variously went a-looking for the essence of democracy; an indigenous democracy not overawed by modes as of Parliament and Capitol Hill; or quite humbly a basic democracy; using those very legal implements. But quoi faire? Our democracy flounders like the bat in democratic daylight and finds its wings when fighting the dark of martial law. Continue reading “Learning the hard way”
A FRIEND sent me his greetings on New Year with this verse: “Apnay haathon say dastar sumbhaloon kaisay/ Donon haathon mein kashkol pakar rakha hai.” (How should I hold up my turban when I hold the begging bowl with both my hands?)
The truth of this verse hit me when a news item in this paper reported the proceedings of the Senate recently. The government had come under fire from a PTI member for piling up external and domestic debts to such proportions that servicing them was becoming impossible.
One should not dismiss this as political gimmickry to embarrass the ruling party. After all, which party in Pakistan has even attempted to be self-reliant by adopting austerity as a policy to reduce the government’s dependency on loans? With few parties remaining in office for too long, every ruler spends money with abandon knowing that the chickens will come home to roost when he will not be around to cope with the problem. Continue reading “Loss of dignity”
In a subcontinent where street power has been instrumental in ridding its peoples of British Raj and where ignoring it has also been implosive—as in the presently heavily occupied Kashmir and the no longer existent East Pakistan—it is an achievement of sorts that our politicians have been able to trivialize it: mass demos, dharnas, rallies, jalsas, have become stale as well as tiresome.
But it would be perilously delusional to assume that the consequences of the sustained abuse of street power can be counted on as also being trivial and dull.
Pakistan’s politicians conceive of street power as a tool of political one-upmanship: who had the larger turnout where. The public why and because are secondary rather than motivational, and the objective is to wrest power from the incumbents and gain it for the leaders’ party machine. (There is much verbiage but little evidence or precedent that power thus gained will be exercised in the public interest first and foremost.) The PTI’s use of its glitzy street power has been frankly disruptive but it has yet to gain the critical mass to get Nawaz to ‘go’ as bid. Other political parties align with the lionized Imran Khan and his PTI off and on in unedifying bargaining to gain traction for—first things first—Nawaz to go. The spirit is we’ll join hands but reserve the right to turn on each other later. Continue reading “Street power”
THE turnout at the walk organised last Sunday by Citizens against Weapons (CAW) was heartening. Started in 2014 by some concerned citizens, the campaign is catching on. I had joined them at a rally on an intersection of a busy area in Karachi two years ago. There were then barely 50 protesters. On Sunday, there were 400 or so.
One of them, activist Naeem Sadiq, whose motto is ‘say no to guns’, has been working on this goal for a decade. He and his colleagues want to rid the whole country of guns and the message is gaining adherents as a larger number of people — that does not include our rulers — begin to understand the significance of deweaponisation in ending violence. Continue reading “Enough is enough”
Pakistan’s democracy is an evolutionary process in which representative legislation derived from the popular electoral mandate moves in the direction of better governance. The electorate and the elected learn politically and self-correct. The mandates conferred in 2008 and 2013 may be viewed in that light: Government at the federal centre changed hands each time, and provincial mandates mutated. Tahirul Qadri’s PAT established an irrelevance within the electoral process; while Imran Khan’s PTI registered a significant though scattered national rise, and formed the government in KP. Given the PPP’s decline, Imran’s party emerged as a vibrant third force in the national parliamentary configuration. But the overall electoral outcome left Punjab in the grip of the PML(N) – where Imran tirelessly alleges massive rigging – and denied the PTI a high profile in urban Sindh.
Setting aside what the party may or may not have established about its ability to govern by the standards it demands in others; what example has its oppositional mode offered in terms of federal politics – which — as Pakistan is a federal republic – has acute relevance for each one of its citizens. Continue reading “Remember remember ? November”
WE seem to be living in an age when countries are constantly being measured, classified and ranked. The trend was set by the United Nations Development Programme 25 years ago when the Human Development Index was introduced. Many others followed suit as new technologies were developed for gathering and collating data from diverse sources that made the compilation of such indices feasible.
Today, virtually no area of national life has been left without being probed. We have international rankings on education, disease, poverty, corruption, press freedom, gender empowerment, religious freedom, and even happiness. Only recently, the Global Peace Index 2016 (GPI) — a relatively new area to be measured — was released which warns us how wars are taking us down the path of self-destruction. Continue reading “Measuring peace”
On August 22 the MQM’s almost week-old peaceful rather low-key ‘fast-unto-death’ outside Karachi’s Press Club erupted into obedient frenzy at the urging of its remote-controlling leader, himself safely enshrined in London. That sacred cow of democracy, the media, had the premises of two big-time TV houses—- located a virtual stone’s throw away—- stormed: live.
The Press Club is at once at the commercial, official, industrial and historic heart of Karachi. Sticks and stones breaking bones; baton charges; arson: The impact of the vicious unruly mob was instantly apparent—- panicking people thronging the markets, and obstructing hordes heading home from work. The resultant traffic jam was rapid and extensive. LEAs heading to the rescue were also caught in it. More than a handful badly injured; one dead; another dying: Probably the whole of Pakistan’s TV audience witnessed the rampage vicariously and read tickers of the concern being voiced by the President; PM; military top brass and prominent politicians. The CM, the DG Rangers, officials and functionaries visited the trouble-spot. The interior minister intended phoning officialdom in London, where MQM’s Altaf Hussain has long been a British resident, turned citizen. Continue reading “Re-configuring the MQM”
NO matter how we love him, our COAS is no poster boy. For one thing, the face as displayed on the July poster comes out rather reminiscent of Saddam—and that is not the right kind of resonance whether the pitch be civil, military or sufiyana.
There was as good as no collective popular reaction to the sentiment the poster so ardently expressed. The ISPR issued a brusque statement of dissociation. The media, however, soldiered on. We the people were soon in possession of the name of the poster-pasting party, said to be duly registered with the ECP more than a year ago. A political party rooting for Bonapartism is the kind of nonsense that only our democratic climate can provide.
THE Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16 reminds us of our ticking population bomb. We are told that today the country’s population stands at 195.4 million — 3.7m more than it was the previous year. We have regressed. The population growth rate stands at 1.89pc in 2016. It had dropped to 1.49pc in 1960-2003. Continue reading “Politics of numbers”
To understand the dynamics of our present cultural conflicts we need to go back to General Zia’s way of playing politics. His commitment to a self-interpreted Pakistan ideology and his martial power in super-imposing it on his subjects –- for that is what citizens become in a dictatorship –- had a profoundly disruptive impact.
He controversialised religion, making it into an instrument for repression and domination. Thus, legislation in the cloak of Islamisation haunts us in the blasphemy laws and Hudood Ordinance. Selected religious bodies and clerics gained a new voice, latent with intrusive powers, to guide public morality and personal conduct. He formulated distinctions between shura and parliament which often took the form of a dissociation from or incompatibility with “westernis ed” political and social practice and inevitably enhanced bigotry. Continue reading “Culture agonistic”