Democracy: the best revenge

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 06.01.08

After Afghanistan and Iraq, Pakistan has been hit by the after-shocks of 9/11 event.
December 27 was one of them devouring the life of a precious Pakistani politician, Benazir
Bhutto. The nation mourns for her.

With departure of Benazir from the political scene, Pakistan has plunged into a state of
political orphanage where there has been left no towering international figure to fill the void
to tackle both domestic and foreign issues single-handedly. She had inherited that
charismatic legacy of her father, the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who had created an upheaval
in the socio-political lives of the downtrodden now called jiyalas of the PPP. The
consequent picture projected the PPP as an anti-establishment party, the party that shared
crumbs of power and economic reward with the masses. Roti, Kapra aur Makan is the
slogan that still stirs the impoverished masses and magnetizes them to rally around the
PPP. The slogan is now more in currency when the era of the financial wizard of the
Citibank group, Shaukat Aziz, is over.

Today, the societal divide between haves and have-nots stands conspicuous. In the
immediate past, the agriculture economy of Pakistan was dealt as if it had been an
industrial financial arrangement. Consequently, the whole society is grappling with the
onslaught of the debit and credit forces. The resultant consumerism, which was promoted
to boost the economy as it made the consumers to pay indirect taxes, has plunged the
whole country into electricity supply deficit. The consumerism prodded people to consume
more energy than the State could supply thereby engendering adverse effects. Surely, the
victim of the same economic upsurge is the economy itself. The economy is bound to take a
nose drive when the industry is hamstrung functionally at the expense of the common
consumers thereby actuating a meager industrial output as well as deficit in export
earnings. The net economic gain may come to the cipher.

Taken together, the country is in unprecedented political and economic turmoil. To add
insult to injury, the other day, the President Pervaiz Musharraf said at a press gathering
that washing off murder scene at the gate of Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi was an ‘inefficiency’
of the administration. Nonetheless, he failed to hold the administrators accountable and
bringing the names of the inefficient ones to the public. It would be a surprise to know if the
crime scene were washed by the lower staffers without getting any approval from the high-
ups. Today, only the efficiency of hosing down the crime scene has compelled people to
raise the accusing fingers at the pro-Musharraf camp. Even Musharraf felt compelled to
shrug off the accusations of having blood on his hand. If it is not, what otherwise a display
of the administrative failure could be! Nevertheless, Musharraf is never short of words to
discredit politicians; Musharraf never leave a chance to cover up an administrative failure of
those working under him even if they commit foul. Cleaning off the crime scene is a recent
example while severe beating of the journalists by the Islamabad police outside the election
commission office on September 29 is another one. In the latter case, all the convicts have
been exonerated by the Supreme Court in the post-PCO phase; the same would be the fate
of the failed administrators in the former case. Looking from another angle, Pakistan has
arrived at the point where meddling by the non-political elements into the political course of
the country has become a bane. Compromising with the non-democratic forces has been
named as pragmatism while uncompromising on the democratic principles has been
condemned. Musharraf era will be remembered as introducing such trend in the democratic
polity of the country. Surely, the reason is one point agenda: perpetuation of rule what
come may. Those who concede to the mode of perpetuation will stay; all others will have to
wait till the end of the next five years – a fait accompli.

Against the background of the post-October 12, 1999 scenario, Benazir had rightly
epitomized hopes for revival of a functional democracy in Pakistan. Entry of Musharraf into
the political arena as a backlash effect of the Kargil crisis and then justification of the coup
in the name of his seven point ‘never fulfilled’ agenda had sent a wave of despondency in
the people who believed in the fair play. That is why; perhaps, the civil society was and is
up against the deeds of Musharraf taken in the name of political reforms to reconstruct
democracy – one that suits him. Gagging of the media, imprisonment of the judges and the
lawyers, and suppression of the voices of the human right activist lend credence to that
point of view. With departure of Benazir, hopes of seeing a true people’s representative
government have dashed to the ground. She was vocal against the doctored elections to
install a programmed parliament. She had been acting as a bulwark against the hidden
hands of authoritarian rule. In her strides, even Nawaz Sharif was following and backing
her. That is how; Pakistan has become a battleground between the forces of election and
selection and that was why she advised her son, Bilawal Bhutto that ‘democracy was the
best revenge.’

With physical absence of Bhutto leadership from the PPP, the party is bound to face the
crisis of unity and vision. The ongoing struggle of the bar and the bench has proved that
the middle class has become vibrant and active. The PPP needs to appreciate that reality
and open up its ranks for the middle educated and professional class, besides making
inroads into the middle class voters. At the moment, the sympathy wave for the PPP is at
the full surge. It needs to be channelized to broaden the base of the party. Further, the
compassion wave has brought the PPP in a position where it can negotiate interests of the
civil society with the State apparatus thereby bridging the gap the other parties have been
trying to plug since March 9, 2007.

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