Discernible trends in Pakistani politics

Daily: The News
Date: 18.03.11

The only constant is change. The adage is applicable aptly to nowhere but Pakistan. A
perpetual activity can be monitored on political and social planes of Pakistan: something is
happening somewhere. Incidentally, at least, four major trends can be discerned.

First, it is quite decipherable that recognized (universal) democratic principles are
incongruous with the kind of politics practised in Pakistan. High moral grounds taken in the
recent past are ceded to the lame excuse, political expediency. By showing a disposition to
materialize the expediency, both the PPP and PML-N are actually shifting the responsibility
for averting any next military coup onto the shoulders of the judiciary and media. Politicians
are perhaps forgetting that dishonesty – in both words and actions – is the undoing of
democracy in Pakistan.

Further, it seems that coming to terms with the rule of law is hard for the central
government led by the PPP. To lay claim to restoring the higher judiciary by an executive
order is one thing but to comply with the orders of the same judiciary is altogether a
different proposition. Calling a province wide strike in reaction to the decision of the
Supreme Court on removal of Chairman NAB Deedar Hussain Shah has debunked the
sense of insecurity plaguing the PPP. In fact, anti-judiciary hatred getting transformed into
anti-federation caveat by hoisting the Sindh Card is a bad omen for the country. Hitherto,
one thing is clear: if not political parties, political thought is yet to mature.

Second, the strife for securing access to economic resources is touching the lethal limit of
disorder in big multi-ethnic urban cities like Karachi. Target killings is one manifestation of
that turmoil, psychological maladies may be another. The scary trend may be repeated in
other urban cities of Pakistan like Lahore and Islamabad which are also rapidly getting multi-
ethnic. The palpable population swell in cities is due to both (local) high reproduction rate
and high urbanization rate. The swell yields soaring demographic needs which outnumber
the available resources leading to social discord. Nevertheless, scarcity of resources is a
shared trait of big cities of the world. What is missing in Pakistan, however, is reviewing the
definition of citizenship to meet the needs of cosmopolitan culture.

It is now evident that traditional disciplinary citizenship (which sprouts from the government
policies and relies on the taught means) is proving inadequate to cater to the wants of
cosmopolitan culture. There is a dire need to complement disciplinary citizenship with
cultural citizenship (which with its two core values, equality and identity, predicates on the
need to learn). Cultural citizenship has a special utility in sectarian and ethnic contexts in
Pakistan: all are equal in the eyes of law (or the state) but identity of any one faction should
be venerated by all others. Hence, it is not only the duty of the government to inculcate
civic values in citizens by employing pedagogical means like teaching curriculum, launching
campaigns, and enforcing law and order but it is also a duty of citizens to learn how to
cohabit in a society getting increasingly multi-cultural.

Third, the pace of class struggle has escalated manifold. In the twenty-first century, the
concept of class is transnational promoted by the ‘immigration culture’. The members of the
lower and middle class of a developing country immigrate to affluent countries and come
back after earning ample money to expand the upper class in their native countries. In
concert with the same phenomenon – reverse migration – the upper class in Pakistan is
expanding. Nevertheless, that reversal is also generating a social imbalance by
accentuating differences between the haves and have-nots translated into thefts,
robberies, and murders. Further, the disparity is making the deprived sections of society
disheartened leading to melancholy and suicide. To counter the ugly trend, the missing link
is ‘cross-borders investment’ in the form of Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) to set up new
industries or launch development projects – which can enhance job prospects for the youth
and make them economically contented. The expatriate Chinese and Indians have done so
to change the economic outlook of their countries.

Fourth, micro-nationalism is thriving fast. Under the sway of globalization, the idea of nation-
state is evaporating while the concept of internationalization is taking root. Being
apprehensive of the would-be final picture of globalization, people in the developing
countries are seeking refuge in minor identities like language and ethnicity. It is one’s
language-nationality or ethnic-nationality that is embodied in micro-nationalism. Pakistan
has started witnessing this phenomenon which manifests itself in people’s demanding
vociferously for a separate province – even by dividing any existing province – on the basis
of parochial relevance.

One of the reasons may not that micro-nationalism is dearer to them but that people do not
know what would happen once their identity is diluted. The fear of unknown forces them into
underscoring the available identity: micro-nationalism is the last ditch effort to overcome
that fear. The demand raised by people offers a chance to politicians to exploit and score
political points (as it was done by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani, the other day, when he
publicly supported the possibility of carving a language-based province, Seraiki, out of the
province of Punjab, but with the pre-condition that he would win the next general elections
with the same mandate). Nevertheless, falling back on identity offers people the latent
period to stay contented till the inevitable – global culture, for its being superior – takes
over and offers a new and ultimate identity, global citizen.

In short, the political and social planes of Pakistan are in a perpetual state of flux.

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