Hoor Asrar analyses the
Pakistan is in the grip of Chaos is the ruling strand forces that are fast eroding the traditional institutions of the state through which it exercises its power. A state is a more permanent structure of domination and coordination in part because, unlike a regime, a functioning state always maintains a coercive apparatus and both the means to administer a society and to extract resources from it. It is this permanence that is required to be preserved and is considered to be the red line defended by the very institutions it is based upon. It is for this reason that any change in a political system is attributed to the dispositions of men and regime types are forged from human nature of the citizens of a polity.
It is therefore quite obvious that any breakdown in any political system would be related to societal crisis pertaining to dominance of elites, cultural dispositions, fiscal crises and economic inequalities. These reasons are found almost constant in practically all upheavals caused in the developing world where democracy has not taken roots and has been challenged by arbitrary forces who have tried to manipulate political power of the state through divide-and-rule policy for decades and Pakistan is no exception.
In Pakistan the grip of arbitrary forces was provided support when they entered into an alliance with the landed elites and sectors of the bourgeoisie who desired a level of labour repression that democracy would not allow. They were also assisted by prominent individuals who were essentially opportunists looking for chances of social and political advancement and were accommodated through a broad range of nonstructural factors, including ineffective leadership and problematic institutional design. The rise of arbitrary forces was also assisted by the overall breakdown of democracy during the Cold War era where the Communist countries intensely propagated their brand of one-party ideology and pushed it as the second major stimulus for explanatory theory of governance.
In their favour they insisted that in the developing world there was dearth of democratic stability that could only be ensured where a civic culture based on moderate attitudes, interpersonal trust and muted interest in political participation existed. The Communist ideologues added that democratic political systems would be viable only if their authority patterns were congruent with authority patterns in other social organizations and socialistic economic structures promised better prospects for expansion of wealth, industrialization, urbanization and education. The result would mean a large middle class that would entail decreasing class differences, more moderation, and better odds for democratic system stability.
It is quite obvious that democracy could not be maintained in the face of contradictory pressures from transnational capital on the one hand and a popular sector empowered by democratic freedoms on the other. Debates about the cause of democratic system breakdown were still unresolved when authoritarian regimes began to break down in the 1970s. This period witnessed the breakdowns of dictatorships in the developing world that was taken as the consequence of divisions among regime elites and the conclusions were drawn that elite dispositions, calculations and pacts determine system breakdowns. Beyond this it was assessed that the breakdown of authoritarianism constituted an example of underdetermined social change where class, sectoral, or institutional analysis had little predictive utility.
The authoritarian breakdown occurred because regime elites that played a major role developed major difference, another in which the breakdown of dictatorship resulted from joint action by regimes and oppositions and a third in which oppositions took the lead. All these three were witnessed in Pakistan though the arbitrary forces ultimately managed to regroup much to the detriment of the democratic forces. It however remained obvious that military dictatorships were the most likely to break down as whenever the interests of the military as an institution were at risk. Personalist regimes were susceptible when an equilibrium based on coercion and spoils was disturbed by the death of the leader or by economic crisis. Single-party regimes were the least susceptible to breakdown because their leaders typically had no alternative source of power and thus had stronger incentives to face crises and resolve disputes internally.
The problem in the developing world is the prototype democratically elected regime that operates on dictatorial patterns. This type has been in vogue since the last many decades and has been quietly accepted by the policy and even the institutions though the powerful establishment tries to manipulate the system every now and then. The problem is that what the establishment replaces the system with is the replica of the old system of personally-controlled democratic hierarchical structure bequeathed from one to the other generation with hardly any chance of penetration by an outsider. The ushering in of PTI, though, was devoid of dynastic tinge but only on the top and that too just in person of its leader as all others in its top line up have sons or relatives such Shah Mahmood Qureshi or Pervez Khattak lined up to take their place.
The other issue was that the bane of a regime was economic failure but this has not proved harmful to the PTI at all and it has actually conveniently shifted the blame of its miserable economic performance of almost four years of governance on to the coalition government that replaced it. This is very unconventional change to say the least and may be debated for a long time to come as this yardstick has completely defied almost all analysts of regime change process. In fact it gained in popularity despite being responsible for the economic chaos it caused but the people chose to conveniently ignore this aspect and willingly bought into its anti-establishment propaganda and supported its rather flimsy foreign conspiracy claims against its government. The very fact that it won three-fourth of the bye-elections after it was removed from power was quite an astonishing feat.
All these factors led to the dominant trend of pursuance of chaotic policies purposely aimed at rattling the institutional setup of the state that is already best up with enough divisions to give in to the demands of the populist forces who have gained electoral supremacy. The latest attempt of the arbitrary forces to uproot the quasi-democratic forces through one of their own through an immature political figure through massive political engineering and then sustaining him by extraordinary use of state’s coercive machinery has finally come home to roost. Such failure of the state institutions is rooted in political factors and clearly brings to fore that hybrid regimes that are neither democracies nor dictatorships are most susceptible to collapse.
The experiment has not only badly failed but is now challenging the arbitrary forces by their most dreaded predicament: chaos and they do not know how to handle it. They have already lost plenty of political capital in containing this nuisance and may still lose much more before it is finally contained. The problem will still remain of restoring the balance of sustainable governance that has been badly disturbed and it may not be possible for the currently available political elements to restore it fully and adequately. It implies that the wobbly state of affairs may continue in the near future. TW