Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam describes Issues facing Pakistani ruling dispensations
The issues facing Pakistani ruling dispensations current political instability have again pointed out that avoiding the long-held prejudices against civilian democratic governance is the only and productive solution to securing power and then retaining it. After the East Pakistan debacle the restoration of democratic governance in Pakistan was agreed to it but was tacitly ensured by the arbitrary forces that democratic politics should stay away from meddling in policies that it construed to be cardinal sins by them and they build a strong narrative against aimed at preventing the civilian democratic elements to manage the state. The narrative built against civilian democratic rule has gained wide currency in the majority of population and it has become almost to challenge it. This narrative has been designed and implemented by using financial resources of the state but no one has the temerity to point out this fact openly and publicly encouraging the state-sponsored arbitrary forces to do whatever they want and plan.
The current political crisis evidently brings to fore the restraints faced by the civilian democratic elements that are expected to keep up to high moral grounds despite the arbitrary forces doing what they want irrespective of whether they are right or wrong. Unfortunately, the public perception being extremely gullible has badly fallen for the narrative built up by the arbitrary forces and blames the political elements of wrong that happens in the country. Over decades the civilian democratic forces have tried to alter public’s perception about them but have failed to do so as the other side is formidable enough to ensure that their narrative remains the decisive one. The arbitrary forces are adamant to cling to their dominant status in the state and are adamant to belittle any force that may get up to challenge them. The arbitrary forces have repeatedly shown that they can go to any length to ensure that their hold on the affairs of state remains intact and keep on creating hurdles in the path of civilian democratic elements.
The narrative prepared by the arbitrary forces is all-pervasive and they keep on updating it with time and it is proven without doubt that Pakistan is virtually run by them though covertly. Their narrative revolves around creating problems for civilian democratic governance and it has now become a classic case of how not to let the legitimate ruling structure to govern the country on behalf of the people. This narrative attributes multiple negatives to civilian governance and the first is related to attack their ambition of longevity in power. This tendency was termed civilian dictatorship and its pursuance was rated as megalomaniac drive to hog power. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) was conceived to be harbouring notions of staying through democratic means but his legitimate desire was interpreted as his intention of ushering in a benevolent dictatorship. ZAB was simply following the Westminster pattern of democracy that contains within itself the longevity principle provided the leadership retains public and parliamentary approval periodically. But in Pakistani context such intentions were considered so sinful that no elected leader was ever allowed to complete his or her tenure.
The other negative perception is that any civilian government that tries to take tough measures while governing is very soon labeled as anti-people. The line in this respect is so thin that no democratic government has ever been able to emphatically enforce its agenda. Any civilian ruler showing signs of administrative stability is immediately held in his tracks and is shown the door. The image of a big brother breathing down the necks of political operators renders them jittery and results in policy and administrative inertia that creates immense instability causing socio-economic issues. The current problems experienced by the country are precisely due to the arbitrary forces creating multiple hurdles in governing the country under representative dispensation.
The third problem is holding periodic elections under the supervision of an incumbent government as any sitting government is automatically assumed to work for harbouring its electoral gains and depriving rest in the field. The numerous strong indicators of wheeling-dealing during caretaker administrations have been conveniently ignored. Even a widely disputed election like 2018 one is preferred to the one held by a sitting government. The reasons of the insistence of bringing a caretaker set-up are all too obvious as it provides a buffer to other interested parties. This is such a travesty of fairplay that is required to be immediately amended and any sitting government should be allowed to hold elections in the country.
The re-emergence of sidelined popular political leaders after the end of a military regime is categorised as the fourth issue. Even the experienced state-personages fail to understand that political popularity is an extremely hard-earned attribute and lingers on till such leaders are active in political field. They may be thrown out of the pail but their ouster is temporary and they always bounce back as politics is like blood running in their veins that is thicker than the tides of adversity. The more they are suppressed the higher they grow in public estimation. It is usually the public response that keeps them virile.
Since after the end of the Cold War, Pakistani civilian political thought-process considered prolonging animosity with neighbours particularly India harmful for peace, progress and security in the region. Both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif were dubbed security risks when they tried normalising relations with the neighbours and had to pay heavy price for such indiscretion. It brings us to another problem associated with politicking in Pakistan. Hobnobbing of civilian leaders with India is a cardinal sin whose penitence is very high.
Democratic governance actors are not allowed to set a comprehensive agenda for ruling the country. Certain aspects of such an agenda are out of bounds for them and if they, wittingly or unwittingly, cross those limits then they are doomed. The rules of the game in this context are very rigid and the civil dispensation is not allowed to function above the municipal level, and if it tries to trespass the fixed boundaries then it is considered committing a folly that is not forgivable.
Any democratic dispensation that ventures to protest against restrictions is surely condemned for committing unforgiveable mistake. No digression from the prescribed path of progression of political conduct is allowed. The politicos are subjected to intense surveillance the day they start to become prominent and every action of theirs is recorded and stored in labyrinthine archives. There is no redressal of such an eventuality and the politicos are condemned to live with it. They are also subjected to a consistent negative campaign that intensely highlights issues related to moral turpitude and financial malfeasance.
The issues facing Pakistani ruling dispensations impediments to civil democratic governance of Pakistan are there to stay as the disruption of democratic process is presented as the alternative. The vast civilian political structure can withstand any pressure but is always very conscious of its only mode of survival. He or she is conditioned to act in political manner due to specific temperament and attitude but is refrained from doing what he or she does best. It is not only a deprivation but also tantamounts to smothering the democratic flower in the country before it blooms and freshens the air. TW
Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam is an educationist with wide experience