Peopleâ€™s card is the ace
04 June, 2007
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
Benazir Bhutto in her recent article wrote that May 12, 2007 was one of the darkest days in Pakistan. That implies there were many more darkest days. How many? Commenting on her article some one opined that the common Pakistanis have so far seen (60) (365) = 21900 dark days. This figure shows that we were in trouble right from the beginning. It is a true opinion. As a nation or collectively we have not seen in political context any good day in the last sixty years. We are waiting for the one. Let us hope it comes. One thing is sure that it will not come till our chronic uncertainty ends.
Millions of automobiles, mobile phones and TVs do not represent our real picture. None of us, from president to peon, is certain about the day next, and that is what we really are. Who will end this uncertainty, the present dispensation or the one that would replace it? None, unless we solve our problems, some of which we had inherited and many were of our own making. The problems remained unresolved because the approach to resolve them was the same that had created most of the problems. What we have actually been doing is that we are simply adding to the problems.
Some of our problems are no problems at all. Some have immediate solution, and some may take time. Difficulty is with the approach. A problem such as Kashmir — whose our solution would create a bigger problem or more problems — is not a problem; it has something to do with the vision. The rulers are responsible for finding a solution to the problems. They will do so if they are committed to nation’s intellectual and physical growth through a welfare state. They will do so if they are politicians. Our dilemma is that we have rulers, we do not have politicians.
All of our rulers were and are from upper income groups. Most of them except generals Ayub, Zia, Yahya and Musharraf, were and are highly educated. All of them including maulanas were and are modern and liberals in their life styles. All of them had and have double standards. They would send their children to the grammar schools or abroad and would like that the children of the common Pakistanis should study in the madrassas. They would do all types of things to accumulate assets and wealth but from ordinary Pakistanis they would demand honesty and commitment to the assigned job. They became rulers due to their assets, land, gold and guns, and also due to their hold over madrissas and shrines. Governance to them means a way to acquire more land, gold and guns, for themselves, kin, cronies, clans and institutions.
All of them wanted and want that the people should live like two thousand year old tribes. That is why we spend least on social sector development, particularly on education. That is why law is only for the people and the rulers are above it. That is why whosoever talks about real change is treated as a traitor. That is why the most powerful group among rulers, the political-generals and their cronies reacted furiously to the speeches of the lawyers that they made in the seminar held at the Supreme Court auditorium.
For the first time in history of Pakistan and on such an auspicious forum the real reason of our problems was highlighted. Our approach to take Pakistan as a security state is mother of all problems. If a state is internally weak and has no external threat and is run by the oligarchy, it has to be a security state. It will always remain fearful. In this age of enlightenment, peoples’ revolt is not a remote possibility. Irrespective of its direction, good or bad, it can happen. It is not for nothing that we still have feudalism, tribalism, spiritualism and urban extortions intact, which are instruments to keep the people calm — as calm as slaves. It is not for nothing that a strong army of six hundred thousand men and a bigger police force protects these instruments. Isn’t the civil-military bureaucracy a beneficiary of this exploitative system?
Things worked smoothly till March 9, 2007, for our ruling elites. Then onward lawyers’ movement challenged their supremacy. For the first time a large educated fraternity has come out in support of rule of law and a welfare state. That on such a forum ‘the approach’, the mythical concept of ‘security state’ was challenged should be taken as the first drop of rain for an apparently politically barren land. We must think about our children and our coming generations and stop misleading the nation with such slogans as Kashmir, Afghanistan, Palestine, Ummah and Hindu hegemony. Our internal weaknesses — provincial disharmony, economic disparities and absence of politics — demand immediate and absolute attention. Distraction has led us to a stage where governance is invisible. Due to poverty, inflation, corruption and joblessness a common citizen is talking about a better life in hell. Under such conditions if the lawyers and judges have started talking about abject poverty and remedy, they deserve appreciation, not censure. It has never happened before. Bhutto’s socialist slogan did not mean much. It rather turned a great part of our politically vibrant population either into opportunists or into ‘the paralysed’. Bhutto’s entry in the ruling club was initially due to his feudal background. Later on army patronised him. All that he seriously did as a ruler was to expand an already oversized army.
An oversized army is the biggest if not the only hurdle to solutions of our problems and emergence of a welfare state. And unless there is welfare state, we will continue to live with the dark days. Benazir Bhutto during her two terms spent huge sums on missiles, tanks, submarines and fighter planes. If she somehow gets third term, would she work for the good of common people? She will not. Power in our country is transferred with conditions attached. She cannot interfere with the fiscal and foreign policies. Moreover she too is a part of the oligarchic clan. How can she revolt?
Assuming she goes through a metamorphosis and turns into a rebel. In that case the oligarchy will go to any limit to save its interests. It will use all cards — army, ethnicity, judiciary, media, police, opposition, wealth, treason etc. — to stop her. Yet, if she fights election with a mission, a pro-people manifesto, she can own the strongest of all cards, the people’s support. All that she has to do is to disown the ‘security state’ concept and own the ideology of a welfare state, as Aitzaz Ahsan did.
It is not going to be that easy. She will have to revise Pakistan’s policies regarding Kashmir and Afghanistan. She will have to find Pakistan’s well being within South Asia. Moreover she will have to rewrite fiscal equation. She will have to make others know that external security is dependant on internal strength. She will have to reduce state spending on defence and administration by at least 50%. She may do it gradually say within a decade, because to transform a security state into a welfare state will take time.
To be a ruler or a politician, choice is open. In first case she will constantly work under the threat of card game, even if she remains loyal to the oligarchy. In second case she may not win the coming elections, but even in opposition, she will have a say, and whenever she would win, she would have people’s card with her.
All other cards have dangerous repercussion. Liaqat used bureaucracy and police to maintain his rule, but was ultimately assassinated. Ayub used army and judiciary, but after a decade army turned against him. Bhutto used army, and Zia used ethnic, judicial, Islamic and biradari cards besides army and American cards, but both had to leave in an abnormal way. In Karachi Benazir used police card and Nawaz used both police and army cards. None worked. MQM used ethnic card on May 12, 2007 in support of Musharraf. It damaged both. This cruel game of nasty cards will stop only when we will have politicians as our rulers. Let us hope lawyers’ movement besides restoring judiciary’s and nation’s respect produces some politicians as well.