Mesmerization of Pakistani politics

By: Agha Haider Raza

This article was published in The Daily Times.  It truly does sum up my sentiment towards politics in Pakistan. I have no doubt that my generation will carry us forward with a vibrant and dynamic economy, and a population that is free of corruption and has ample access to justice along with the freedom of religion to practice and preach.

Politics in Pakistan mesmerize me. Not only does one enjoy the daily dose of rhetoric that is spewed from the mouths of our beloved politicians, but the one track mind of those in and out of government baffles the mind. Politics in Pakistan, much like the political parties themselves seem to be more inclined towards a personality than an ideology.  Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain and Asif Zardari seem to be controlling the present and future of 170 million Pakistanis. What is ironic of these three distinguished gentlemen is the immense power they control. Nawaz Sharif, already a two-time Prime Minister – failed miserably on both occasions, Altaf Hussain – a self exiled leader living in London and Asif Zardari – the current President of Pakistan seems to be holding on to his seat with every bit of strength his party can muster. But why has it lead to a power struggle amongst these political leaders when thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers have died over the last few years? Why are we still playing the dirty political games of the past, when history has taught us to do better?

Furthermore, none of the three main political players can advocate the issues I have outlined. One is uneducated, the other is too religious and the third is downright corrupt. They surely cannot practice what they preach, so how have they managed to fool a nation of 170 million people and gained the ability to even vie for the control of our government? It truly baffles the mind. But with the determination that has kept us alive for the past 62 years, surely we will be able to overcome our current difficulties. It is only fair and critical that we start exercising and demanding our civil rights. It is the only way we can hold our government accountable. We must fight for our right to education, our right to freedom of religion and our right to a corrupt-free society. Anything short of this would truly be a sell out on our behalf!

It is highly unfortunate that the two largest political parties in Pakistan are currently vying for the federal government, while the very nation they wish to govern is in flames. Do not for a second believe that I am being melodramatic with the word “flame”. From power outages to inflation and from the target killings in Karachi to the drone strikes in the North; we are on a path of destruction. But here I am – the eternal optimist – believing that a country which was born out of a long and hard fought struggle can make it through the difficult times again. However, we will only be able to walk through it all with our heads held high, if we review our past and yearn not to repeat them again.

Education is vital to our survival. Any ounce of resource that our government has should be provided in funding the education of millions of children. This resource can either be found in the shape of a $7.5 billion aid package or the privatization of an airline that long ago lost its charm and aura. Thousands of young Pakistanis leave the land of the pure in the blink of an eye for their higher education. They leave with optimism and sanguinity. How many students return with the same emotions and feelings? Not a whole lot. Many return due to the non-availability of work permits, not because they are attracted to the job market in Pakistan. This needs to change, and an investment in education is the only solution forward.

The religious right-wing needs to yield its toxic influence and allow for positive criticism and open mindedness to grow. Freedom of religion needs to be practiced and rehearsed according to the same laws preached by the Prophet (PBUH). Unfortunately we as a nation have strayed so far away from the core of Islam that we have forgotten the true meaning of practicing Islam. Mind you, this is not the same core that various factions such as the Salafis or Wahabis are trying to attain. This is a core that allows for dissenting views, one that allows for questions to arise without having to face the wrath of lashes or stoning. Islam is a religion that was never spread by the sword. It is time we dump the practice of using religion as a weapon, and turn to using knowledge and literacy as a mode of advancement. Preaching a militant form of religion is not the route we should undertake in order to secure freedom. We surely won’t be able to annex Kashmir by practicing such tactics.

Corruption is common. From the driver putting a few extra hundred rupees on the petrol bill to the MNA putting a few extra lakhs on his projects to the Federal Minister putting a few extra crores to his budget. This is a menace that has plagued our society for decades and at the alarming rate we are witnessing today, does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the level of corruption is only at the lower level since it is almost near impossible to have a corruption clean society. I am more astonished at the privileged elite who pocket millions and siphon the money to off-shore accounts. There is just so much money these individuals have gathered over the years that I can guarantee you, they won’t even be able to spend it all in their lifetime, even if they tried too! Corruption in Pakistan even goes against the basic law of diminishing marginal utility. The more corruption is consumed, the more satisfaction is seemed to be derived. A stronger judiciary and a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) that does not have a political agenda could surely help in bringing many corrupt individuals to the front and place them behind bars!

The current crop of “political leaders need to stop running Pakistan and its institutions like personal fiefdoms” says Ijlal Naqvi, an Islamabad based PhD Candidate in Sociology. He terms such behavior as profoundly undemocratic as they “encourage no debate, hide what they are doing, and refuse to be accountable to the law”. With an independent media representing the emerging voice of the public sentiment, we may as well be seeing the change us Pakistanis long for.

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6 responses to “Mesmerization of Pakistani politics

  1. as for seperation of politics from religion in my humble opinion islam is a secular religion.

  2. Your article below expresses the frustration and thoughts of millions of patriotic citizens. Thank you for pining it down.

    There is a fire in our home, the ‘powers that be’ are fanning it, we rightly complain that they are not putting the fire out, but we sit and watch it burn. When will we get up and put it out ourselves?

    Let’s wake up, roll up our sleeves and take control of the situation.

    -Samar
    via email

  3. I was never so much disappointed about Pakistan.
    Sometimes I feel, he could be right where Maulana Abul Kalam Azad said:

    “India is a reality, Pakistan, an experiment”.

    The experiment could not be translated into worth living welfare state within 62 years.
    All sort of experimentation failed in Pakistan.
    Every Institution has been collapsed.
    There is something wrong at the foundation.

    Even Bangla Desh is heading towards a better direction.

  4. Excellent article, as always. I think that the problem with corruption, though, is a bit more complicated than how you mention it. Your article says corruption “is a menace that has plagued our society for decades and at the alarming rate we are witnessing today.” But I think that perhaps the problem is a much deeper social condition that is rooted in centuries of practice. When the Mughals took power, they did not pay their civil servants well. The reasoning was that it was expected that part of the pay would come from the people below him. This was true from the boss to the peon. This has been part of the culture in much of the country for centuries now which is why it is not only seen at the top but also at the bottom, like you say. Surely it is much worse to see the rich and powerful hoarding money, but if it is a cultural problem, it is still the same. What I am saying is I think we need more than just a stronger judiciary and NAB – yes, truly independent judiciary is absolutely necessary. But there also needs to be some cultural change in society. Judiciary cannot put every person who has ever taken or paid some bribe in jail. Who would be left! That doesn’t mean that there should be no punishment, but that corruption must be taken care of over time through a cultural attitude change, much like not throwing garbage on the street. We should start by demanding that salaries are enough for people to live without demanding some extra from the people below, and we should have some cultural education campaign to address the issue. These things are never talked about, only courts. But courts and NAB cannot solve the problem alone.

  5. Excellent article, as it truly describes the current political and social view of the nation.
    I had couple of comments to make about this whole situation. I personally believe in solutions, not being depressed or crying about the events that have shaped our society and its people BUT TO FIND A WAY TO FIX IT.
    I wanted to shine light on the corruption part of the society. There is a saying that the way residents of a nation are, the same kind of leaders are produced by that nation. Consistently, throughout our history we have had one corrupt leader after another; I want to know if any political leader be it liberal or a religious fanatic can ever bring a corruption change in our country. The reason we have had these leaders one after another is because honestly that is the way we are. It is just the way we have gotten socialized. From ministers to principles, every one takes CASH and makes rules for cash. I want to know can a product of Pakistan, that has been socialized in this society can become a true corruption killing politician. Can he overlook the benefits of being corrupt a person with power that our current politicians take advantage of, bottom line “CAN HE BE LAWFUL”.
    Or to fix this problem we would need a Pakistani that has not been raised in Pakistan and who understands the worth of being lawful and uncorrupted.

  6. Islam should never be used to fulfil your political goals. Pakistan was never made in the name of Islam. If it was then Quaid e Azam would never have invited the Sikhs to join us.

    Live and Let Live. Let us educate our nation and stay away from fanatics who are systematically destroying our beautiful country

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