Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lessons our future politicians might be learning

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 18-09-07

Lessons our future politicians might be learning

The young, patriotic bright Pakistanis inspiring to join politics for the sake of the country must have had a very interesting, eventful and busy week. Experience, particularly at the expense of others is generally known to be a better teacher than any number of text books, our budding future politicians would be busy observing the latest political developments and the dynamics governing these changes very carefully and diligently.

They might find the following political developments important and interesting.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was forced to resign by generals. Upon refusal he was forcibly detained. Then he was put under house arrest along with his family without any legal grounds. He was humiliated and physically manhandled by low-level officials on public roads who. Only after a remarkable but unexpected response of the legal community and the civil society he was reinstated but the government initiated a well-planned campaign against him in the media. All this was probably done to neutralize him and send the message to other judges to comply or face the consequences.

About the Nawaz Sharif incidence they would have observed that Nawaz Sharif is a popular leader, so popular that the rulers consider him a potential threat so they ousted him. During this time he tried to play populist politics by voicing the popular sentiments in Pakistan occasionally against the western liking further hurting his chances of return. Even when he wanted to return with the permission of the highest court of the country he was again exiled by force. Major players of this drama were the Saudis, who saved his skin 7 years back, the Lebanese and the Americans. In the process he was physically manhandled, pushed around and unnecessarily humiliated. In short he is a loser in our political scene, someone whose strategies and policies must be discarded and avoided.

In the BBs case they might have observed that a politician heading a major popular political party accused of corruption and treason left the country voluntarily a decade back. All this time she tried to persuade the Americans and the British to influence Gen Musharraf and the military to share power with him. She hardly kept herself in touch with her party and the popular trends here. She became the only living president for life of a political party securely feeling in control of many votes. During this period she supported the policies of the West over the popular emotions at home. She routinely wrote, spoke and played for the western audience while ignoring the Pakistani electorate. Now she is returning as an imminent next ruler with much fanfare. She is already getting a stateswomen’s protocol in London and Washington and even the military rulers are accommodating her to an extent unthinkable just a few years back. She is not being alleged of corruption or treason any more and her innumerable court cases seem to be destined the way of Sherpao and Faisal Saleh’s.

These strange but interesting happenings all in a span of a few months would certainly stimulate and affect the young minds a lot. They would definitely appreciate that similar examples cannot be found in other countries and they are unique to us simply implying that the set of dynamics determining the course of events is different in Pakistan than anywhere else in the modern world. The lessons the young minds might learn would most probably be as follows,

Army is the biggest political reality of Pakistan. It must be obeyed and pleased if you want to be successful in Pakistani politics.
Courts and their judgments can be conveniently ignored by people in power.
160 million people and their votes do not determine the political outcome. The state apparatus has the final say in deciding who rules here.
Pakistani establishment does not care or respond to the 160 million people but listens to certain foreign powers. If you want to influence the establishment, you must approach it through these foreign governments.
A few other governments of our area can play substantial role in our politics not important enough for the big powers.
Successful politicians get a short stint in power and must do as much as possible for himself as future might be tough.
Popularity of a politician is an unpardonable crime. Establishment punishes the politicians according to their popularity. Very popular Bhutto was hanged while less popular Nawaz Sharif was exiled.

All these lessons are undesirable with the potential to negatively affect the future performance of our politicians controlling the destination of the nation. Despite the undesirability, the pragmatic young future politicians would be inclined to learn these facts as reality which some might argue must be appreciated and complied. But then there are times when reality gets too problematic and it must be changed for the better. We seem to be caught up in this situation and must change the unfortunate aspects of our political reality.

We routinely identify our problem of not having good politicians and leaders but fail to find reasons for that letdown. We feel that the incompetent and dishonest politicians are the major reason for our problems but fail to make a plan to attract the best in this field and bring the best out of them. Politicians and leaders do not come from heavens, as it is the society that produces them. Like a child they have to be nurtured and cared for. This can only happen in a conducive environment that we certainly don’t have. If we sow a cactus we cannot reap mangoes and in a society where politicians are routinely maligned and humiliated we cannot attract our best towards politics. Even if we somehow get good people in politics we spoil them by teaching very negative lessons just enumerated. Young minds are very impressionable with the potential to assimilate all kinds of messages including the undesirable and the unwanted.

By our recurring follies we have hurt Pakistan and its people and by repeating them we are even jeopardizing the scope of our future generations. The kind of lessons we are teaching our future generations does not leave much room for optimism. It is time we stop playing strange funny games with our country and its constitution and make life simple for everyone by following the letter and spirit of law without excuses and exceptions.

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