Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The new rebels

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 06-7-07

The new rebels

Dr. Amir Liaqat Hussain, the man with golden voice and face resigned from national assembly while his place in cabinet will go automatically. Although he claims personal reasons for the resignation, but this appears to be a polite way of registering his dissatisfaction with the government. He belongs to MQM and also holds the cabinet portfolio of religious affairs. He anchors a popular religious TV program on a private channel, which was very popular with the president’s family too.

He is not the only one to discover serious flaws with the government lately, so serious that he wants to distance himself. Ishaq Khakwani another cabinet member along with Mushahid Hussain the Secretary of the ruling party also openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the party and its actual leadership. We are routinely hearing comments from the ranks of the ruling party sounding suspiciously like oppositions, which could not have been imagined just a few months back. This list of new rebels in the ruling party and coalition is on the increase.

This dissatisfaction with the government is not limited to individuals alone as coalition partners are also expressing their discontent with the ruling alliance. MQM after being part of the government for nearly five years enjoying juicy portfolios on the federal and provincial level, is now repeatedly articulating conditions in which it would leave the government, rather never to support a military ruler. And then the MMA, although it always did maintain a kind of rhetoric against the government while enjoying two provincial governments and the official leader of opposition status, is also talking louder against the government. This anti government rhetoric by the MMA has become so prominent that Maulana Fazal Rehman is sounding like a proper opposition leader while Qazi Hussein’s attitude can convince even the most cynical of his opposition credentials despite repeatedly bailing out the government in the recent past.

These fresh resignations and attempts to distance from the government are very interesting. The elected assemblies have nearly finished their terms and are about to be dissolved. In a country like Pakistan where playing opposition against a government, specially a uniformed government can be dangerous to say the least, these politicians played allies to the uniformed government reaping all the benefits that come with it which are plenty. They also protected themselves from NAB and their doings of past by joining the government. And now when the new elections are due, they feel the government is unpopular and would not be able to get them enough votes to make them win. To make matters worse, the government’s ability to manipulate the results also seem to be reduced along with the authority of the uniformed president making his association more of a liability. In short these smart politicians do not want to be associated with political forces that are unable to get people elected. Much of the ruling coalition seems to have lost hope and is looking for other options.

The benefits that come from belonging to the government are as numerous and substantial as the risks involved in opposing it can be serious. Pakistan is an overgrown state with a very weak judiciary. Over here to be successful in any endeavor whether business, professional or service, government support can have the final say in the outcome. Now after reaping all the benefits evading the responsibility might be unfair. Politicians voluntarily being part of the ruling coalition owe it to themselves and the nation to take the responsibilities of their actions for the last five years. If they cannot find sufficient reasons to be proud of, they should certainly find reasons to apologize or promise to do things differently again. Anyway trying to escape the responsibility might put them in a position like that of Maulana Aziz evading in a burqa, not a very desirable scenario.

Although the attempt of these politicians to distance themselves from the government is understandable but not justifiable. They have seen people playing over smart in Pakistani politics and getting away with it. After all the popularity of Musharraf’s government is at it’s lowest in the last eight years and people don’t want to share this burden with him. Still it is not reasonable and should not be attempted. First because one must face the consequences of his actions and take full responsibility. Secondly it appears that these politicians consider voters fools and themselves too smart. This has been a big mistake of our privileged classes to underestimate our common voters as uneducated masses or ignorant and foolish whereas the evidence is different. Whenever these people were given a chance they proved that their collective wisdom was certainly better than many of the privileged. The simple fact that our voters always rejected the intolerant religious elements in elections speaks volumes about their wisdom. They rejected the extremists when extremism was fashionable and enlightened moderation was unheard of. When religious extremism could fetch votes in USA as neo cons or in India as BJP our voters routinely rejected them. Trying to fool this group of enlightened, wise voters would never work so should not be attempted. After all this awful attempt might be construed as an insult to the intelligence of the voters to which they might not take kindly.

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