Category Archives: Politics

Iqbal- Dream of an Eagle

The days we have marked for celebrations,
The rest in forgetfulness, we don’t explore
The splendour of Universe as it bestowed
The famous gift of language and rhythm Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan, Philosophy, poetry, Politics

The Mush Show In New York

The Big Apple was set on fire by the revolutionary speech of our former President Musharraf. Mr. Musharraf has been at the offensive firing salvos at his arch rival, former PM, Nawaz Sharif at any place, he is able to attract a crowd.

Barely less than 2 years after his resignation, Mr. Musharraf thinks that Pakistan is in deep slumber. Musharraf Sahib rubbished the idea of facing any courts on his return to Pakistan. By the way, NS Sahib wants to try Mr. Musharraf for violating the constitution and declaring the “phony emergency.” Mush Sahib was defiant, and felt that NS will never be able to reach the level of Premier ship, hence the trial was completely out of question. Read these lines very carefully, as there seems to be a tacit admission of guilt here. Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan, Politics

Unpacking the governance debate

If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance then this is at best a delusional goal
Recent weeks have witnessed a supercilious debate on how the current government’s misgovernance is a potent reason to boot it out. Governance is about decisions, resources and management of public affairs. The sad reality is that Pakistan’s media now controls and spins the public discourse on these issues. The popular media never wanted this government to begin with. Since 2007, it sided with the ‘clean’ and morally correct lawyers’ movement that presented an alternative to the corrupt politicians and shunned the 2008 election. First, it vilified Benazir Bhutto for making a deal with the Generals on initiating a transition towards a power-sharing arrangement. This was a classic worldview of the urban middle class, which has never been a keen participant of the messy electoral politics that brings rural politicians with fake degrees at the helm of affairs.
The second critical moment was the election of the President, which sparked an unprecedented media trial with stories (mostly unsubstantiated) of Zardari’s corruption. There was a strong alliance between the local and the global media churning out a thousand stories highlighting his insanity, fallibility and venality. This happened despite the full confidence expressed by Zardari’s party and its allies. A rare federal consensus over the election of a President was undermined and the media perception intensified how all the crooks stand together to rob the country once again.
Now the third moment in the aftermath of the floods has arrived; and the high-pitched voices against the politicians have reached their peak. The charge-sheet is long but, in a nutshell, states that the feudal politicians were inept in handling the July-August 2010 disaster and harmed the poor to save their lands. This is a simplistic conclusion that has emerged without proper inquiry and mainly through anecdotes from the urban anchors visiting rural victims and interpreting their anguish as a condemnation of the politicos.
Discussions around regime change have strongly articulated the displeasure of the unelected institutions of the state on ‘governance’. The media has faithfully reported that the Army is unhappy about the corrupt ministers still in office and the looming economic crisis. The Judiciary is perturbed, as its judgement on NRO remains partially unimplemented and key appointments reek of illegality. The perennial power-seeker class of politicians has started to reconfigure the political landscape while fringe parties like Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf and the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami want to seize this opportunity for short term gains. The ever-ready crop of technocrats is also getting anxious due to the anonymous contacts being made by the invisible elements of the state.
This display of crass opportunism by Pakistan’s traditional elites is nothing new. Since 1947 (including that fateful year), they have cared little for the ordinary citizens. But the alarming aspect of our present dilemma is the way Pakistan’s much-touted free media has become an instrument in spurring political instability. The endemic problem with Pakistan’s governance is that regardless of the government in power, the state (if we were to include all the dominant classes in the wider definition) remains disconnected and disengaged with the citizens. What is more worrying is that the state no longer is a monolith as it has delegated the state’s monopoly powers to faith-based militant groups which are ready to exploit its increasing inability to ‘govern’.
With 20 million people still struggling to reclaim their livelihoods, entitlements (such as land), shelter and security, Pakistan’s establishment and its politicians are all but willing to do anything about it. It is therefore problematic to see a legitimately elected government preparing a summary on NRO cases for 34 out of 8,000 beneficiaries and the Supreme Court chiding it like an accused party. Or, to read about the panicky meetings of the PPP while the latter should be strategising about re-enacting the NDMA legislation or preparing a resource mobilisation strategy to rehabilitate the flood victims and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.
Equally disturbing is to witness the saga of Courts in effect suspending new Constitutional provisions while they are expressly not mandated to do that; and placing abstract notions of people’s will above the Constitution. In a similar vein, the Army has a separate fund for flood relief and the elected Public Accounts Committee cannot be given the details of how and why a Rs 5 billion supplementary grant was given to the country’s premier intelligence agency.
The argument on misgovernance by a coalition government is bogus when unelected institutions of the state are unaccountable, non-transparent and unwilling to accept the oversight of public representatives. Until the Army budgets can be audited, and judges are appointed through parliamentary commissions and the bureaucracy is answerable to legislature, we will continue to swirl in a vicious cycle of political instability.
If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance, then this is at best a delusional goal. Pakistan cannot afford another upheaval and the recent signals by the Army that it wants stability are welcome. But then Pakistan is an unpredictable polity with a growing constituency for suicide missions. Strange times, indeed.
Raza Rumi is a writer and policy expert based in Lahore. He blogs at http://razarumi.com. Email: razarumi@gmail.com

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Filed under Army, Pakistan, Politics

The ardent messiah seekers

Raza Rumi

A natural disaster, largely unavoidable, has provided a glorious opportunity to all those who have been hankering to reverse Pakistan’s fragile transition from an authoritarian to quasi-democratic rule. There is hardly a new script for the much-touted change and its proponents are using the same old tricks out of their worn out hats to prepare for a rollback of the democratic process. Therefore, the intense rumour-mongering, which has gripped Pakistani psyche over the last fortnight, is a tried and tested success formula: create the perception of change and then turn it into reality.

Even though Pakistan’s military remains unwilling to intervene, regime-change seems to be the flavour of the month. Ironically, this time large sections of the electronic media are hyperactive participants in the process, which is most likely going to push the country towards another man-made disaster. It is appalling to note that TV talk shows are focusing on extra-constitutional remedies. For instance, a Mr-Know-It-All anchor, whose acrobatics are well-known, posed a question to his (utterly uninspiring) guests to discuss the merits and demerits of the Bangladesh model and the so-called ‘General Kakar formula’. While the responses of the guests were entirely predictable, the most shocking response came from none other than former minister and Senator Iqbal Haider who has been a dyed-in-wool democrat. He confidently and at times vociferously advocated the “General Kakar formula” which essentially relates to the intervention by the army chief in a situation where a political deadlock emerges. One had always sympathised with this reputed lawyer’s position on the problems with the way his former political party – the PPP – was led and managed but to hear pleas for an extra-constitutional intervention was shocking to say the least. Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan, Politics, Power, public policy

The Zardari Pinata

D. Asghar’s latest post for PTH:

Lately in many discussions, about various events which have unfolded in Pakistan, it appears that Pakistanis in or outside Pakistan, find only one person responsible, its President Asif Ali Zardari. To clarify, I reside in the US, have no affiliation with him or PPP. As a teenager, when I was in Pakistan, I admired ZAB, but according to my analysis, the ideals of PPP died along with ZAB on the ill fated day of, April 04, 1979.  Even late BB, failed to impress me as she made some huge blunders, and used ZAB’s name to advance her political career. There is no denying of this fact, that till this day PPP, uses ZAB and now BB as well to tap into the vote banks. It is the sheer charisma of ZAB, which still resonates with the masses.

Getting back to our infamous President, the blogospheres are on fire chastising him for almost any and everything. Whether it is the bomb blasts, floods, mob lynching or cricket betting scandal, he seems to be the target of everyone’s scorn. Undoubtedly, AAZ has a questionable past and his actions subsequent to taking the oath are definitely worthy of criticism, but definitely not worthy of any military intervention. Continue reading

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Filed under Democracy, Pakistan, Politics

The State Must Go Weeding

Ali Abbas, PTH’s new author has contributed this thoughtful  piece with a sanguine conclusion – “This burden of existence lies on the state’s shoulders, whether we like it or not”

For all its shortcomings and its stunted political development, the Pakistani state has been faced with multiple challenges over the last ten years. Each of these challenges have highlighted its weaknesses, wrenched out a response and provided a vital prod in the ‘right’ direction.

After the takeover of government, Musharraf’s media reforms not only brought national focus on the lack of an independent media in the country, but triggered a decade of development for the media industry which has been unprecedented in the history of the country. A maturing of this phenomenon is the criticism that this free media is now receiving on issues ranging from reporting ethos to nonpartisanship, vital input in the feedback loop which is a pre-requisite for improvement. In 2007, the Lawyers Movement in turn focused our attention on the previous impotence of the judiciary, its previous acquiescence of the orders of military dictators, and its own weaknesses in the light of its role in maintaining the authoritarian status quo and its frail support of democracy. In Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the nation hailed the torch-bearer of a powerful and independent judiciary which could play a more effective role in maintaining democratic checks and balances on the legislative and the executive. Even though we were placing our absolute trust again in persons instead of offices, in personalities instead of institutions, the nation finally appeared to have crossed a significant obstacle to stability. It is now that the nation looks towards the mounds of pending cases, and the provision – or the lack of – speedy justice to the masses that a dialectic has been initiated which we can only hope will lead to the development and maturing of the judiciary as an institution. Continue reading

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Filed under Politics, state

Why is Pakistani Middleclass So Skeptical of Democracy and Why Our Defense is Not Convincing?

By Raza Habib Raja

The statement issued by MQM chief, Altaf Hussein, calling for Army’s intervention to “correct” the corrupt politicians has stirred the political landscape. Mind you MQM is not a very popular party outside Karachi and Hyderabad and yet presently his statement is getting nods of approval from various quarters particularly from the middleclass. Since most of the people do not want to be branded as “undemocratic” therefore approval is subtle at times but you can still see that it is there. Most interestingly majority of the middleclass people I have talked to, particularly from Punjab say that they are actually reviewing their previously bad opinion of MQM!!

Right now the affluent middleclass is again at the forefront demanding implicitly and at time vocally that democracy should be purged. Of course the liberal side opposes it and should oppose it but at the same time most of the “defense” from the liberal quarters does not go beyond name calling and allegations. For example a typical response would be to brand middleclass as bigoted and authoritarian with naïve understanding of geopolitical culture. Moreover, standard references to disrespect of “unwashed’ masses would be made. And of course this is supplemented by terms like drawing room gossip, reactionary , chattering classes etc.

Defense of democracy has to be realistic and not based on lauding passionate speeches about unwashed masses particularly when politicians apparently care little themselves about the masses. The central thrust should be to present first a convincing case as to why democracy is a better option compared to armed dictatorship and frankly a very strong case based on historical evidence exists despite chequered history of democratic regimes. And yes admit the shortcomings of the politicians also as weaknesses of politicians are not necessarily weaknesses of the entire political system.

Continue reading

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