A grand political clean-up
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The state of Pakistan now has a Constitution restored to its pristine state by the two highest political entities: the parliament and the Senate. But the national parliament does not represent the changed political realities of the country; it is the product of an election which has little relevance to the current state of affairs in the country. Pakistan has a Senate, but that august house is also not representative of the changed judicial and political environment.
Thus, the passage of the 18th Amendment and the so-called restoration of the Constitution would only have meaning when these changes are accompanied by the emergence of a new political culture in which thinking individuals, and not political godfathers, have a voice.
Pakistani society has been subjected to ruptures and violence of a kind that could have easily turned the country into another Rwanda, had it not been for the resilience of its people that comes from their deep relationship to their religion.
That Islam is the saving grace of this country is not obvious to most liberals and neo-liberals. They do not see how deep spiritual forces are at work, even now, when two decades of rapid secularisation have uprooted the youth from the fountain of strength.
In the short run, no change is on the horizon. The restoration of the Constitution may have healed certain ruptures and may have theoretically restored balance of power. However, the current leadership is like a spent force, clinging to the last morsels of a rotten pie they have all cooked together. The same old tiring faces, repeating the same old story ad nauseam.
Problems increase because no one is finding solutions. They multiply because no one is planning ahead of time. They become complex because new factors are added to them.
Each new day that rises on the Land of the Pure adds to the draw from the same old national grid, because somewhere someone has just bought one more gadget to plug into the electrical outlet. Each day brings new burden on the old and ailing roads because there is always a new vehicle that has been granted license to go on the road. Each new day adds to the load of the old and tired engine moving across the length of the country on its old and lonely track, because no one is planning a new fast track.
Thus, since the same old, tired and tiring political leadership cannot find solutions to the myriad problems faced by the country, the restoration of the Constitution does little to change ground realities: the restored constitution can do little to correct lack of water, power, gas, education, hospitals, roads, communication networks, medicine, and all the other basic necessities of life. It cannot even generate a new mechanism for the emergence of a creative and dedicated young leadership which can understand and correct these problems.
What is needed is a grand political cleanup, which will send into retirement all the old faces which have misruled too long for a whole generation to become sick and tired of their rhetoric.
Politicians should have a mandatory retirement date and a new city should be built for them so that they can continue to play their little political games within the confines of that city after retirement. This geriatric city can be built at state expense; it will pay off rapidly. Just imagine all those who waste tremendous amounts of paper and ink on a daily basis in the form of their statements filling newspaper column, living together in close proximity, in a city specially built for them where they have a city council where they can go every day and debate about who is going to be their next mayor!
Admittedly, a political cleanup of this kind is utopian, utterly unrealistic, but it does not hurt to dream once in a while to rub off the dark inertia, especially when even the prospect of a new general election under the restored Constitution and under the supervision of the judiciary does not hold any ray of hope for the emergence of a new leadership.
The recent eruption of violence in Hazara is a case in point to understand the nature of Pakistan's future. Violence of this kind does not erupt spontaneously; it is fanned, sponsored, orchestrated, paid for. It may be true that the people of Hazara feel a bit disturbed over the renaming of their province--a renaming that ignores them--but does this justify what erupted in a small area, where certain political elements have a stronghold?
The argument that the new name is a prelude to dismemberment of Pakistan is simply vacuous; renaming of a province cannot lead to the emergence of a new country, especially when the territory is contiguous with the rest of the country. Hazara is no East Pakistan separated from the rest of the country because of a historic blunder made by the political leadership of that time. But violence in Hazara does indicate the need for a grand political cleanup
The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: email@example.com