Failed prescriptions for a failing state

The cat is finally out of the bag. The MQM chief has issued a statement on how the country needs to be saved from corrupt politicians. This was followed by his arch-foe Imran Khan who assured the military of his support should they choose to rescue the country. The PPP has issued muted condemnation of this statement while the PML-N has been categorical in rejecting any extra-constitutional intervention. The ISPR has been silent (unlike its vociferous denunciation of the Kerry-Lugar Bill) and so has the apex court that is usually prompt in taking suo motu notice. Overzealous TV anchors have had a field day in proving how terrible the current ‘system’ of democracy is without indicating what the alternative is.

Several wise commentators have also pointed out public frustration over the alleged mismanagement of the floods by the civilians as a genuine reason for a no-confidence in the system of governance. Pakistan’s chatterati, especially its depoliticised, affluent classes, have perfected such an ahistorical discourse to an art form. There seems to be amnesia about the fact that although all military interventions were sought to get rid of the ‘corrupt politicians’ each of these autocratic spells weakened Pakistan. Furthermore, centralised military rule is incompatible with federalism. Pakistan’s existence was, and remains, a compact between its constituent provinces.

Today, many in Balochistan do not sing the national anthem in their schools and its separatists have called for external help. The insurgencies in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are all too well-known and militant groups are ready to occupy political space and state power. We are on the verge of an economic collapse and political instability is going to fuel the effects of the recent natural disaster. The simplistic ‘get-Zardari’ or nab-the-thieves formula will not work. We have just seen the accountability drama and its abysmal failure under Pervez Musharraf. Can we afford another charade? Definitely not.

The rumour factories are churning out several scenarios. First, of a brutal martial law, permanently etched in our collective consciousness, which will take care of these politicos. Second, a national government through an in-house change (hoping that perhaps the courts will oust the president). Third, a Bangladesh-style recipe whereby the judiciary will assume executive power until the next election. A senior bar representative has already floated this idea. The sad reality is all these solutions have failed here and elsewhere. Our TV anchors should interview someone from Bangladesh about the (non)-workability of such an arrangement.

It is callous to indulge in these debates when millions of flood victims are displaced. Civilian governments must be held accountable through legislatures, the media and citizen groups. The electorate, within two years, will cleanse this crop of politicians. The army has an important role in ensuring stability. It must not be swayed by such game plans. Pakistan’s drift into political anarchy will benefit al Qaeda and further weaken a dysfunctional state.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2010.

Leave a Reply