Tuesday, March 4, 2008

DEMOCRACY: a road less traveled

By: Muhammad Mahtab Bashir

Baitullah Mehsud, the belligerent commander who had threatened suicide attacks on Ms Bhutto well before her return has denied that he had anything to do with the midnight explosions of 18th of October. which went off near a truck carrying Benazir Bhutto through Karachi airport to Quaid’s mausoleum to Balawal house. Shortly after Ms Bhutto in a press conference stated that General Zia’s remnants are responsible for this assassination bid. More later, she accused three persons behind the whole plot including two provincial ministers. Question still lingers on who was behind this carnage? The establishment, agencies, remnants of Gen. Zia, Taliban, Al-Quaeda, or other Jihadi elements, or Benazir Bhutto herself or some other force? One has to wait with no time frame. There are two questions cropping in my mind since Karachi bloodbath occurred, Firstly, Why Gen. Musharraf repeatedly suggested PPP Chairperson to avoid entering in Pakistan? These suggestions indicate that blasts were anticipated? Secondly, according to “dealers” of the NRO, this deal would help burying the hostility between the political parties. BY naming the three persons masterminding Karachi blasts, one can think safely isn’t Benazir herself airing the hostility between the political parties through blame game?

This attack has once again underlined how militancy has become one of the major security concerns in today’s world, specifically in Pakistan. Blame game is surely never going to help any political party, neither it is a solution of such crisis country is already going through.
It is hard to contemplate about the motives and the forces behind the ghastly disaster, but one can argue that the second blast was directed closer to the ground and away from the indestructible truck that was used by the leadership of PPP. It is said that due to this tragedy hundreds of PPP workers will remain maimed and handicapped for their lives, hardly a matter of conciliation. It is hard to believe that nature could be so sympathetic and merciless at the same time. On one hand it spares the lives and well-being of every single member of PPP leadership, and simultaneously it blew up hundreds of its workers towards heaven. A coincidence, one in a million?

With elections approaching so near, the NRO and Gen. Musharraf’s dual office holding petitions are in SC, PML-Q’s role in political prospect, future alliances, all developments are signifying that country has been experiencing a serious political crisis, which has both short-term and long-term repercussions. The country is heading towards a disgusting Political turmoil due to short sightedness of our political leadership and sadistic political culture.

An eight-year stint of an autocratic rule in this superfluous olden imperial fashion should have been enough for a mortal soul but General wants it till eternity. Nothing evidently harms his conscience so for even while promulgating the NRO, giving the blanket amnesty to Benazir Bhutto, our twice elected prime minister and twice-dismissed on corruption charges. In the name of National Reconciliation, General Pervez Musharraf allows to pardon every massive corruption allegedly committed by ‘daughter of the East’. Both General and BB are serving each other's vested interests in the name of the people of Pakistan and democracy.

The Supreme Court will announce its verdict on petitions challenging General Musharraf's nomination papers within few days. To me, whatever judgment made by SC in next few days would create a ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’ situation.

The political and constitutional fiasco will continue to gain momentum as long as military rule persists. Lawyers are still very much vibrant along with journalist community backed by civil society. It's time for political parties to get their acts together to get rid of military rule and to restore democracy, the only way out to dominate present constitutional and political crisis. This country can not afford such turmoil created by a General for the sake of his power-corrupt motives. General's 'good governance' has torn down the political and constitutional structure of the country. The deportation of Nawaz Sharif despite the SC verdict in his favor to stay in his country has badly damaged the faith of the civilians in the country, raising the specter, even in the minds of the non-political and non-partisan folks that this land belongs only to the military leadership. The people's feeling is one of living in a big prison, with their constitutional, legal, and political rights being as abridged as that of a sentenced criminal. He cuts the deal to let in one politician, Benazir Bhutto purifying her from all NAB cases and reopened the files against the other, Nawaz Sharif. How his election commissioner, not Parliament, amends the Constitution overnight, exposes how the laws bend the Musharraf way, and also why the constitutional setup might not retrieve itself. So, where does Pakistan move from here? The direction is so lucid.

The country can't afford a president, who is the object of people's hatred, whose presence triggers odium between law enforcing agencies and civilians, who compromises on national security, who subverts the Constitution, whose leadership weakens the centre and widens the chasm between the provinces, who can't defend the country, who is battling a proxy war against the people of his own country, and last but surely not least who provides shelter to corrupt persons under NRO and named it an act of reconciliation in national interest.

Nothing in the world has ever changed, until and unless people with willpower to change. So to me, who wants to change the whole picture, must take the initiative to his own will, which is long, long overdue to make a change. As God helps those, who help themselves is the age-old credo.

The work, just like anything else, is very grueling but the change will be very pleasant for everyone eventually. What more, you would not need a gun or gunpowder to bring such a welcome change. The very first change that will need to take effect has to be in our minds. We must make a resolution that we the people, alone through self help will work to bring a change. It means that to bring that transformation we shall think beyond what Musharraf, Aziz or any contractor (political party) can give us. We have danced enough on the tunes of these people, who are dancing on someone else’s for the last sixty years. What we get in response other then violence, unemployment, inflation, and political bedlam. Self-help is the best help as a sage told me, “none will improve your lot, if you yourself do not”. We should or we must spurn replying on our rulers and keep relying on almighty Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. And if we are waiting someone to do it for us, then we will keep waiting forever. We have already frittered away six decades, now it is time to make efforts collectively for the benefit of all.

Our society stands upon five pillars of the state, i-e judiciary, legislative, executive, armed forces and clergy. Over the last sixty years, steadily each pillar got eroded for various reasons, corruption without an iota of doubt, topping the list. When the pillars which hold a society get weakened by erosions, they start shaking creating a pre-collapse societal chaos, followed by caving in as blunt revolution. We are at the edge of revolution. But what type? After seeing the pillar of judiciary revamped on July 20, 2007, it is hoped that a bloody revolution be averted. It all depends on the decision by SC in the ongoing case of presidential election. If the judiciary ignores the main framework of Constitution and opts, yet again, for ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ it will be opening the door to a bloody revolution, instead of mild revolution without bloodshed.

Presently, not just Gen. Musharraf is making last-ditch efforts to cling to power but there are others in the race. It seems that the ruling PML-Q stands divided between pro-Benazir and anti-Benazir groups, as far as national reconciliation efforts are concerned. In the pro-Benazir camp are few politicians who have been left with no option to resort to their strength lies in perpetuation of the military hegemony, directly or indirectly, in politics. On the other hand, the Chaudhrys of Punjab, belongs to the anti-Benazir camp, the potency of whom rests squarely on their own political legacy which is a outcome of the past atrocities, allegedly, committed by the PPP regime.

Instead of further strengthening the national reconciliation so that forthcoming elections are held in a free, fair, transparent and orderly manner in a congenial ambiance with maximum turnout of the voters, the political leadership is further polluting the atmosphere. The political and religious parties leadership should realize their obligations and support, promote and strengthen the national reconciliation sans NRO.

The bottom line remains that today everyone is construing the Constitution of Pakistan according to its own liking, the opposition is divided and seems unproductive; the government party is trying to secure next tenure by all means; and the common man is distressed due to prevailing political mayhem and uncontrolled inflation. The only solution to this ongoing turmoil is that political actors should work in harmony and respect the constitution in its spirit, so that country should leap forward towards a more participatory and pluralist political system.

The late Habib Jalib rightly underlined such political pandemonium some two decades back.
Mohabbat golio’ say bo rahay ho
Watan ka chehra khoo’ say dho rahay ho
Gumaa’ tumko kay rasta kat raha hay
Yakeen mujhko kay manzil kho rahay ho

Restoration of democracy at any price through free, fair and transparent elections with no General in khaki or civilian is the only solution of present political crisis.
God bless this country!

The author is a freelance columnist and a political analyst from Islamabad.

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Cell: 0300 52 56 875

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