The failing political system

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The dismal performance of the PTI in the NA-249 Karachi by-election reflects the growing distrust and distrust that people are showing in the PTI government’s ability to solve their problems. PPP won this seat after a huge gap of 23 years. Given the general disinterest and low voter turnout in this by-election, it will be difficult for the PPP winner to claim that he has won the victory on the shoulders of popular power. I think the victory was more determined by the majority of people who boycotted the election and chose to stay home.

So, let’s not talk about the winner but the real loser of this by-election – the politics – because people quickly lose faith in the political system and how the people in this constituency have disassociated themselves from the voting process is an indicator of as they are fed up with all these politicians who all promise to be great socialists but once in power they give nothing back to the people.

Democracy in Pakistan is like a forest or a jungle – a place to go if you want to get lost. Sunlight barely filters through the jungle and therefore all of our politicians and most heads of institutions remain prone to strategic blindness. It is a jungle in which there are strong incentives to ambush, lie and cheat.

No wonder FIA GM Bashir Memon remained silent during his tenure, but now he never stops spilling beans. Not that he wasn’t allowed to say what he said, but it’s the timing that makes his statement so controversial. In addition, the remarks of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Lahore that “the army is the greatest of qabza mafia in the country ‘are sad. The honorable judge also asked a sergeant on duty from DHA Lahore to “leave his uniform, stars and cap at home” when he comes to attend the hearing, as he could be sent to jail. This was an unreasonable comment any judge would make in any court, let alone a judge who retires within three months of completing distinguished service.

These remarks follow the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Judge Qazi Faez Isa. In fact, the Supreme Court has left a lot of people in this country stunned and the old glitch of “who will judge the judge?” Has become a topic of discussion again. In its judgment, the court declared “illegal” all actions taken by FBR and all other forums related to the assets of Judge Isa’s wife and children. Was there money laundered? An ordinary man still cannot find the answer to the question. The court was quick to grant Judge Isa a stay without clearly addressing the “how, when, why and if of the case”. This judgment puts the people of this country in a state of absolute disarray: can they expect something from the system without the right relations?

There are three important players in this country. We have a state, we have the people, and we have a system. The state is hijacked by the creators of the old system and will remain so until the new system is allowed to emerge. The people have been gradually frustrated, impoverished, manipulated and made to lose their wills. The system or what remains of it is maintained by the military and it is therefore no wonder that the military is attacked by enemies of the state, not only from outside but also from within. Surprisingly, politics should have been a key player as well, but it gradually lost its importance – why?

“An insignificant monkey becomes the master of the world” is the theme of Yuval Noah Harari’s book, Sapiens – A Brief History of Humanity. “How Human Beings Could Eventually Become Gods” is the theme of his second book Homodeus – a brief history of tomorrow. Our history of political failure reflects both themes of Harari’s books. Insignificant people becoming politicians and rulers in this country and then acquiring godlike powers to subjugate the people. This failed political system did not fail overnight. Incompetent and corrupt people gradually rose to positions of authority in a system that facilitated them and raised them through the ranks. These people have little or no time to look past their benefits and privileges. The unhappy and miserable life of the inhabitants of this jungle escapes them.

There are a lot of disappointments that we can associate with our political system, but if we had the choice to name one big disappointment that contributes to the failure of this system, then it will be judicial. Being the branch of government, which administers justice, which clearly makes it an important player in the political system, it has largely failed to deliver justice. While the prosecution in these cases has been substandard, they have failed even to punish them. Whenever the courts have been seized with matters of extreme national importance and the people have felt that they are delivering fair verdicts against the looters of this nation’s wealth, the courts, under some of the rulings that they surrendered, gave the impression that they sided with these looters more conveniently and agreed with the state.

There are no elections to win, there is only this country to straighten out. Who will do that? If it wasn’t just a myth and a genius can actually come out of a lamp and give me the opportunity to make a political wish that could be granted, I will ask him to pick up all the politicians in this country on a yacht and take them away from a place they can never return to – because this country is what they made it today – a jungle and, under the current failing political system, this country will continue to remain a jungle with all this talk about the creation of a democratic welfare state or “Madina ki Riyasat” only, but a pious wish.

Finally, bold decisions will have to be made by not-so-weak but courageous civil-military leaders in this country to bring about meaningful change to this country’s rotten political system. This country needs leadership like MBS, Putin, Xi, Modi or Erdogan to rectify the situation. Without such leadership and with people finally shedding their traumatized lives and waking up from their long nights of ignorance, they risk pushing this rotten political system to the edge of the cliff. It will then be that the people will become their own king and no discussion with journalists or politicians can then stop the coming Armageddon.

Posted in The Express Tribune, May 2sd, 2021.

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