“How can we live, without our lives?”
John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
There was a time when millions of Muslims in the Indian sub-continent struggled to liberate themselves from an occupation of a colonial power to live “lives” of their own, in their own homeland with dignity, independence, self-reliance, mutual self-respect, tolerance and co-existence, liberty, freedom and prosperity in a fair and just classless society of their dreams (separate from a Hindu class society and British Raj colonial mindset). Over 60 years later, the same people and their younger generations are still struggling for their lost dreams: They are asking the same old question – “How can we live, without our lives?” – because, it appears, this nation has been “colonized” by its own “native masters” since so-called independence.
There can be no substitute for frankness: 2013 Pakistan is far worse off than in the era of its colonial past. Then we had true justification for our plight, our backwardness and cultural-economic destruction. But how do we explain our own disasters, contradictions, crises, political-economic failures, cultural degradation, social disintegration, erosion of mutual tolerance and co-existence, violence at all levels of society, flawed foreign policy and domestic policy planning, poor education and health infra-structures, increasing poverty levels, inter-province disequilibrium and inequalities, deprived citizens, environmentally deteriorating urban centers, rising youth unemployment, the lack of technological achievement, failures in scientific development and innovation, our less-than-credible public sector management skills, growing moral-ethical dilemmas over our ever-expanding “corruption culture” which is eroding the foundations of this nation. So where do we go from here? Who do we blame for our endless tragedies? How can we live, without our lives?
What has been happening for decades in Pakistan is the abuse of the fundamental concept on which the genesis of this nation was based – at the hands of its own political elites and “native masters.”
Now we have a manta (and in some specific procedural terms a reality) of a “saved democracy”. The incumbent PML-N leadership in Islamabad claims that it will give a “Naya Pakistan” to this nation in its current tenure of political power. The vital questions are: Can it? Will it succeed in its public mandate of a social welfare society/state as envisioned in the original ideological concept of Pakistan? Will the PML-N deliver a “Naya Pakistan” to its citizens? Will the PML-N leadership heal the nation’s wounds inflicted on it by its own “native masters”? Let us examine some realistic problematics that the PML-N leadership will have to deal with immediately – and perhaps with considerable difficulties.
Obviously, in its political management in the resolution of multi-faceted, urgent, complex and serious national problematics, the PML-N leadership will have to perform with efficient, prompt and effective measures. But whatever the PML-N regime does now and in the immediate future, the results will have to be felt at the general public level straightaway. The 5 years of the PPP’s so-called democratic era has left the nation with unprecedented deprivations, and the major challenge to PML-N’s incumbent government is to give relief to the public in terms of their pressing problems.
However, the vital problem is this: PML-N is politically, ideologically, and in the context of its perspective on political management and its current management team, mismatched to the basic and important requirements of a fundamental political transformation in the country for an overall change.
Without any disrespect intended, the fact is that PML-N is a Right Wing, ideologically traditional, politically and economically status-quo-oriented party. Its prominent election winners are the same people, and the PML-N upper tier leadership is the same team which was the symbol of a failed opposition in 2008-13: the same faces who have failed this nation before in many ways (at least, that is the strong perception held by the younger Pakistani generation at large).
Given the aforementioned reality, how can PML-N be politically and ideologically compatible with a notion of a “Naya Pakistan” – the “Naya Pakistan” for a previously silent majority now demanding their fundamental rights: demanding a welfare state out of the ashes and debris of a destructive past at the hands of its ruling elite’s mismanagement of national affairs?
Hence I believe, as a common citizen of Pakistan, that I am entitled to ask the PML-N leadership a serious philosophical-conceptual question: What could possibly transform these people (members of the incumbent political management team) suddenly into messiahs for this deprived nation for deliverance out of poverty, daily deprivations and unpardonable miseries and hardships inflicted on them by these very same people responsible for decades of political and economic mismanagement?
Mind it, my focus here is on the important matter of political-economic strategy and this country’s management during the incumbent PML-N’s administration in Islamabad. Here is my considered view: The basic issue of today’s Pakistan is not the absence of a bullet train from one end of the country to the other. Nor will the privatization of banks and other national commercial institutions, such as the railway or PIA, resolve the number-one problematic of this nation. Neither will more capitalism and our foreign friend’s financial assistance and its related political agenda take care of Pakistan’s fundamental issues.
In our country, capitalism has failed as an economic system. Foreign assistance has not resolved our issues; it has multiplied our problems. Pakistan’s political managers, in all these years, have been inconsistent, incompetent, uninformed and unpardonably have sought personal vested interests. They have mismanaged this nation and deliberately acted against its interests. They have been unethical and uncaring in their approach to the country’s political management – so much so that successive regimes of military-civilian rulers have been unable to identify the major issues confronting this nation and its ideological platform.
Let me identify, for the PML-N leadership’s benefit, Pakistan’s major issues: It is the ever-increasing wedge between the majority of have-nots and a very small minority of haves who also have timelessly controlled the country’s political power for their personal economic gains and profits. It is the prevailing political-economic system that is decimating the very foundations of this nation. My question to the PML-N leadership is: Are you going to challenge this burnt-out and “farsooda” system? And if so, how? The PML-N needs to deliver substantial political discourse specifically dealing with the eradication of growing poverty in this nation. It is an extremely serious business and requires a pro-active political ideology-cum-actions that the PML-N management team has yet to offer.
Hence, there is a need to dismantle the PML-N’s current political management and induct a fresh group of professional experts in Islamabad to jumpstart the already failing strategic political-economic-foreign policy management approach of the present government.
Leading political and social scientists contend that bankers, traders, industrial entrepreneurs, the civil bureaucracy and the military establishment cannot resolve the basic issues of a class-divided society such as present-day Pakistan. The empowerment of people at all levels and de-centralization of political structures are the key elements to democratic transformation and governance. How can the PML-N’s traditional political managers, who have conceptualized political power in a different frame of mind, fit into a new role fundamentally alien to them?
On another level of political management, the exclusiveness in the national decision making process and an absolute power vested in a single powerful identity will not serve the interests of this nation. Has the PML-N leadership considered an alternate political culture in the corridors of power in Islamabad?
In the much talked about “politics of reconciliation” and in “serving the interests of democracy,” will the PML-N leadership let an effective and dynamic opposition leadership emerge on the national scene?
Last but not least: Leaders are role models for their nations. Can the entire incumbent leadership start living like the struggling native people of this country?
Can they be the political saints of our times?
Mark my words, the Pakistani nation will be watching and asking the same fundamental questions: “Where is Naya Pakistan?” and “How can we live, without our lives?”