Volume 21 Issue 6 June 2017


All is well’ in fact, is an old popular lullaby which the ‘yes men’ sing on a daily basis to keep the rulers in deep sleep, so that they are completely unaware of what’s happening to his subjects. The yes-men do not make waves or criticisms and make the ruler so addicted to sycophancy that he dislikes arguments which, for him are a sign of dissent and that is disloyalty. History, especially Muslim history, is replete with instances where the sycophantic culture was the root cause of the downfall of many powerful men. The history of politics in Pakistan is in no way different. Both military and civil leaders in the country have been victims of this culture.

For instance, Ayub Khan, who has a number of good deeds to his credit, got furious when the people started criticizing the government on the sugar price hike. But then the ‘yes men’ managed to paint a rosy picture before him to make him feel happy and cool. Just to make him believe that everything was going pretty well, they even used to print a separate newspaper which was full of ‘all is well’ stories, reports and news items. That was indeed the height of sycophancy. His cabinet members and men of the Convention Muslim League decided to celebrate his success and achievements in a big way and a committee was formed to prepare befitting programmes to celebrate the Decade of Reforms. But then, a critical report by none other than Dr Mehboobul Haq, the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, revealed that a coterie of just 20 families controlled two-thirds of the industry and three-fourth of banking. The report provided great inspiration to Habib Jalib. His poetry activated public feelings against Ayub when he recited his poems before tens of thousands and denounced the 20 nouveau riche families who became richer by the day at the cost of keeping the millions poor. Finally, Ayub had to succmb to the pressure and resigned in favour of Gen. Yahya Khan.

Gen. Yahya turned out to be a very unfortunate ruler though he will always be remembered for conducting fair elections. The cruel yes-men kept him oblivious to the happenings in the country by keeping him under the influence of alcohol and women. He was completely ignorant of the nasty civil war in the eastern part of the country which was followed by a defeat against India. Yahya failed to comprehend the emerging situation which swung the mood of a depressed nation and forced him to resign. After his ouster, he went completely silent. He was a victim of yes-men who managed to allure him with wine and women so that they could continue to enjoy pay raises and promotions.

Even Gen. Pervez Musharraf could not get out from the clutches of the yes-men around him. When the lawyers revolted against his decision of making Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry "dysfunctional" on March 9, 2007, he took it very lightly and termed it as a storm in a teacup. The decision evoked a popular mass protest movement nationwide led by lawyers. Known as the Lawyers' Movement led by Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, it even had Nawaz Sharif supported it, but the men around Musharraf kept telling him that the movement would fizzle out shortly. To the contrary, it developed a long march and the rest is history. But even then, Gen. Musharraf failed to assess the power of the people just because he was led into believing that ‘all is well.’

Every Pakistani leader has been surrounded by yes-men. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq was made to believe that Bhutto’s assassination would not affect his government in any way. In fact, he was told that the situation would provide him with an opportunity to make his presence felt both to US and the Muslim world. According to them, he had all the potential to emerge as the supreme leader of the Muslim world. But within three months of Zia’s death in a plane crash, the daughter of Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto challenged the writ of his leftovers and came to power with a big bang. Though the men around Gen. Zia convinced him that with the death of Bhutto, Pakistan People’s Party had been doomed forever, history proved them wrong; because the yes-men always look for their own future and not of the country.

The same group of yes-men somehow convinced Gen. Pervez Musharraf that both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto had lost popular support and it was an appropriate time to bring in a quasi-democracy. Accordingly, the Muslim League (Q) was formed and people like Chaudhry Pervez Elahi started saying publicly that Gen. Musharraf would continue to be elected as President of Pakistan despite his uniform. On the suggestion of his sycophants, the General opted for a referendum to remain in power and managed to succeed. After a couple of years, Gen. Musharraf realized that that it was the PML (Q) that did not enjoy popular support and was left with no option but to sign the NRO with Benazir Bhutto with the guarantee that he would remain president. This was similar to the demand made by Gen. Yahya to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after the 71 elections. When Mujib refused to accept the condition, Yahya joined Bhutto who also ditched him, resulting in his ouster. According to reports, Gen. Musharraf still repents his decision about the NRO and blames the yes-men type of politicians around him.

Unfortunately Nawaz Sharif has also not learnt anything from history. During his first term as Prime Minister, he was hijacked by the yes-men. Although President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was not happy with his privatization policy, introduction of green channel at all international airports and yellow cab scheme, his cabinet ministers kept on telling him that there was a very positive response from the people. The claim that everything was hunky-dory fell flat when President Ishaq khan ousted him. The coup against him was, in fact, a result of his overconfidence, ignoring the set norms and practices in appointing the Chief of Staff.

Sadly enough, things have not changed and rulers have not learnt anything from history. Strangely, Nawaz Sharif is happy with what his yes-men are telling him on TV channels. Although sometimes he has warned them not to be overzealous and comment on controversial issues but the ‘more loyal than the king’ kind of people have paid no heed to his advice. It is high time his supporters refrained from unnecessary appearances on TV channels and presented themselves as more sober and mature supporters. At a time when he is surrounded by problems like Dawn Leaks, Panama Papers and challenges like CPEC, the situation demands him to look at the ground realities personally instead of depending on his party men.

Pakistan is faced by a number of problems both on internal and external fronts. These demand a critical analysis of solutions through consensus. Unless the rulers get rid of the yes-men and start listening to their detractors, problems like terrorism can be tackled. The next elections are round the corner so there is a need to create an atmosphere conducive for a fair and free elections and smooth transition of power

TThe writer is a freelance journalist.
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