Volume 21 Issue 9 September 2017


To understand the reason why none of Pakistan’s prime ministers have so far been able to complete their 5-year term, there is a need to study the conditions and forces which resulted in the unceremonious exit of these heads of the government. Frankly speaking, most of them were not only dishonest but unfortunately failed to run the country sincerely and effectively, which created space for nonpolitical forces to enter the political scene. They themselves were responsible for the fate they met. They joined politics not to serve the people but to make money. For them it was a business so what happened to the country soon after the death of the Father of the nation was pretty interesting. Twice the country’s constitution prepared by the democratically elected governments was repealed (1958 and 1969) and three times it was suspended (1977, 1999 and 2007). No prime minister was able to complete his or her term. Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. After that, prime minister of the country kept walking in and out rather frequently. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was removed through a military coup in 1977 by General Ziaul Haq. After his long rule which ended with his death in an air crash in 1988, beginning with Benazir Bhutto, prime ministers were either sacked by ambitious presidents or removed by adventurous generals or asked to step-down by the honourable apex court. The elected parliament in Pakistan has seldom been able to impose its authority, allowing the external forces to govern the state of affairs using the august body as a mere rubber stamp. In short, democracy in Pakistan remained a jigsaw puzzle for the ordinary citizens of the country. The generals always cashed in on the situation and managed to overpower the weak parliament, the meek leader of the house and hoodwink the deceitful leader of the opposition.

The question is why the Pakistani people never tried to foil such attempts and readily accepted the defeat of the government of the people at the hands of the non-democratic forces. For a convincing answer there is a need to revisit what happened almost a year ago in Turkey. Millions of Turkish citizens set aside their political, cultural and ethnic differences to form a united front against the plotters, who tried to suspend their country’s constitution, shot at innocent civilians and bombed the parliament. Together, the people of Turkey refused to allow an armed group to rob them of democracy, liberty and their way of life. “Did our citizens have guns in their hands? They only had flags in their hands. But they had an even stronger gun, their belief,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said while addressing the first anniversary of the failed coup attempt on July 15. In fact ‘Belief’ foiled the military coup attempt in Turkey. This historic event proves that people and people alone can play a major role in defending any onslaught on democracy. But for that they must have a firm belief in democracy.
Unfortunately, the people of Pakistan no more trust the champions of democracy though they do believe in democracy. So the so-called champions of democracy are to be blamed for the unexpected end of the elected leader of the House.

How is space being provided for non-democratic forces to rule the country? Gen. Parvez Musharraf in a recent interview to BBC Urdu said, “Dictators set the country right, whereas civilian governments brought it to ruins, military rule always brought progress to Pakistan.” The statement though it sounds a bit sweeping, definitely has some truth in it. History will bear out that perhaps the most corrupt and worse era in the country was during the rule of two popular political parties.
During the rule of these parties the civil service structure was destroyed, nepotism was promoted and state servants, including the police and bureaucracy, were turned into private servants. The situation deteriorated by the loot and plunder of the political leaders. Stories of Swiss Bank accounts, Surrey Mansion, Mayfair flats, kickbacks, fixed percentage in prestigious projects of the country, Hajj scam, Ephedrine case, to name a few, are still fresh in the memory of all those people of Pakistan who read newspaper or watch TV.

Probably that is why, unlike Turkey, people in Pakistan rejoice after the fall of a democratic government. The incoming military rulers always received a red carpet reception from the public. It’s undoubtedly an irony of fate that people of Pakistan have never come out on streets to defend the leaders they elected themselves. Naturally, because with each and every passing moment a new narrative of corruption against politicians surfaces, exposing the dubious character of the leaders they voted to power. What is more surprising is the fact that despite being booted out, they manage to get elected again. The reason seems to be the immaturity of the voters, who believe that changing a mere face may result in emergence of a leadership that would be sincere and honest enough to solve all their socio-economic problems. Public memory is short-lived and this is what encourages politicians to exploit the masses time and again. Moreover, talk shows on TV channels, which can safely be termed as a media circus, keeps the common man hooked with one sensation or the other so that he loses track of the shocking stories of corruption and nepotism committed in the past by the political leaders. They forget the corruption cases and get involved in gossip like the Imran-Gulalai spat or the Ayesha Ahad-Hamza Shahbaz scandal. The irresponsible role of media in a way is also responsible for political instability in the country.

Here it would be pertinent to state that a political leader’s qualities are generally supported by skill, experience, intelligence and integrity. But then the foremost is of course honesty, trustworthiness and reliability, enough capability to make decisions and accept responsibility for his actions and words. Ask the voter if he is aware of any leader who possesses any of these qualities. The answer will definitely be a firm NO. So why on earth do they vote to power the same corrupt and dishonest leader again and again? They may say they have no choice as they have to select between two parties. They reject the party which betrayed them after getting elected and vote for the other party in the hope that they must have learned from their mistakes. But then, old habits die hard. The people are helpless because of very limited choices. The reason boils down to the fact that unforgivable acts of treachery and a complete loss of integrity in fact led our prime ministers to fall into the abyss of their own quagmire of corruption. It was this lack of honesty and patience in the leaders that helped military coup-makers to send elected governments packing. Unfortunately, with Quaid-e-Azam’s untimely demise, Pakistan was orphaned in its very infancy and was left without any sense of direction and in a state of political bankruptcy. The leaders with their weaknesses, corruption and lack of vision, pushed the country towards chaos. Barring Quaid-i-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan, the rest of the leadership was still immature and unskilled in politics. As such the socio-political situation rapidly deteriorated, resulting in frequent changes in the civilian government. Naturally, the army being the most organised and powerful entity overpowered the civilians despite the fact that they were elected by the people.

It is time to understand that political stupidity like dharnas and abusive behaviour of party leaders will give undemocratic forces room to rule. “With our dismal record in democratic tradition, we as a nation now are on a crucial trial of our history to determine how we restore Pakistan’s raison d’etre and cope with the challenges of our times, including our global image as the hotbed of ’religious extremism and obscurantism,’“ argued Shamshad Ahmad, former foreign secretary in a recent article. The time has come to do away with feudalism, tribal leadership and dynastic politics. Ordinary people must be given a chance to participate in political activities. Only their inclusion in mainstream politics would make democracy stronger and save the country from corrupt, dishonest and mediocre leadership.’

The writer is a free-lance
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