Our generation of those born in the 80s and early 90s has indeed lived entire conscious lives in the proverbial interesting times. A never-ending circus of insanity and chaos has been playing around both from top-bottom and bottom-up. These kafkaesque times are more of a comic tragedy and the only source of seeking calmness is perhaps to shut your eyes and take refuge in Epicurean ways or contemplating the bliss of afterlife.
The ultra-optimist may disagree but cynicism is the true mode of thinking in vogue. It’s not all cynicism about our generation, as a silver lining is visible of aroused awareness to get things back to normalcy. Pakistan is plagued with a hotchpotch of issues all overlapping each other, hence creating an illusion of defying solutions, which is not the reality.
It’s about time to review and redefine the purpose for existence and sustenance of this nation-state. The ideology of Pakistan as taught in textbooks and propagated through mass media might not be inimical in its essence, but the same has been exploited by the elites of all sorts at the cost of the under privileged. A new national narrative should be based upon the re-definition or re-orientation of our ideological basis. The sacredness shrouding our traditional narrative needs to be penetrated with relevant questions about state and society. Nations don’t live on myths for long, especially those which have proved to be harmful.
The fundamental problem of political system is its sheer lack of ideological politics. Left, right, liberals and conservatives are running their commercial enterprises though donning different colours. Having left their ideological moorings, the demagogues are short of issues and would resort to dictated and vague non-issues. The only medium of transforming their non-issues into issues is media, which has been appealing to our base selves instead of playing a constructive role.
The nationalist, socialists, religious and other parties should reclaim their ideology and it must reflect the same in their policies — if they have any — instead of empty rhetoric now and then. Perhaps, it’s not possible with the current dispensations as their ranks are devoid of intelligentsia and filled with contractors and industrialists.
The right has nothing left to offer and is busy getting into safe alliances thus ensuring its piece of cake or taking up irrelevant issues merely to keep its ranks warm. The left is in no mood to get out of newspapers and drawing rooms except for a few exceptions. The neo-liberal models are losing their strength which is starkly reflected in two major events of Brexit impeding the EU enterprise, and the election of Donald Trump. Roti, Kaprra and Makaan, equitable distribution of wealth, pluralism and tolerance is too crucial to be left to foreign donors. Political parties should co-opt them in their set of issues.
The ruling party is badly stuck with a plethora of problems. Economy and energy are areas of their concern, yet nothing concrete has been done in this regard. Building huge structures shouldn’t have been our priority given the deplorable education and healthcare system.
The CPEC, still shrouded in mystery, is prognostic of creating further fault lines in national polity. Ignoring small provinces won’t let them materialise the project. Chinese investments and projects too ought to be reviewed in totality. Many are still in doubt if the CPEC will have the promised benefits or is an enterprise to fill the coffers of a few at the cost of Chinese imperialism.
The big question is still that of civil-military relations. The government should tell as to who is calling the shots in the domain of security and foreign policy. The silence is not justifiable for it has resulted in much loss internally and isolation of Pakistan among the comity of nations. National Action Plan launched with much hope has yet to attain the goals. Although the civilian institutions lost more space in the aftermath of the NAP, the results are not desirable.
It is time to present the security paradigm for debate as a single institution has not sufficient wisdom to cater for all aspects of the security policies. Besides, the variables of security policy consist of other diplomatic, socio-political and economic aspects, not just military operations. These other components ought to be taken care of by the dedicated institutions instead of assigning them to a single institution. It has resulted in institutional imbalance.
The politics of anti-corruption without addressing other core issues is not leading us anywhere and the movements initiated on this slogan only are bound to die in a whimper. The structural causes of our under-development ought to be identified and lobbied rather than targeting an individual or a party. Panama case may merit a court case and a few protests but it’s not worth spending all our political energies on.
Imran Khan should emphasise on parliamentary politics and building his rank and file. His boycott of Erdogan’s address should have been against the expulsion of Turk teachers, not the presence of a prime minister he doesn’t like. He is no more interested in other core issues like security and peace in FATA. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa might be a success in terms of policy initiatives and legislation, but the same documents have yet to see light of the day. Hence, a rigorous implementation plan is required in KP to showcase it as a success story in the next elections. Time is running out!!
Other parties are either struggling to have more space by just being there and managing the media accordingly. The MQM has come to its logical end and the burden to revive it lies on the new factions. The PPP, the ANP and the JI etc are plagued with the same problems and on the way to dissolution and in need of radical course correction to survive.
The PPP could reclaim its leftist leanings provided it gives space to the relevant people as done by Z.A Bhutto, although the same lot was dumped afterwards. The ANP has been dented much on accusations of misgovernance and same was the principal reason of voting them out in KP. They have lost most of their old constituency by surrendering much of their nationalist credentials. The JI needs to come out of its fold and take up the right causes instead of fighting some vague notion of corruption.
Mainstreaming of FATA and Balochistan would determine the fate of this country. The militancy, socio-economic problems and human rights violation have to be addressed to bring them back to the fold of federation. A barren land may be kept by force but communities cannot be forced in any direction till eternity. The fault lines are to be corrected, not perpetuated further. Semblance of peace may prove a delusion in the long term. All the Baloch nationalists may be engaged in a political dialogue. The colonial practice of silencing dissent by force and playing one tribal leader against the other may be ended as a first step towards reconciliation.
FATA has offered enough of sacrifices since 1947 and got too less in proportion to their sacrifices. FATA Reforms Committee has submitted its recommendations with an elaborate plan but no step has been taken so far for its implementation. Return of the IDPs and revocation of Article 245 — which will be an indicator of peace — are the pre-requisites to initiate other policy reforms.
Delegation of powers from the centre to provinces and making Pakistan a true federation has been the slogan of successive governments, yet the centralised nature of policies is impeding the formation of a federal state. So much so that 18th Amendment has yet to be implemented in letter and spirit. The centralised economy and bureaucracy must be decentralised to provinces to give them a feeling of constitutional empowerment.
There are no doubt numerous other fault lines in economy, foreign affairs, bureaucracy, security and media which warrant a detailed critique separately.