By Ayaz Amir
July 03, 2015
The rest is all detail. This is the fundamental requirement: strong and clean hands on deck; an end, finally, to the Zia legacy of corrupt and steeped-in-dubious-money leadership – the marriage of capitalism and power we see today. If Zia’s dictatorship was a disaster, the democracy to emerge from its dark bosom was an equal disaster.
Musharraf vowed to end corrupt politics. He ended up giving a vitamin booster shot to the same corrupt politics. The democracy to emerge from the ruins of his rule was a second edition of the joke emerging from Zia’s Islam-pasandism.
There is no fiction more specious, and more beguiling, than the oft-quoted line that the answer to the ills of democracy is more democracy. More democracy in our context means allowing our already pampered elites to rob a bit more, cheat more on taxes and move more of their wealth abroad.
Ayyan Ali, the model, should be charged not for currency smuggling but stupidity. She was in the wrong company, Zardari, Rehman Malik and the like. There is an Ishaq Dar confessional statement regarding money laundering still lying with NAB, our selective accountability body. If she had studied that she would have found subtler means of doing what she was trying to do.
Amartya Sen, the Indian Nobel laureate, is famous for championing the proposition that famines do not occur in democracies. He forgot heat-strokes. They can occur in climates like ours and leave our democracies stranded. It also escaped his notice that more people have been lifted out of poverty by one-party rule in China than by democracy in India.
India has also posted impressive economic growth. But why is its impact limited? Why are huge sections of the Indian population immune from its benefits? The largest open-air latrine in the world runs along India’s railway tracks. Subcontinental democracy has yet to address this problem.
All the economic success stories in East Asia – South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, even Malaysia, and now Thailand and Vietnam – were made possible by stiff doses of authoritarianism. Or call it benevolent despotism…the kind practised by the Kuomintang in Taiwan, the British civil service in Hong Kong, successive generals in South Korea, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore and Mahathir Muhammad in Malaysia.
We’ve had our despots too…a whole series of them. But there was something lacking. They were men of straw, of limited vision. After reading Ayub Khan’s diaries the impression one is left with is of one duck shoot after another. His political ideas, when he chooses to voice them, sound pedestrian.
Yahya was a sybarite and that was it. Ataturk was partial to both liquor and women…asked what quality in women he admired the most, the Pasha, a half-smile playing on his lips, said, “Availability.” But there was more to him than that. He was a winner of wars, standing up to the victorious European powers at the end of the First World War and defeating the invading Greeks. That gave him the moral authority to create a new Turkish nationalism, radically different from Turkey’s Ottoman past.
Who will perform the like service for Pakistan? Just recall the national mood at about this time last year. The air was heavy with defeat and confusion, the country reeling from terrorist attacks carried out by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the powers that be at a complete loss how to respond.
There certainly was no desire to take on the Taliban…from Nawaz Sharif to Imran Khan everyone parroting the mantra of peace talks. The TTP exploited this supine attitude. Markets were laid waste, churches bombed, army convoys attacked. Pakistan gave every impression of being a beleaguered republic. The political leadership gave the impression of being the Vichy government – which collaborated with Hitler after the fall of France.
How different the situation is today, last year’s defeatism a thing forgotten, giving way to a more upbeat mood…all because of the decision taken, much against the wishes of the political leadership and of the political class as a whole, to stop playing Hamlet – to be or not to be – and declare war against the TTP.
In the heat of this conflict – the war of independence we never fought – a new spirit is being forged. You can see this on the faces of our soldiers. The infantrymen that you see standing at check-posts in Lahore…they have a harder look about their eyes, which comes from being tested in battle. A peacetime army and a wartime army, you can spot the difference from the moon.
This was an army which had lost the habit of fighting. In Kargil our troops fought well, even gloriously, but they were let down by their superiors who used them as cannon fodder in the wrong war, its justification built on false premises. Any cleaning of the national stables must include an inquiry into that misguided venture.
Nawaz Sharif just couldn’t understand what was happening. If Musharraf deserves prosecution for adventurism, NS deserves to be put in the dock for incomprehension. The time to sack Musharraf was then not later.
So in a way we should be grateful to the Taliban. They have re-taught the army the lost habit of fighting. The army today is battle-hardened. From this flows its new-found authority.
As a people we may have many qualities but discipline is not one of them. Indeed, discipline is one of the forgotten principles of Quaid-e-Azam. We do not know how to stand in a queue. We are too given to shouting, too given to poetic exaggeration. From top to bottom everyone wants to cut corners, take shortcuts. Our democracy has not been able to inculcate in us any respect for rule of law. And while we can keep our persons and the insides of our houses clean, it’s a feat beyond us to keep our towns and villages clean.
Anglo-Saxon cultures, Teutonic cultures, Confucian cultures put great stress on order and the right way of doing things. Islam once upon a time gave birth to dazzling and mighty civilisations. Today much of the Islamic world is in a state of ferment, formerly stable and relatively prosperous countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya slipping into chaos and internal conflict.
Pakistan last year was a candidate for the same descent into chaos. It has been saved that fate because of the turnaround in the thinking of its armed forces and the resilience of its people. But Pakistan could do with a further toughening of its fibre…more iron in its soul. There may be many ways to recover lost self-esteem and respect. This is one of them. We have to bear in mind the thought that the promise of Pakistan’s birth lies unfulfilled. We may be on the right track finally but our problem is to ensure that it remains this way.
Tailpiece: On June 26 at about 11pm coming from the Faletti’s towards Charing Cross, a motorcyclist sped past us, lost his balance and hit a roadblock. I stopped as did two other motorcyclists. I said let’s take him to Ganga Ram. The injured man said no, please call Rescue 1122. We did. In less than 5 minutes a Rescue van arrived. The injured man was carried on board and given first aid treatment. This is the same service neglected by the present provincial government because it was started by another CM, Pervaiz Elahi. Persons working in this department have yet to receive a service structure. But I suppose we must first build our metros and signal-free corridors.
Two: The Jail Road signal-free hearing before My Lords Justice Saqib Nisar, Omar Bandial and Mushir Alam is reaching its final stages and will probably conclude on Monday, July 6. Islamabad has no shortage of armchair Samurai, bleeding-heart liberati who wage the fiercest campaigns from their couches. It should be good to see some of them at the Supreme Court – 9am, and real ID cards a must for entry.