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Islam and Politics ( 22 Jul 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Democracy’s Grandiose Paralysis

By Dr Mahjabeen Islam

Dictators such as Musharraf ousted themselves with their reality disconnect, which is fine. But to a nation that has yearned and fought hard for democracy, the role of its foundation, our parliament, should be to strengthen itself and not make it the laughingstock of the world

From individuals to institutions, Pakistani credibility hangs near zero. One wonders whether the tall talk of its politicians, the disconnectedness of some media personalities and the false promises of its tailors have travelled to infect parliament, making it a democratic body in name but entirely paralysed in action.

Karachi metamorphosed into a war-zone rapidly but Interior Minister Rehman Malik was all calm, smiles and praise for new Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Hussain Wassan and former Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza. And insult to injury, Mr Malik went on to say that the authorities knew the identity of the criminals and would bring them to justice soon. When? Why the delay? Bob Dylan’s famous lines are searing: “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

General Musharraf was a great fan of image management and had no qualms owning up to it. He was a proponent of a shiny façade regardless of the inner rot to the point that he wished for Mukhtaran Mai’s gang rape case to be hushed up as it cast Pakistan in a bad light!

A prominent television anchor says in a booming voice advertising his show: “Pakistan cannot collapse, because Pakistanis love education!” On the face of it, it sounds great that Pakistanis love education and may well be true. And yet the abysmal literacy rate and the declining allocation in the budget for education do not bolster that bombastic statement.

On May 14, 2011, Pakistan’s parliament passed a unanimous resolution condemning US drones and demanding that drone attacks stop or else Pakistan would be forced to restrict its transit facility to NATO. The very next day a drone attack occurred and many have since. Recent in this series was on July 12 in which 37 militants were killed and another on July 21 when four casualties were reported. Parliament remains blissfully ignorant of its own ire.

In March 2011, a top Pakistan military commander Major-General Ghayur Mahmood spoke to a group of Pakistani reporters on a rare trip to Miranshah, the administrative centre of North Waziristan. He said that in information gathered by the military, most of those killed by the drones were hardcore militants, and the number of innocents killed was relatively low. The damning WikiLeaks disclosure that President Zardari does not consider the drone deaths of innocents as even collateral damage and Prime Minister Gilani’s assurance to the Americans to proceed with impunity, and he would do the necessary token protests, further shatters confidence in the government’s sincerity.

And yet the primary issue is not the legitimacy or otherwise of American drones violating Pakistani sovereignty. It is the conglomeration of clowns that Pakistani parliament has made of itself and the great insult to democracy that it is. Before the entire chest-thumping and indignant mode that it went into and passed the unanimous resolution, why did the Foreign Office not urgently and definitively brief the legislators? Perhaps some of the fury could have been stemmed and a condemnation could have been issued and not a consequence that could and would never be carried out.

Dictators such as Musharraf ousted themselves with their reality disconnect, which is fine. But to a nation that has yearned and fought hard for democracy, the role of its foundation, our parliament, should be to strengthen itself and not make it the laughingstock of the world. Pakistan’s government officials and statements provide endless humour internationally; we did not need parliament to have joined the jokesters.

Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar was interviewed about the $ 800 million US aid suspension to Pakistan and said that if the aid was cut, Pakistan would have to pull back troops from the Pak-Afghan border and this would undermine efforts against al Qaeda and the Taliban. The US Congress debates the suspension of aid little moved by Mukhtar’s ‘threat’.

Another one in the same interview is about Zawahiri being in the tribal areas to which he quickly says that he hoped the US would not repeat the mistakes that it made with the Osama bin Laden raid. Mistakes? The US thinks it did the most heroic thing ever getting Terrorist # 1 out of Kakul Military Academy’s backyard. An encore would be in the realm of probability.

This hollow grandiosity is part of our culture of corruption — a lackadaisical aap kal aajaaiye, sub theek ho jaayega (please come tomorrow, everything will be alright) syndrome. Is it severe economic hardship and a jungle-mentality that reigns currently that has changed our cultural norm to self-preservation at all costs? Honesty, discipline and work ethics are created and promoted in the family unit. Are our families starving or on the brink to the point that honesty is a luxury, hypocrisy a necessity and only the fittest survive? For clearly while people become increasingly desperate for food, gas, petrol, electricity, education and basic healthcare, our rulers continue to state the stupid, commit the criminal and decimate the democracy that we desperately need to strengthen with processes and institution building.

The writer is an addictionist, family physician and columnist.

Source: The Daily Times, Lahore