Masters of our destiny - Mir Adnan Aziz - Saturday, October 02, 2010

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"The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those they suppress," said Frederick Douglass.

Prone to reckless policies, bad governance and national apathy, we have reverted to bondage. Pakistan, a dream that became reality, has tragically been robbed of its conviction and ideals. The beginning of our history merely marks the point where British bondage ended and that of others began.

We, collectively and individually, are guilty of being dazzled by each of our emperor's new clothes, just to discover his true character. We appear to be addicted to the whip of those who misrule us, those who are masters of our destiny.

What we have never learnt from a "chosen" dispensation, the present one starkly outdoing all others, is how "democratic" rulers operate. Never before did corruption and complete decay of governance stand so thoroughly exposed. The only reason for winning power is control of all aspects of society to ensure self-enrichment. Our political system has allowed criminals to attain and maintain positions of power. In the struggle for supremacy, politicians try to outdo each other in cunning and deceit and shady machinations. They know that, irrespective of the method by which they attain it, success is what really matters.

This gimmickry has become a passion for corrupt politicians. They are undeterred and secure in the knowledge that their fiefdoms remain impregnable. They appear in hordes on the electronic media and gatherings of their devoutly faithful. Armed with photos and posters of their respective leaders (both those who are gone and those very much alive and kicking, both here and living abroad), they utter proclamations and make promises of a much better and brighter tomorrow. Emotionally blackmailed and robbed to the brink of ruin, we still see it as a moment of truth.

Our political system spawns corrupt politicians. Doling out contracts, promoting kith and kin, rewarding criminals with party tickets and high public offices, lapping up kickbacks and commissions are all acceptable. In reality, it is corruption at its crudest. The tragedy of our politics is that corruption and patronage politics have become the recurring baseline of political compromise and consensus among the otherwise bitterly divided political elites. Nothing encapsulates this reality more than the present "opposition" refusing to do anything to destabilise the (abhorrently corrupt and clueless) governing dispensation.

So pervasive is this mass complicity that many of us, while expressing outrage at corruption, indifferent to its manifestation. We morph and adapt. This complicity further destroys an already threadbare social fabric while robbing society of the public pressure necessary to counter such rampant corruption.

Corruption, understandably a global phenomenon, never translates into a breakdown of political, social-sector and administrative institutions in developed countries. Here it gives a fatal jolt to an already impoverished economy. It translates into the morally reprehensible deterioration of infrastructure and social services, which were already almost non-existent, bringing hunger, disease and death. The ever-present solution is to tax the taxed even more. "To tax the community for the advantage of a class is not protection; it is plunder," said Benjamin Disraeli.

Political negotiations and constitutional amendments based on individual self-interests, like the autocratic powers guaranteed to party bosses, compromise on national issues for a third stint at premiership, loss of a seat if the party line is defied, exemption of elections within a party, all result in corruption and political brinkmanship. These are also used as a diversion from economic and national realities.

In the present bleak scenario the only ray of hope is the proactive role of the superior judiciary. It is unfair to think of the judges as saviours while we strengthen those very individuals who tend to use the system as a mere tool to further increase their wealth. When asked about this, the typical answer on the street is: "I do not know and I care less." This national apathy may be a norm but an option we can least afford.

Politics is not just voting for a candidate every five years but a politician's contract with those who elect him. This contract allows the electorate to hold him accountable in case of violation of the contract. Their election gives them an unchallenged mandate for plundering for five years. Elected representatives or those holding public offices elsewhere have the honourable conviction to resign when in case of allegations of minor misdemeanour, as compared to the serious crimes committed by our stalwarts.

Human endurance too has a limit. Can we really afford the moment when crass political deceit and rhetoric are challenged on the streets by those wronged and held hostage to the harsh and cruel realities of their daily lives? Will the political elite not cry foul if the vacuum is filled by those very individuals who will then be branded as usurpers, while most heave a sigh of relief? Is it still not time to stand up when we have legitimised an elite and a system but with no one left to speak for us?

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:

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