A new Pakistani state - Ahmed Quraishi - Monday, December 20, 2010

Source : www.thenews.com.pk

Time has come to enforce discipline in Pakistan, a country where political parties are now directly running foreign policies with foreign governments bypassing the Pakistani state and nation. The weakness of politicians and their subservience to foreign agendas has forced the military to open its own channels with foreign governments. So now everyone in Pakistan is protecting their own interests while the nation is drifting aimlessly and Pakistanis are left to fend for themselves.

We can’t wait for discipline to develop in Pakistan. We are fast approaching a point where decision makers will have to enforce it. Either we do it within the existing system or wait for the time when some 70 million young Pakistanis take to the streets to protest the lack of jobs and opportunities.

Sometimes a state needs to impose discipline and not wait for it to develop. In the West, for example, discipline within a democratic system evolved over centuries. The process included wars, famines, genocide, redrawing of borders, ethnic cleansing, and more wars. We in Pakistan can’t wait for the due process to take its course. Israel is not the best of examples here for political reasons but it is a good example on how diversity in opinions does not stop the state from adopting one national ideology that overrides all else.

There are many interpretations among Israelis for what Israeli history should be and what type of a modern state Israel should be. The debate goes on. But for all the democracy and pluralism, only one interpretation for Israel’s history is enforced from top to bottom. And it was not put to vote but implemented from the inception of the state in 1948. That’s discipline.

In China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Dubai, discipline was enforced and not created through consensus. No one invited ‘stakeholders’ to sit down and develop consensus, except maybe within the likeminded, the ‘believers’, so to speak, who enforced discipline. There has to be a minimum common ground to start from. You can’t invite someone who believes in breaking up the country for narrow interests and another one who believes in the one-nation theory and then expect both to run the country.

Even in a mature democracy like the United States, a president went to war in Iraq despite half the nation strongly opposing it. There was no consensus at all. It’s a bad example for discipline but still a legitimate one.

In the Gulf region, there is one emirate that is deteriorating on all the vital indicators every year while all the other emirates prosper. That emirate is Kuwait. It is also the only democracy in the Gulf.

It currently has 38 billion dinars in its savings account, which means around $150 billion dollars, with a small geography and a population of less than two million. And yet the Kuwaiti state has been unable to build any major universities and hospitals since the early 1980s. The reason is political instability. An opposition-dominated parliament and a government dominated by the ruling family have been at loggerheads since the introduction of parliamentary democracy in 1961.

The United States and the West hailed Kuwaiti democracy with its noisy free press as a role model for autocratic Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. But that was two decades ago when the Western coalition that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation insisted the Al-Sabah ruling family restore democracy and empower the country’s opposition groups. Today, everything is falling apart. In April and October this year, Kuwait’s reform-minded Emir blasted the parliament and the constitution and blamed them for stalling development.

Forget about consensus in Pakistan. With $150 billion, a size of the city of Karachi, and a population of two million, Kuwait has been unable to create consensus for two decades on whether to allow international oil companies into Kuwaiti oilfields, whether to open up the economy or protect it, to build new cities or not, and the list is endless. Now the rulers of Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, and Oman laugh at the Kuwaiti democratic experiment.

This doesn’t mean consensus-building is bad or that democracy doesn’t work. It still is the best system of governance so far, provided it is adapted to local conditions. What can work in the United States and Britain doesn’t suit Italy, let alone Pakistan.

In Pakistan, media, social and political freedoms will always exist and grow. Without limiting them, the state will have to intervene as the interim and enforce discipline and seize back powers taken away by a failed political culture. The state will have to design and groom a new political system, tolerate dissent but not chaos.

The writer works for Geo television. Email: aq@paknationalists.com

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