Fault lines - Raoof Hasan - Saturday, March 26, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=38227&Cat=9

Dedicated to this day and its pain

That makes us turn away from the garden of life

The wilderness of yellow leaves that is my land

A heap of gathered anguish that is my land

– Faiz Ahmad Faiz (Translation: Khalid Hasan)

Pakistan has been lacerating with gaping fault lines ever since its inception. These scars, over time, have become deep wounds because of two factors. First, their continuation served the interests of the traditional ruling elite who did not (and do not) favour any fundamental change. Second, if ever there was a remedy prescribed, it was never administered because of pre-emptive derailment. Today, Pakistan is like a patient gasping for breath and in urgent need of multiple surgeries, but there is no physician available who appears capable and willing to initiate the needful procedures.

For a state to be at peace with itself, it is imperative that its principal pillars – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – are functioning efficiently, effectively and transparently. It is also important that they are coordinating and cooperating with one another, thus contributing to their respective empowerment and stature. It is also important that the government and all the state institutions command legitimacy that is beyond a shadow of impairment.

The opposite is the reality in Pakistan today. We have a government that is not only in constant denial of the grave problems that the country confronts, it has failed to come up with any credible plan to move away from the deepening crises. Its principal arm, the legislature, has literally abdicated its responsibility to take cognisance of the situation. While its crowning glory, the 18th amendment, stands out by virtue of further strengthening the hands of the party leaders in preference to promoting a democratic culture, there has been no earnest effort to formulate a path to rid the country of the aggravating energy crisis, a depleting economy, unmanageable inflationary trends, wide-spread corruption, destruction of the state institutions, absence of a self-sustaining mechanism for inducting and promoting transparency and respect for the rule of law, lack of empowerment of state institutions through appointment of honest and efficient managers and an inordinate unwillingness to cleanse the national body politic of the corrupt. The legislature is overflowing with a large coterie of fake degree holders against whom there is not even a hint of action in spite of specific SC directives. Instead, work of organisations entrusted with tackling the fake-degree mafia is being systematically impeded.

The government survives in perpetual defiance of another principal organ of the state, the judiciary, whose injunctions it has repeatedly rubbished, and whom it has tried to control by amending the constitution with regard to the appointment of judges through a parliamentary commission. Be it the apex court’s decision regarding the immoral and (now) illegal NRO, its numerous judgements on the need to eliminate corruption from the state institutions, its reminders about the urgency for inducting a credible mechanism of transparency, its unearthing of countless financial scams involving billions of rupees, its pleas for appointment of honest functionaries at key positions for improving efficiency and output, its reminders for granting genuine independence to organisations like ECP and NAB – they have all been consigned to the bin. Each day adds further to the gulf that exists between the intransigent approach of the government and the directives of the apex court, thus further perpetuating a grave crisis of governance.

The spectre of corruption is all-pervasive. The allegations, even embarrassing findings by the judiciary, have been handled with arrogance and impunity. No genuine remedial steps have been undertaken to contain the damage. Instead, the propensity to show defiance in preference to compliance has been crudely on display. This has contributed to further strengthening the criminal mafias, patronised by key members of the ruling elite, which are holding the government hostage to their whims, fancies and self-righteous practices.

The lack of legitimacy of the government and its principal players continues to stymie its functioning. Because of losing the support of its allies, the government could not pilot the NRO through the parliament. Upon being declared void ab initio, the SC directed the government to take immediate steps to erase its effects. The injunction still awaits compliance. The re-modelling of the cabinet only saw the backs of relatively clean members, while the tainted continue to occupy positions of authority. The murder mystery of Benazir Bhutto has deepened as the people are fed on empty slogans and promises, creating serious misgivings and apprehensions. The ‘democratic’ tenure has also witnessed the brutal murders of the governor of Punjab and the federal minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti.

The presidency remains embroiled in controversial moves. Because of holding the dual charge of being the head of the state and the co-chairperson of the PPP at the same time, the office of the president suffers from an inherent conflict of interest. There is no congruity between the president’s two positions. The general non-compliance of the judicial injunctions is also often traced back to the compulsions of the presidency.

The law and order situation defies description. While the entire country has been in the grip of violence, Karachi has effectively slipped away from the fold of law. It is now being ruled by criminal mafias that are openly patronised by various political groups. Each day sees the felling of scores of people. The increasingly aggravating situation has stretched the tenuous alliance in Sindh to the brink of rupture, but has been repeatedly retrieved through the direct interventions of the presidency.

Of late, a new dimension has been added to this woeful picture. Political leaderships, hailing from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, have come up with divergent recipes for combating the country’s ills. There are some who have promoted the concept of inducting the army and the judiciary in a three-way dialogue to evolve a solution for the national problems while there are others who have called upon the ‘patriotic generals’ to intervene and rid the country of the ‘corrupt politicians’. At the other extreme, there has been a spate of accusations holding the army and the security agencies responsible for governmental failures. Various leaders have come forth, openly criticising the ‘agencies’ interference’ as the principal cause of the deteriorating conditions. There are various conspiracy theories doing the rounds regarding the ‘undemocratic designs’ of these quarters. Whether it springs from a genuine reason, or it is merely a question of finding a scapegoat for the government’s multiple failures, an unnecessary conflict zone has been added that would further damage the operative state apparatus.

In short, the moral, legal and constitutional edifice of the state has suffered a total collapse. The legislature has defected. The toothless government survives in defiance of the judiciary. Law and order has touched an all-time low. Political leaderships are clueless as to the problems of the country and are proposing a divergent mix of remedies, mostly at odds with each other. There is an abdominal absence of the requisite democratic culture. With energies consumed, spirit exhausted, frustrations mounting and time fast running out, is there still a way out?

(To be continued)

The writer is a political analyst.

Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

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