Doctrine of absurdity - Ikram Sehgal - Monday, May 02, 2011

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The problem with the “Doctrine of Necessity” is that in Pakistan it competes with what a perceptive colleague has called the “Doctrine of Absurdity.” How else can you describe how and why the government in power in Pakistan retains legitimacy?

The Supreme Court judgment about the National Reconciliation Order (NRO), a black law if ever there was one, is not being implemented; the Supreme Court shows no real inclination to implement it either, it is simply kept hanging over the government as a judicial “Sword of Damocles.” Either the judgment should be implemented or the Supreme Court should back down. Not having the same qualms about the letter and/or spirit of the law as the Supreme Court, the NRO beneficiaries, applying their own version of “the rule of the law” for the foreseeable future, will prosper by looting the public till at will.

Once unthinkable, the possible inclusion of the PML-Q (Zardari’s “Qatil League”) in the PPP-led federal cabinet is a sign of desperate times for the PPP because of the impending federal budget. The individual leaders of consequence of the PML-Q cannot hope to come on the national stage without the prop of either one of the major political parties or the army. Their 50 MNAs would consolidate the PPP’s position presently teetering precariously at a bare majority of 172 in a house of 342. For the PML-Q the consideration of the possible loss of its 20 Senate seats in next year’s election looms large. Seat adjustments in a future election are being dangled as a carrot by the PPP, the “stick” is the involvement of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi’s son Moonis in the NICL scandal.

Nadra received data of 81.2 million people eligible to vote in the previous election for verification and augmentation purposes to move towards developing error-free computerised electoral rolls. The Nadra exercise revealed that the electoral rolls used for the last polls contained over 37 million questionable entries, which undercuts the credibility of the 2008 general elections. With only 44.02 million entries verified as valid, 37.18 million entries (nearly 45 percent) were deemed to be bogus votes. Will anyone hold responsible the officials working for the Election Commission then for foisting this fraud on us in the name of democracy?

Hundreds of parliamentarians in Pakistan could lose their seats because of fake degrees and possibly also face jail time. How incongruous that those involved in such forgery and chicanery now frame the laws that we have to adhere to. The task of verification of degrees was given to the Higher Education Commission in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court. HEC chairman Javaid Leghari refused pointed suggestions to slow down the process for a year. Failing all sorts of crude intimidation, the government decided to devolve the HEC to the provinces in using the cover of the 18th Amendment, in utter disregard of the consequences, which many scholars say will be disastrous for the country. Those with fake degrees have a vested interest in derailing the enquiry process. In any case, one clause of the 18th Amendment makes the concept of democracy absurd. The party head has dictatorial powers to dismiss anyone from his party (and government office) who does not listen to his (or her) diktat.

Once Musharraf had committed troops for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations into Fata in 2003 without proper military preparation, terrorism was poised to retaliate in the Pakistani heartland. Why no contingency plan was prepared escapes sound military reasoning, it borders on the absurd. The nexus of corruption and organised crime in the Pakistani heartland provides fuel for the terrorism that has proliferated since. Three decades is a long time for such evil to take a firm hold. Given a tremendous opportunity to eradicate all three evils when he came to power, the National Accountability Bureau was a tremendous Musharraf initiative. The tragedy is that he himself destroyed the concept in playing politics with its potential in a vain attempt to remain head of state forever. Whatever gains NAB made despite his motivated political meddling was irretrievably destroyed when Musharraf’s NRO foisted Asif Zardari’s version of the PPP on us. Having acquired power through the money generated by corruption, there is no way the PPP-led government is going to go after “organised crime.” Does it require nuclear science to understand why at the ground zero of terrorism there is no dedicated Counter Terrorism Force (CTF)? COIN has been very successful under Kayani. Young men have been sent into battle and made sacrifices. What prevents the military hierarchy from insisting upon the obvious, a CTF that will eradicate the menace of terrorism flourishing in the heart land? While the politicians may have motivated interest in avoiding such a campaign in almost every constituency, what is the vested interest of the military hierarchy? The military hierarchy cannot pretend to be deaf and blind amid this circus of the absurd.

Today’s parliament has legislators with fake degrees, and almost all of whom have been elected on bogus votes. Where is the legitimacy of that parliament? What can be more absurd that not one of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s original PPP stalwarts (and almost no loyalists of Benazir Bhutto) occupy PPP leadership positions in the country’s governance. Indeed, what is truly absurd is “Dr” Babar Awan (of Monticello University fame), who publicly distributed sweets celebrating Bhutto’s unfortunate hanging, is now a born-again PPP loyalist and leading the PPP charge to get the party’s venerated leader exonerated by the Supreme Court. Talk about poetic justice, a PPP stalwart contends that such is Bhutto’s power that even from the grave he has made Awan resign as federal minister and take up the cudgels in his defence.

One can be forgiven for accepting Aristotle’s reasoning in describing the state of governance in Pakistan. “Once the irrational has been introduced and an air of likelihood imparted to it, we must accept it in spite of the absurdity.” What indeed is the failsafe line between the Doctrine of Necessity, and what we have currently in place in Pakistan, the Doctrine of Absurdity?

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:

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