An article with no takers

By Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

Ab sadiyon ke iqrar-e-ita’at ko badalne
Lazim hai ke inkaar ka farman koi utare

  • Faiz Ahmad Faiz
    Wa-ye Nakaami! Mata’-e-Karawaan jaata raha
    Karawaan ke dil se ehsaas-e-ziyan jata raha
  • Allama Iqbal
    Chalta hoon thorhi door har aik tez rao ke saath
    Pahchanta nahin hoon abhi rahbar ko main
  • Mirza Ghalib
    Bherhyon ki hukumat bherh bakriyon ki qaum se janam
    leti hai
    (A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves)
  • Edward R. Murrow

I have written several articles which are more explicit
and frank than this one. But for reasons most readers will
understand newspapers are far less ready to publish such
articles today. However, a time comes in the history of a
country and the life of a citizen when plain truths need to
be plainly spoken. Not everyone may agree with what is
seen as a plain truth. But to couch what is considered
necessary to say in euphemistic, indirect and muted
language is to say nothing at all. That would be
unforgivably remiss given our dire present situation.
What is this situation? Tens of millions of Pakistanis, at
the very least, know their country is threatened from
within and feel completely helpless. Rapacious ruling
elites wage relentless war against the people. The
outcome will determine whether or not Pakistan
survives. Actions and inactions speak louder than words.
They make clear the leadership, by and large, couldn’t
care less. The rest of us live easily or uneasily with our
shame and hopelessness. We shall deserve our fate.
Two human tragedies recently gripped the country. One,
the loss of two precious lives from a renowned and
respected Pakistani business family. The other, the loss
of almost 400 equally precious lives of impoverished,
insecure and disadvantaged Pakistanis off the coast of
Greece. Staggeringly indifferent governance in Pakistan
was responsible. Two Pakistanis paid half a million dollars
for their tickets to the bottom of the sea. Four hundred
Pakistanis collectively paid an estimated three to four
million dollars for a chance to get a life denied them at
home. The latter were cheated from the day they were
born – and not by the Greeks.
If the richest 1000 Pakistanis spent their surplus wealth
on reducing poverty, paying their taxes in full, investing
in education and health, etc. Pakistan need not beg the
IMF for debt-trapping bailouts. The rehabilitation of
flood victims could easily be done. Pakistanis, in their
hundreds if not thousands, need not drown abroad each
year. But that is not the way the cookie crumbles in
The Pakistani state provides “socialism” (state support)
for the elite and “the market” (minimal support) for the
poor. Pakistan has one of the lowest per capita incomes,
richest rulers and representatives, worst social and
inequality indices, most corrupt leaders, distorted
budgetary priorities, poorest performance records on
MDGs and SDGs, etc. Pakistan is also among the least
prepared of the most climate vulnerable countries
because its elites and “leaders” do not plan to share the
people’s fate – for as long as possible.
The harm such leaders do to the people often exceeds
that of an external enemy. They see getting elected as
winning the lottery, not as a sacred responsibility to
serve the people. To think otherwise is seen by them as
Quaid-e-Azam told the military at Quetta Staff College
“you do not make national policy, it is we the civilians
who do that.” A decade later “democracy was expunged
from the politics of Pakistan.” This outrage was validated
by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Since then democracy
reform and development have been largely denied the
people of Pakistan.
A political leadership that uses the judiciary as a political
tool is a political culprit. As of now, the Supreme Court
appears unable to prevent civilians from being dragged
before non-civilian courts in violation of the
constitutional right of all citizens to a fair trial. As a
result, instead of a democratic welfare state, Pakistan
has become a national security and “plutocratic” (rule of
the rich) state. This has enabled its largely uneducated,
corrupt and power hungry “leaders” to make Pakistan
their playground as well as a “kleptocracy” in democratic
Pakistan’s parvenu elite culture has also bred a
comprehensive lack of seriousness which inhibits the
collective ability to think rationally and long-term – a
prerequisite for sustained success in domestic and
foreign policy. Unsurprisingly, no lessons were learned as
a result of unconstitutional and irresponsible decisions
leading to the national catastrophes and humiliations of
Dhaka, Kargil, and Abbottabad.
Moreover, sufficient resources for socio-economic
development including the rule of law, human rights
protections, and the promotion of scientific education,
discourse and innovation are deliberately denied in a
“non-serious” national security state.
Senior bureaucrats, industrial tycoons, feudal landlords,
religious leaders, public intellectuals, etc., having no
common longer-term perspective, readily become
accomplices within such a power and political structure.
The “establishment” ideology of a permanent national
security state inevitably inculcates a contempt for
civilians. An “apparatchik” intelligentsia including the
media are coopted against their own people to mouth
inane and dissembling national narratives.
The civil-military divide in Pakistan is in many ways a
continuation of colonialism with a change of color. It
caricatures democracy and civilian supremacy. A
reappraisal of this state of affairs may be difficult for a
“soft society” but it is an urgent existential and patriotic
imperative for Pakistan. The assumption that praetorian
political dominance is a reality is correct; but it is also
fatal for the country. Something will have to give: either
Pakistan, or its ruling elite.
Many see Imran Khan as essentially fascist, egoistic,
divisive, unprincipled, corrupt and dangerous. The coopted middle class “commentariat” and establishment
intelligentsia insist – with more than a grain of truth –
that he was “a terrible prime minister.” However, he has
a cult following among the young, the poor, ladies of all
ages, conservatives, most of the Pashtun, the Pakistani
diaspora, etc. If a fair election is held he will win, possibly
by a landslide.
Since it is alleged he cannot provide good governance his
opponents, who in practice have despised the very idea
of good governance, are preferred. The people are
considered irrelevant. The current dysfunctional political
order is all we are allowed to have. The dreams, prayers
and hopes of the poor and the weak are regarded as
promises for the next world, not for this. If this is
accepted with equanimity Pakistan’s fate is sealed.
So, let us assume the worst about Imran Khan. What is
the best way to politically outmaneuver him? By
contriving to eliminate him? By subverting parliament
and the judiciary? By media control and censorship? By
abductions, disappearances, intimidation allegedly even
against women? By making Pakistan a Greater Punjab
without giving any voice even to the people of Punjab?
By alienating the people of the minority provinces? By
provoking the international human rights community? By
providing substance to India’s propaganda against
Pakistan? By forcing China to wonder whether Pakistan is
an asset or a liability? By confirming the US assessment
of Pakistan as a failed state without options? By making
Pakistan a sick joke?
What is to be done? The answers are available. They are
not rocket science. The appropriate priorities are known.
Expert knowledge is accessible. What is lacking is decent
leadership. Governance as class warfare against the
people has to change. Otherwise, mass suffering and
anger will sooner or later ensure a bloody justice.
Parliaments in Pakistan represent the interests of the
elites. Their composition ensures, and their record
demonstrates, they do not discharge their constitutional
obligations to the people. The constitution is supposed to
be interpreted by the judiciary in accordance with its
basic principles and structure. Parliament is not
supposed to make the constitution its political plaything
nor wage power struggles with the judiciary. The
executive is supposed to administer policies that are
endorsed by the electorate and legislated by parliament
in conformity with the constitution as interpreted by the
judiciary. All this needs to be an interactive and positivesum process unlike the sterile zero-sum process of today.
If Imran Khan misruled for 4 years, and by and large he
did, his opponents have collectively and separately
misruled for over 70 years. If he misrules again he will
politically finish himself. But if he is denied an
opportunity to electorally and politically redeem himself
ensuing chaos could finish the country.
At his age and stage Imran Khan can at best be a
transitional leader. Accordingly, he should listen, learn,
introspect, choose his colleagues and “stalwarts” with
greater discrimination and judgment, and do more to
build a viable legacy. If he cannot do this, he should not
pretend he can. Personally, as with all of us, his near and
dear ones should be his priority. But politically, his
country must have absolute priority over any and every
personal preference and consideration. Other than the
Quaid, no mainstream leader of Pakistan, including Imran
Khan, has come close to meeting this transcending moral
Given these realities, what should be the political verdict
on Imran Khan? As mentioned, there are genuine
concerns and justified reservations about him. Pervez
Hoodbhoy’s recent book on Pakistan (pages 524-535)
provides arguments for them. Imran Khan owns up to
some of these shortcomings which ruined his first innings
as Prime Minister, but not all of them. If he avoids a frank
mea culpa he will not make a credible case for a second
innings. He will be seen by too many educated and
alienated Pakistanis as incorrigible. He will not get the
“working majority” (60 percent for the PTI) he needs to
serve the people. And even if he does he will not be able
to transform Pakistan.
Needless to say, none of his major political opponents
have demonstrated even a semblance of what it takes to
serve leave alone transform Pakistan. The ordinary
Pakistani knows this. That is why Imran’s opponents are
desperate to be rid of him before facing a general
In recent interviews Imran Khan has answered widely
shared criticisms of his performance candidly and
credibly. But he is reticent about some personal and
sensitive issues which many insist are of public concern.
He has to do more to persuade those bitterly
disappointed with his first innings that if has a second
innings he will provide much better governance.
Many of Imran Khan’s critics, however, vehemently insist
on permanently writing him off. They allege he has
ambition but no principles. Of course, he vehemently
rejects such allegations. Whatever one’s view, the final
choice must be that of the people. To deny them their
choice is to betray the country. It implicitly internalizes
the end of Pakistan.
Our tragedy is that our governing and ruling elites, and
their middle class lackeys, are bereft of any transcending
moral imperative. Our hope is the people will never
accept this state of affairs. Our duty is to be faithful to
the people. Our modus operandi must assume, despite
the reservations we justifiably have, that no political or
security institution chooses to harm the country.
Otherwise, we shall need a revolution.
Finally, must we speak truth to power? Sure, but power
already knows the truth and is very pleased with it. We
must, instead, speak truth to each other, organize,
mobilize, communicate, and agitate so that illegitimate
power is peacefully and progressively overcome by the
power of the people. Only then can the prevailing truth
be changed to serve the people in double-quick time to
avert impending doomsday scenarios. Only then can we
be true to Quaid-e-Azam and Pakistan.
However, passive middle class cynics posing as realists
and rationalists are a problem that needs to be
addressed in order to develop momentum for
transforming movements. This will require courage,
dedication and faith of the highest order. Pakistan, our
only home, deserves the best from us. Pakistan expects
Pakistanis to be citizens, not abject victims. Passion in the
service of principle must become a driving force to save
our country.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *