OCTOBER 18, 2022
The political, security and economic conditions of the country continue to trouble conscious citizenry. The nation has been grappling with political polarization and the onerous woes of the bad economic situation aggravated by the regime change in April 2022. Two other serious issues brewing up are the resurgence of the security spectre in the scenic valley of Swat and the excessive abuse of religion in the political discourse by our politicians.
The political tussle has already peaked to an incredulous level with the federal and the Punjab governments resorting to excessive abuse of governmental powers to register absurd cases against each other’s political activists. The continuous political pressure on the relatively weak federal government mounted by the PTI chief and the potential he has shown to dislodge the Pakistan Muslim League from its traditional power base has overwrought the nerves of the PDM leadership particularly the Pakistan Muslim Leaguers giving them sleepless nights.
The ongoing political quarrelling has impacted almost all the institutions of the state and robbed the nation of its capacity of coming together to face a security threat. The response of the nation to the devastation caused by the torrential rains and flash floods leaves much to be desired. At the heels of the flash floods, we have the hydra-headed terrorist outfit -Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan – raising the spectre of security threats in the northern areas of the country. Notwithstanding the past experiences, the federal government blundered in having talks with this outlawed group which has never been amenable to respecting the writ of the state and its basic law.
The derogatory, vituperative and abusive language within the political discourse carried on from the 1970s has developed into an audacious and contemptible campaign.
The nation came to know about its resurgence when a school van with children was fired upon and its driver killed that triggered the last week’s massive protests by the people of Swat which forced the federal government to shake out of its complacency; reactivate the almost dormant National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and alert the security forces to stem the menacing regrouping of the terrorist outfit. The massive turnout of the people at the protesting rallies in Swat and Rawalpindi testified to the public hunger for peace and peaceful living. The nation has long gone past the yesteryears bearing with these mad, intolerant, extremist and militant groups in the name of religion. It is fast anchoring in the norms of a pluralistic and democratic polity. The educated families of the middle and lower middle class from the urban and rural regions of the country have clearly shown their firm belief in democratic politics as signified by their massive turnout at the political rallies of the leaders they follow.
This is an encouraging development that gives us hope for the development of a democratic polity in the country. However, there are looming threats to the gradually developing democratic norms in society. Keeping in view the experience, the possibility of extra-constitutional threat cannot be completely ruled out – not because some adventurist would upset the applecart but due mainly to our politicians with the traditional inability to keep their political fights within manageable limits to not incentivize any praetorian force to disrupt our journey on the democratic path. Secondly, our politicians have shown little respect for the constitutional term of the parliament and an elected government that is a sine qua non for a democratic polity. Thirdly, the derogatory, vituperative and abusive language within the political discourse carried on from the 1970s has developed into an audacious and contemptible campaign of making a vicious video of political opponents and high state officials, and tape recording the private and official conversation of the highest office holders. This horrendous act is unimaginable in civilized societies. Fourthly, the current political tussle has also eroded the traditional respect for our security establishment. Fifthly, the unnecessary discussion about the appointment of the next Chief of Army Staff has the potential of spiraling out of control and causing an unintended mishap. Sixthly, the forthcoming protest march by PTI could descend into bloodletting and derail the fragile democracy that we have right now. Before that happens, would our leaders sit together to find a way out? No hope I entertain on this count.
The most dangerous threat to democracy is the excessive abuse of religion by politicians. Our religious leaders particularly the revered President of PDM feel no qualms in dubbing their lone political opponent as a Jewish and Israeli agent forcing him to place excessive reliance on the religious overtones in his speeches. This is not a new phenomenon. The religious leaders have been liberally dubbing their political opponents as anti-Islam since the adoption of the Objectives Resolution as the basis of the Constitution of the country. They have spared no leader from their tongue-lashing.
The issue of the finality of the Prophet has been quite sensitive. Many high office holders in the country have been labelled as Qadianis in the recent past for political reasons. One senior Muslim Leaguer, standing on the floor of the House, accused the most popular leader of the country of the blasphemous and heretic act of inventing a new religion. These irresponsible utterances have only strengthened religious factionalism fueling religious fanaticism without any obvious political dividends. We have already lost precious lives to sectarianism and fanaticism.
The country is passing through challenging times. We need to lower the political tension by showing flexibility and accommodation. The current political tussle has impacted the premier institutions of the country. The regime change has failed to reduce the political and economic instability in the country. The ruling lot has also grossly failed to inspire public confidence. Rather, the hasty and abrupt amendments made to the accountability laws have created a chaotic legal situation and grossly damaged the credibility of the ruling coalition.
The coalition leaders should come forward to establish communication lines with the PTI to find a way out of the current political impasse. Neither side affords to sustain the present political tension at the cost of the citizenry.
The author was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books.