Monday, December 10, 2007

Enlightening Benazir!

By Dr. Haider Mehdi
The story goes as follows: a Pakistani living in Dubai received an operator-assisted telephone call from Lahore, but he kept on saying repeatedly that he could not hear and understand the caller. After a while the operator came on the line and said, “Sir, let me help you understand what the caller is saying…He wants you to return the money you borrowed from him.” The fellow said to the operator, “If you can hear him, then why don’t you pay.” He then disconnected the call.

Indeed, pretending “not to understand” is a crafty art practiced universally by political artisans on a daily basis – but the trouble is that it does not and cannot work all the time. There comes a time when the make-believe audacity of a claim sounds not only insincere, but poses grave dangers to a politician’s loyalty to his or her constituents.

The media, the press and TV, has reported Benazir saying that she fails to understand why Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif wish to boycott the forthcoming elections. It is ironic that Benazir would make such a statement. Since I (like millions) can easily hear and understand what is being said and why it is being said, let me have the privilege to enlighten Benazir on the subject.

Boycotting the elections is intended to deny legitimacy to the president for another five-year term of office. We are all aware of the fact that the presidential election by the outgoing assemblies was unethically, immorally and illegally staged and managed by the incumbent political establishment. It has also become quite evident now that the present political establishment in Islamabad and in the rest of Pakistan has become a political liability for this nation. The president has lost the nation’s confidence and is now an unpopular and an unacceptable political figure. Since he refuses to relinquish office, boycotting the elections will expedite his departure from the political scene.

“It must be made plan to Musharraf,” wrote an eminent columnist recently, “that when a political leader becomes part of the problem, it is time for him to make a dignified exit and let his people reassemble their lives and rebuild their civil society.” The nation’s desire to rebuild their civil society along democratic lines is the precise message intended in the Imran-Nawaz movement to boycott elections. Further legitimacy to the president, even without uniform, runs contrary to the democratic norms and immorally justifies a pseudo-democratic dispensation in the country.

My question to the former prime minister is: What is it that you have failed to comprehend about this intended election boycott? Is your lack of understanding a deliberate act of political craftsmanship aimed at some hidden personal agenda? Indeed, you must be aware that rumors of a recent meeting between you and the president are ripe on the grapevine. You need to clear the air over doubts of your personal political integrity -- at once!

Boycotting the elections is about reinstating the Chief Justice of Pakistan and other judges of the apex courts. But above and beyond that, it is about restoring the integrity of the constitution and giving the judiciary back its dignity, honor and respect in a civilized democratic system. If such a place is denied to the judiciary before elections, it will stay indefinitely under the shadows of the executive power. Benazir’s claim that everything else will fall into place after the restoration of so-called “democracy” is politically incorrect and an erroneous concept. How Benazir can put the horse before the cart is mind-boggling. How can a structure of true viable democracy be introduced when the head of state is undemocratically placed in office for a five-year tenure by managed political control and a tamed, subdued and compromised judiciary? Does Benazir not see the damaging impact on the entire political process if the incumbent president continues in office for another 5 years -- or the cause-effect relationship in this scenario on the future governance of the nation? How much more “na├»ve” can one be? How much more can one pretend to disregard the basic and essential elements of ground realities? How much more can one repudiate the basic knowledge of political science?

Boycotting the elections is about taking stock of the Musharraf regime’s failure at people’s expectation management. It is about disenfranchising civil society, constitutional violations, growing economic disparity, the nation’s social-psychological exhaustion, and the intended demoralization of the masses by the use of an excessive force mechanism designed to subjugate the citizenry. It is about the emergence of a police state that has become an ugly reality in Pakistan during the last 8 years of this regime’s rule.

Boycotting the elections is about the present political establishment’s absolutely lamentable and disastrous suffering from total perceptual failure in terms of Pakistan’s foreign policy directions and its regrettable perspective on the so-called “War on Terror and Extremism”. It is about “un-sticking” Pakistan from the American connection and restoring dignity and independence to its global and foreign policy and, at the same time, safeguard the nation’s sovereignty from the US’s excessive interference in its internal affairs. In nutshell, it is about replacing Musharraf’s personal foreign policy doctrine with a national global relations agenda, rejecting Pakistan’s army fighting a US war in exchange for dollar payments to its armed forces. Pakistan’s armed forces are not for sale to do contract killing at American behest.

Boycotting the elections is about permanently sending “the khakis” back to the barracks, along with the generals, lock-stock-and-barrel, and rolling-back the army’s influence and stronghold as the economic empire and the political powerhouse that it has become under Musharraf’s endowment. It is to re-orient the Pakistani armed forces and to re-indoctrinate them to the virtual essence of their constitutional oath-taking that stipulates that it is a crime for a member of the armed forces to take part in politics while serving. Let it be said that Pakistan’s army is not a political party and must remain subservient to the civilian political administration. In the near future, Pakistan will have to make a constitutional amendment to place the ultimate command of the armed forces in the hands of a civilian-elected head of the government (as the US president is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces). Given the history of the generals’ interventions in politics, the amendment will have to specify that armed forces personnel will be barred from contesting head-of-state elections.

Boycotting the elections is about according due respect and an appropriate role to the media in strengthening the democratic process and in promoting the institutional democratic structure in the country by constant vigilance over the functioning of the state apparatus and the overall performance evaluation of the political system. It must be stated that it was an undignified claim for the president to make that “I” gave freedom to the media. Freedom of expression is an inalienable right of the people – it is not something to be given. Boycotting the elections is about proving the fact that it was the journalists themselves who earned this freedom by their diligent professional expertise and a full-fledged commitment to understanding democratic values and processes.

Boycotting elections is about burying once-and-for-all the “doctrine of necessity” and putting an ultimate end to a one-man rule in Pakistan.

My question is: What is it that Benazir cannot understand about any of this?

1 comment: said...

Boycott: a solo flight for the dictator

It is again an intense time in the history of the country, not only in political terms but also in social, psychological and institutional arenas, the same as this country has been facing each time a dictator comes into “play” with all the knives sharpened, with all the “khakis on his back, and with all the “interest seekers” in “control”.

The question raised here is the same raised several times before, and the consequences discussed here have always been there in the entire history of this nation.

Mr. Mehdi, its not about the stories its about the ground realities and facts that the country is passing through.

The emphasis on boycotting elections seems the emphasis on giving once more a solo flight to those who have enjoyed these opportunities.

The emphasis on boycotting elections seems an emphasis for another five years full of social and psychological destruction and disorder of the common man.

The emphasis on boycotting elections seems an emphasis on snatching the “Rooti, Kapra and Makan” for another five years from the already deprived people.

The emphasis on boycotting elections seems an emphasis on rewriting the fate of the nation for another five years to stay wounded, kidnapped, mollified, and silent.

The emphasis on boycotting elections seems an emphasis on giving room for further insurgencies, bloodshed and violations at borders resulted and strengthened by political and social deprivations across the country.

Mr. Mehdi, I wonder if someone asks you about those boycotting the elections, why were they at the mainstream in 2002, how will you satisfy them?

If someone ask you about raising a voice for a Chief Justice who had taken oath under PCO in 2000 and is now facing the net result of presenting loyalties to a dictator, what will you answer?

If someone asks you about raising voice for the freedom of media and the “grazing” of civil society in the entire world behind donors in the name of development and prosperity, who welcomed a dictator and presented their loyalties for allowing them “speak and hunt around” freely, what will you tell them?

Mr. Mehdi,
Its about giving place to the common man, to express his/her will as freely as possible.

Its about confronting the dictator by participating in the same game he has prepared for himself and his “fellows”.

Its about giving a room for expression to those who have been pushed to the wall and have been compelled to raise arms against their own country and countrymen.

Its about an optimist look at future where there will be prosperity and development in the true since the people of the country have ever dreamt of.

And its about restoring the constitutional norms in a peaceful and democratic way.

Who so ever has the courage, will urge to participate, and who so have the fear, will search around for other avenues.

Bekhatar Kood para aatash-e-namrood me ishq,
Aqal ha mehv-e-tamashai-lab-o-bam abhi.