Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Funhouse Of Pakistani Politics!

On Martyr Day, General Kayani made one of the most politically correct speeches that I’ve heard in a long time. Traditionally, the people of Pakistan have been accustomed to long-winded, hoarsely shouted tirades, spiced with a healthy sprinkling of wild gesticulations instead of quietly conveyed sincerity. In his short speech, the General had much to say. One of the points he wanted to drive home was that all institutions should accept their constitutional limits and work within them. This has been one of the most consistent problems in Pakistan -- and ironically, no one has been guiltier of this than the army. But that doesn’t mean that his words aren’t a true reflection of the bigger canvas of Pakistani politics.

The problem is that there is an inherent distrust of governmental institutions. Our political leaders’ every decision is made within a funhouse of smoke and mirrors. Case in point: the Supreme Court ruling against the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani. Even though the whole process was done according to the Pakistani Constitution, the opposition took it upon themselves to throw as many tantrums as were possible. PML-N went as far as to disrupt the proceedings of the National Assembly on a historic day in Pakistani history. On the day that the resolution for the Saraiki province was passed, the honorable opposition took to shouting slogans, flying paper airplanes and making confetti out of the agenda. People have the right to protest and differ on decisions, but there are ways to do it while preserving the sanctity of higher offices.

The Prime Minister has accepted the decision of the Court, and will be exercising due process by filing appeals. The reality of the matter is that the time it takes to exhaust all appeals is approximately six months. Even if Gilani decides to step down and new elections are held at that time, PPP will technically have completed a full term in office. So, basically, no harm, no foul. The fact still remains that Gilani stated he would step down from office if convicted, and yet, refuses even to consider the option at this time. Is it because there was no word of his son's involvement in the ephedrine quota allotment case at the time of his statement?

It might also be in the best interest of Nawaz-led PML-N if PPP stays in power till the end of its term. The more the elections are delayed, the more time PML-N has to establish votes in areas other than Central Punjab. With Punjab on the verge of division, its loyalty is becoming less of a sure thing for Sharif, and he needs to ally his party with voters and organizations outside the province. For this, he needs time. According to an article in the Tribune, PML-N also feels that with more time, the country will be further disillusioned with PPP, and hopes that the fervor surrounding Imran Khan’s PTI will die down.

Keeping up with the theme of corruption, the more members in the National Assembly and Provincial Assembly that each party has, the more funds allotted to them for “developmental purposes” and the more money siphoned off to election funds. So, Nawaz would never jeopardize reducing the number of his seats in the government by bringing about premature elections, especially with him being unsure of his constituents. Contrary to popular belief, he is much smarter than that. So, in essence, all his grandstanding against the PPP is mostly showmanship and signifies nothing. More smoke and mirrors.

I feel that all governments elected democratically should be held to a higher standard. We should demand more and demand better. Resentment is a natural emotion when there is such a disparity between the standards of living of the citizens and the public servant who represents them.

To Mr. Gilani, I say this: Be a man and do the honorable thing. Step down and be respectful to the esteem of the office you hold, but no longer deserve. As far as reputation goes, he has not been much more than a mediocre politician at best. We never expect a career worthy of legend and song from our elected officials, but an occasional spark of political genius during his tenure would have been appreciated. He had four years to prove himself. This is a lifetime as far as the world of politics goes in our corner of the world, and all he offered was a lackluster excuse of leadership. He will get more respect for stepping down and becoming a “political martyr”  than he will ever get for completing his term. Sometimes the fault, Mr Gilani, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Accept it!

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