Bangla Monday, September 21, 2020

Opposition parties’ obstructionism is a threat to Pakistan

COLUMN-ENG-12-08-2020

Pakistan is supposedly a parliamentary democracy and a federation. But the rules of functioning for such a set-up have never been understood or applied by the rulers. From the very beginning, personal, family and group interests have shaped the thinking of political leaders. Parties have been created to be a tool to serve the interest of families and groups rather than the masses.

With feudals becoming industrialists and individuals becoming feudals, both have entered politics with a vengeance to maintain the status quo. They control governance at the cost of the masses. This is one of the reasons why the Pakistan Army has found it necessary to interfere several times. The army feared that the country might break up due to political machinations. With the result, half of Pakistan’s existence has been under military rule. Naturally this has done nothing to promote democratic ideas and democratic governance. 

Even after more than 70 years as an independent country the situation has not changed. Political parties in Pakistan are more of a vehicle to promote the interest of certain families and groups together with their hangers-on than an instrument to serve the interest of the nation regardless of political differences. It can even be said that most rulers do not recognize the nation as such, because recognition would imply that all members of that nation are equal, have equal rights and have to be respected. Unfortunately, all political parties, including the ruling party, seem to be of the same mentality. 

The current multiple crisis in Pakistan, including the COVID-19 pandemic, has become severe because of the weakness of Pakistan’s political system and its main players. The situation demands maximum of solidarity. But political players are using the opportunity to make the incumbent government unstable by boycotting implementation of its measures to the detriment of the people and the economy. The basic idea appears to be to escape accountability. 

The economic fallout of the corona crisis has meant the decline of industry and agriculture. There has been much loss of income for millions of people. Therein lies a great danger to the country. The disruption of industries and agriculture through the disruption of supply lines can promote the decline of more industries. There would more unemployment. 

With half of the population beneath or close to the poverty line already, Pakistan is especially vulnerable. Provision of food to the needy is essential for their survival. In case of failure, food riots, attacks on grocery shops or food depots by desperate people or criminals can endanger law and order and bring about a state of emergency or even martial law. Preventing this is the duty of each and every citizen of Pakistan. Whosoever is caught red-handed while trying to obstruct orderly supplies, has to be punished. 

In Sindh, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) prevented the movement of cargo despite the fact that lockdown had been lifted for goods transportation. Through a lockdown decreed by it, the Sindh government was simply playing politics to defame Prime Minister Imran Khan. The media is also supporting the malfunctioning of supply lines. The PPP proudly announces that it has suspended all unnecessary political activities but what about necessary ones? 

In Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League and his cohorts are more interested in proving that the incumbent government is incapable of running the show than in facilitating proper supplies to people and industries. Even if the Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf government is making mistakes, it is in the national interest not to extract political mileage from these mistakes. The greater good of the Pakistani nation should be kept in view always.

However, it is also necessary for the ruling coalition to reach out to the opposition so as to include them in the planning and decision-making process. This would help bring about a national front. The country cannot be held hostage to the greed of individuals or groups. 

One of the greatest incongruities was to see Bilawal Bhutto demanding the resignation of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief. I have a soft corner for Bilawal personally because of Ms Benazir Bhutto, but this man does not know the extent of his father’s corruption and what he has done to Pakistan. Bilawal is either naïve or is a hypocrite, or both. Emasculating the NAB is a means by which corrupt politicians save themselves from conviction. Prime Minister Imran Khan must not let this happen. It is ironical that the opposition tried to link the removal of 34 out of 38 NAB clauses by linking it to the FATF Bill, the very instrument meant for preventing money-laundering. One hopes that Western countries which give refuge to ill-gotten loot from Pakistan will act in a less hypocritical fashion. Pakistan has been looted by its leaders. These must be taken to task.

A German court which recently rejected the complaint of a citizen about the violation of his proprietorial rights had ruled that in such extraordinary times the interest of the community is more important than any individual right. This is the basis on which civil rights like that of congregation have been curtailed all over Europe. Infringement of emergency rules has been made a criminal offence with monetary and even jail sentences applied. That sounds harsh but it is the need of the hour. If other countries can do it, it should not be impossible for Pakistan.

Implementation of law and order is essential to keep control in the situation. Responsibility for keeping control is with all. A crisis is not only a drawback but a challenge that can forge new alliances and create new understandings. Let’s not allow this opportunity to pass.

 

 (The writer is a defence and security analyst)