There are things that you do and there are things that you don’t do. But, if you end up doing what you should not, it casts aspersions on your person and your ability to understand and assimilate the requirements of the occasion as also the implications of your indulgences.
The opposition’s rowdy and belligerent behaviour on the occasion of the President’s address before the joint session of parliament is a classic example of where and how we go wrong. The manner in which the session was constantly disrupted by hurling lewd remarks, abusive sloganeering and turning parliament house into a battle zone is not associated with civilised societies.
Even protest, if that was the purpose, has an order of its own which delineates the limits not to be transgressed. There was neither any democracy about this raucous behaviour nor any decency. It was a gross and un-parliamentary conduct culminating in a noisy walk-out by the opposition, stamping a palpable loss of dignity.
This was not the first time and may not be the last one for seeing such level of hooliganism. I say so because the core cause of this politics of agitation is not going to be remedied which is none other than bartering a clean escape from the process of accountability. This is the sole reason for constantly chastising the government and resorting to disruptive and violent tactics, both inside and outside parliament, to exert pressure on the prime minister to grant immunity from prosecution. In trying to do so, the opposition movement has only fractured itself. Today, it presents a picture of utter disunity. With the PDM having come apart, its constituent units are now busy hurling serious accusations at each other.
In Pakistan, the ruling elite and members of the privileged communities have been accustomed to a life beyond the pale of law. They believe that they are law onto themselves and nobody dare touch them. Having taken root with time, the tradition was aggressively patronised during the Bhutto and Sharif dynasties which enacted laws and manipulated institutions to escape the clutches of accountability. In the process, they injected a high level of dysfunction in the working of the state which was rendered dependent on the whims of the rulers instead of the diktat of the constitution and the injunctions of the legal process.
Everything became a hostage in the hands of the beneficiary elite as one set of looters was succeeded by the next. If they could, they would have continued taking turns in the annals of power, inventing ever more Machiavellian methods and parenting ever more malevolent techniques to continue the spree of stripping the state of its assets.
Casting a cursory glance at their conduct through their years in power is enough to gauge the excessively poor stock they are made of. They were never interested in building schools or centres of learning. They were not interested in improving health facilities, or providing affordable electricity and housing. They never invested in building and empowering institutions that would bring renown to the state. Instead, they corrupted them so that they could be easily subverted to advance their personalised interests. They were only attracted to the cosmetic. Laying solid foundations was not their concern with most of their projects ending with wobbly and crumbling structures. Number, size and volume were important benchmarks of achievement. Quality was not.
The disdain they displayed for the institutions was never a secret. Some were rendered dysfunctional by reducing them to the charge of corrupt and incompetent people and others were subdued through physical assaults. Judges were bought to secure desirable verdicts and journalists for propagating them. Nothing was spared the ravages of corruption. It was like the whole edifice would crash at the slightest nudging. They stashed their wealth abroad. They have properties abroad. They have flourishing businesses abroad. They have families abroad. They have no stakes in their own country where they come only to walk into the alleys of power to scavenge it further of its promise.
Now that some real-time investment is being made in building institutions to ensure the welfare of the people, they feel that their political end may be near. Appropriately, they are resorting to the vilest of tricks to upstage the government. In the courts, they employ delaying tactics. They are ambivalent in answering queries about their corruption but ransack the office of the bureau. In parliament, they use abusive language to subvert the proceedings, and hurl invectives at state functionaries. Appearing in public or on television, they lie incessantly and unashamedly to project a fabricated picture of their achievements and intentions. They neither did anything good themselves, nor will they let others do so. They have frozen minds which are rooted in evil. They cannot break the vicious logjam.
But compromise is not an option at this stage. After a lot of effort, the government is on track to make the system functional. The bureaucracy is yet to be harnessed, but there is no room for giving in to their intimidation or provocation. The battle will be won through display of courage and perseverance. No escapades should be left open for these charlatans who are perched on the verge. They need a final push to be cast to oblivion.
The desperation they showed at the joint session reflects that they have lost hope and are hell-bent on igniting the fire. The government should not be provoked into the trap and must carry on unhindered in the work it is in the process of accomplishing. This must go on till it brings relief for the marginalised and impoverished who survive on the fringes of life. The state is indebted to their sacrifices. If they prosper, the state will prosper. Conversely, the state is doomed.
An epic battle is waging between the conglomerate of looters and plunderers on the one side and those who are trying to save the tottering edifice by institutionalising the system; between those who usurped the rights of the people and those who are sensitising them; between those who are consumed by their lust for self-advancement and those who are committed to public welfare; between those who are enamoured by unremitting greed and those who are waging a struggle to weed the scourge out; between the perpetuators of yesteryears and those who are showing the path to tomorrow. The choice was never more clear than now and the future never more radiant than now. The challenge is for everyone to pool in with their bit to steer the ship away from harm’s way.
The writer is the special assistant to the PM on information, a political and security strategist, and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute.