Prevent drift towards anarchy | Talat Masood

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The present national picture is disconcerting as on every major issue institutions are pulling in opposite directions and there is lack of coherence and unity. Provinces, too, are pulling in different directions and a feeling of general waywardness is all around. Street politics will only add to the prevailing confusion. The main focus of top leaders is on name-calling and hardly any discussion on major issues is taking place. This trend could be very damaging in the national interest, especially when viewed in the backdrop of the internal challenge of terrorism and highly tense relations with India and Afghanistan. The army has an equally critical role in national course correction.

Although the fight against militancy has been fairly successful, it is years away from being over. A new danger lurks large due to the reported presence of the IS in Pakistan. The recent killings of Taliban members in K-P, apparently by the Islamic State is a demonstration of this emerging reality.

Moreover, it should not be overlooked that Pakistan is a nuclear power and the world expects responsible behaviour. Taking impulsive decisions in the backdrop of deep divisions between the top civilian leadership and military high command will be viewed with deep concern internationally.

Keeping the pressure on the government is what the opposition is supposed to do. The forum for this is supposed to be parliament. Public meetings on certain special occasions are fine but cannot be the main political activity. Street politics will only create more confusion and less substance. This will promote waywardness and chaos that this country can ill afford. It is also the responsibility of the political leaders to delve on issues. Merely parroting a one-point agenda whether it is corruption or any other will not achieve the desired results. It seems our political parties have run out of intellectual capital to address or converse on serious national issues especially as they relate to security, foreign affairs and the economy. Generally, our leaders begin their speeches in public with a quotation from the Holy Quran or Hadith but quickly drift into calling names and mean discourse depicting their worst face.

Indeed, what have really held back Pakistanis are a corrupt state and a society that is complacent and they are unable to actualise their potential and realise their ambition! All the power is concentrated and exercised by an elite that has scant interest in the welfare of the poor. They continue to raise issues that only appeal to their group or political class. It is therefore clear that unless power passes in the hands of ordinary people and the nature of political discourse changes nothing is going to change. Whereas elections will help in the transformation provided the monopoly of a few families that dominate politics is broken. These elites are so entrenched that despite their failures it becomes difficult to remove them. With their hold so pervasive it will only be possible provided a sustained movement of the civil society is launched. This should be accompanied by genuine democratisation of political parties through reform and internal pressure.

Highest priority should be given to defuse the current crisis and for this the prime minister should invite the COAS and take measures to allay the fears of the military leadership. Both sides should refrain from issuing statements and side stepping from normal rules of official business. As regards restoring the supremacy of the civilian government and the dejure authority of the prime minister much would depend on the performance of the civilian government. Recent history of civil-military relations in Turkey and Indonesia shows that as the performance of the civilian government improved it was able to assert itself by winning over the confidence of the people. It is then in a position to reclaim its constitutional position and restore the civil-military balance.

The present national picture is disconcerting as on every major issue institutions are pulling in opposite directions and there is lack of coherence and unity. Provinces, too, are pulling in different directions and a feeling of general waywardness is all around. Street politics will only add to the prevailing confusion. The main focus of top leaders is on name-calling and hardly any discussion on major issues is taking place. This trend could be very damaging in the national interest, especially when viewed in the backdrop of the internal challenge of terrorism and highly tense relations with India and Afghanistan. The army has an equally critical role in national course correction.

Although the fight against militancy has been fairly successful, it is years away from being over. A new danger lurks large due to the reported presence of the IS in Pakistan. The recent killings of Taliban members in K-P, apparently by the Islamic State is a demonstration of this emerging reality.

Moreover, it should not be overlooked that Pakistan is a nuclear power and the world expects responsible behaviour. Taking impulsive decisions in the backdrop of deep divisions between the top civilian leadership and military high command will be viewed with deep concern internationally.

Keeping the pressure on the government is what the opposition is supposed to do. The forum for this is supposed to be parliament. Public meetings on certain special occasions are fine but cannot be the main political activity. Street politics will only create more confusion and less substance. This will promote waywardness and chaos that this country can ill afford. It is also the responsibility of the political leaders to delve on issues. Merely parroting a one-point agenda whether it is corruption or any other will not achieve the desired results. It seems our political parties have run out of intellectual capital to address or converse on serious national issues especially as they relate to security, foreign affairs and the economy. Generally, our leaders begin their speeches in public with a quotation from the Holy Quran or Hadith but quickly drift into calling names and mean discourse depicting their worst face.

Indeed, what have really held back Pakistanis are a corrupt state and a society that is complacent and they are unable to actualise their potential and realise their ambition! All the power is concentrated and exercised by an elite that has scant interest in the welfare of the poor. They continue to raise issues that only appeal to their group or political class. It is therefore clear that unless power passes in the hands of ordinary people and the nature of political discourse changes nothing is going to change. Whereas elections will help in the transformation provided the monopoly of a few families that dominate politics is broken. These elites are so entrenched that despite their failures it becomes difficult to remove them. With their hold so pervasive it will only be possible provided a sustained movement of the civil society is launched. This should be accompanied by genuine democratisation of political parties through reform and internal pressure.

Highest priority should be given to defuse the current crisis and for this the prime minister should invite the COAS and take measures to allay the fears of the military leadership. Both sides should refrain from issuing statements and side stepping from normal rules of official business. As regards restoring the supremacy of the civilian government and the dejure authority of the prime minister much would depend on the performance of the civilian government. Recent history of civil-military relations in Turkey and Indonesia shows that as the performance of the civilian government improved it was able to assert itself by winning over the confidence of the people. It is then in a position to reclaim its constitutional position and restore the civil-military balance.