Articles by Civil Servants of Pakistan
Many a times we see articles written by serving or retired civil servants in national and international news dailies. The purpose of this thread is to collect as many of these articles at one place as we can. These articles usually provide an insight into the working of various civil services along with an expert opinion on the topic they are written on thus a very interesting read for CSPs, qualifiers and aspirants alike. I hope members will make valuable contributions to this exclusive thread. I am starting off with Zafar Hilaly's article published in today's Daily Times.
Friday, December 17, 2010
COMMENT: Corruption and democracy —Zafar Hilaly
The starting pay for an Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer in 1936 was Rs 450-500 a month, which was exactly what we, in the Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP)/Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP), were paid 30 years later
“Among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist,” said Edmund Burke. Had he lived to see India, Italy or for that matter present-day Pakistan in action he may have changed his mind. Democracy is thriving in both India and Italy, and for the moment in Pakistan, and so is corruption.
At one time in Italy more than a third of an outgoing parliament and numerous government departments were under investigation for everything from bribery to links with the Mafia, yet democracy continued to flourish. When the immunity of former Prime Minister Benedetto Craxi was lifted in 1992, a hail of coins were showered on him as he walked home, which was the old Roman way of expressing disgust at thieves who were paraded through Rome in disgrace. Corruption thrived during his term thanks to the trail that he blazed but nevertheless democracy was not endangered. Similarly today corruption charges against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are legion; the Italian economy is in meltdown as Berlusconi frolics with nymphets, but democracy is not in peril.
In India, as the economy grows by leaps and bounds, so do scandals. The latest is estimated to have cost a mind boggling $ 43 billion loss in government revenues; petty corruption is rife; many elected representatives carry criminal indictments; parliament has become dysfunctional as a result of the opposition tactics, but once again there is no talk of doing away with democracy.
On the other hand in Pakistan because corruption is endemic, a return to dictatorship is considered very much on the cards; some even pine for it. Why?
It cannot be because profits are fudged, tax returns missing and as much as half, if not more, of the moneys allotted to a project are set aside for kickbacks. Similar thieving exists in the other two democracies.
Nor are our politicians especially corrupt because, as everyone knows, it is as absurd to expect a politician to be honest as it is to expect an honest burglar. Besides, as the Musharraf years demonstrated, politicians are not the only thieves. He and his prime minister walked off with the entire Toshakhana (treasure-house) after changing the laws. Even in Italy the authorities are open to a ‘bargain’. Ask any Pakistani immigrant with document problems in Milan. And it is also not because the Pakistani police are uniquely inefficient. The detection rate for crimes committed is proportionately not much different than in India or Italy.
Rather, it has everything to do with the fact that while in Italy, and perhaps India, the chances are that when caught the guilty will be punished, in Pakistan the rich and the well connected can hope to get away. To dilate: it is not only the way the legal system operates but also the quality of the judges and vitally, the character of the magistrates. In Italy judges and magistrates have by and large an impeccable reputation. Italian judges are fashioned in the Jacobin mould. In other words, they act as the battering ram of social change, they are resilient, they thirst for justice and the truth and have a disdain for all other considerations including the sluggishness of the law. While they are un-elected, they are not apolitical. As agents of social change they have to be political, not in the sense of belonging to political parties but being responsive to the deep desire of the people to hold a common thief as much as a tycoon and the political class accountable.
The other reason why in Italy at least the battle against corruption is being won is that government employees get a liveable wage. While their salaries are not big, the job is ‘like gold dust, a meal ticket for life’. They also get an extraordinary number of privileges.
I recall asking Dr Mahathir Mohammed how Malaysia had managed to acquire a better reputation than most when it came to corruption in the bureaucracy. He replied that he had pegged the salary of his top civil servants to those of their western counterparts. It might sound like a lot, he said, but when you pay someone a handsome salary he develops a loyalty to his organisation and his job. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, a bigger success story, had done it earlier, setting the trend for Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir was right. I recall having to stay in a cheap hotel in downtown Chicago on account of the pitifully meagre allowance given to officers. In the neighbouring room was a drug addict seemingly awaiting a delayed delivery of cocaine and going spare while doing so and in the other, an abusive husband pummelling his wife. Meanwhile, on the street were a dozen teenagers looking for someone to rob. I would have gladly sold all the secrets I possessed to escape the next few hours, which were spent stacking the sofa against the door to prevent a break in.
Similarly, I recall my pay as a second secretary in our embassy in Prague in 1971, being half of that of the driver of the Danish Ambassador and the concern shown for our welfare by Islamabad was even less than that shown for the driver by his employer, judging by the fur coat he was wearing and the contented smile on his face.
One has no idea how salaries were calculated in Pakistan but those doing so must have been terrible at maths. The starting pay for an Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer in 1936 was Rs 450-500 a month, which was exactly what we, in the Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP) or Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP), were paid 30 years later. On his salary my father was able to keep a stable of horses, maintain a car and travel every week to Calcutta and pay his losses at bridge, which must have been considerable as he was hopeless at it. All we could afford was a weekly dinner at the local Gymkhana. A Bengali roommate treated himself to half a dozen coconuts instead. Others went cap in hand to better off family members.
Denied judges attuned to the wants of society, a liveable wage and a decent shot at life, is it any wonder that corruption and inefficiency abound in Pakistan? Sick of waiting for the saviour on a white horse to rescue them, the people will settle for one on a nag by the looks of it. Good judges/justice and a decent wage is all that they want. Liberty, democracy and the absence of corruption is icing on the cake.
The writer is a former ambassador. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thanx for starting this useful thread. This will help out the future bureaucrats to shape their ideas not only in the exams but in the practical life too. The long experience of the civil servants of Pakistan will be of great help for all of us.
Here i am going to share an article by one my most favorite CSP Tariq fatmi.
Exposure and duplicity
FOR Pakistan`s suffering citizens, for decades denied their fundamental human rights and deprived of most worldly pleasures, any entertainment — no matter how vicarious — is eagerly sought.
Consequently, the recent WikiLeaks disclosures have been seized upon, for they go far beyond exposing human foibles. The common man, who has scant respect for the ruling elite and suspects it of all kinds of misdemeanours, finds in these cables both confirmation of his worst fears as well as some explanations for the country`s ills.
To the initiated, there is little that is shocking. Nevertheless, the depths to which the privileged are willing to stoop to achieve their personal gains constitute the nation`s horror story. Yet the story is not without its share of the farcical, and this comes from the reaction of those caught out in their chicanery and duplicity.
Some, like the honourable prime minister, have claimed that this is fake information and need not be taken seriously. Others have taken refuge behind the much abused pretext that they constitute a conspiracy against Pakistan (or even better, against Islam). These are dishonest observations that bear little relevance to reality, as anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the workings of diplomacy would know.
A diplomat`s primary responsibility is to meet every one who matters in the country of accreditation and to report on all developments, so as to enable his or her Foreign Office to advise the political leadership accordingly. This explains why there are both written rules and unwritten conventions that seek to regulate contacts with foreign diplomats within clearly understood boundaries. Consequently most countries, especially developed ones, discourage foreign ambassadors from frequent interaction, except when required for official business and according to some degree of reciprocity.
Pakistan`s track record has, however, been abysmal. Our `hospitality` borders on the ridiculous, with even heads of state and chief executives priding themselves on the frequency of their exchanges with foreign diplomats. More often than not, these meetings are used to bare their souls and discuss the country`s secrets, either to promote their personal agenda or to ridicule their political rivals.
While it is easy to criticise the current cast of characters strutting across the political landscape, the fact is that 200 years of British colonial rule have left an indelible imprint on us all. This is evident in our servility before the powerful and our contempt for the weak. This has become our second nature, especially among those from the feudal classes, which accounts for the eagerness with which our leaders demonstrate their subservience to the Americans and obeisance to Arab rulers.
Other than prime ministers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif, few can claim to have withstood external pressures. It is doubly sad therefore that Bhutto`s political heir should have confided in the US ambassador that with a mere phone call, he had ensured that Pakistan did not “oppose the US-India civil nuclear deal at the nuclear suppliers meeting”.
Even Benazir Bhutto`s success in the 1988 general elections would not necessarily have translated into the assumption of office without Washington`s forceful intervention. Recall that two US special envoys were dispatched to Islamabad to `assure` the then president and army chief that she would not disturb the existing arrangement. Not surprisingly, the US ambassador became such a dominant player in the country`s political life that he enjoyed the sobriquet of `viceroy`.
It is also a fact that Benazir Bhutto was totally trusting of American friends who would not only be present in official meetings but be made privy to state secrets. Lest the reader have any doubt about the veracity of this claim, former ambassador Marker`s book Quiet Diplomacy is recommended.
Yet nothing can match the servility demonstrated by the general-president Musharraf, who was brazen enough to seize power from an elected prime minister. Nevertheless, he was so diffident in his dealings with the US that in one phone call from the then secretary of state Colin Powell in the wake of 9/11, he agreed readily to the most onerous US demands without even the pretence of consulting his confidants. And it was to assistant secretary Boucher (a mere joint secretary) that both Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf turned to in order to finalise their political understanding.
Not surprisingly, the WikiLeaks exposure has led to calls for fresh rules to be drafted to prevent such occurrences. However, we already have enough of these. What is required is a change in the mindset of our rulers. They must learn to trust their own people and recognise that their sworn responsibility is to promote and protect the national interest, rather than their own or that of a foreign benefactor.
As a former career diplomat, it is not pleasing to see diplomacy`s primary instrument —accurate reporting and intelligent assessment — coming under such massive assault. This is likely to inhibit diplomats from being totally honest in their reporting and guarded in their observations. Nevertheless, the revealed information should constitute a treasure trove for research scholars and political scientists.
While the leaked cables have caused deep embarrassment in many world capitals, revealing leaders as incompetent, dishonest and corrupt, they also reveal a superpower that does not hesitate to cheat, lie and double-cross its friends. Without compunction, it sanctions torture, kidnaps innocent civilians and sabotages elected governments, all in the name of peace, democracy and human rights.
The cables also confirm the view held by some scholars that though an imperial power, the US appears tired, confused and overstretched, living on borrowed money and failing to uphold its claims of moral superiority. Prof Kennedy had warned of the dangers of this in the mid-1980s, while more recently, historian Alfred McCoy observed that “so delicate is the ecology of power that when things start to go truly bad, empires unravel at unholy speed”. While that may still be far off, no wonder Secretary of State Clinton denounced the leaks as a “criminal act”, while the Republican presidential hopeful Sarah Palin called for the WikiLeaks editor to be hunted down as a criminal.
The writer is a former ambassador.
Life is a tale told by an idiot...
Last edited by Viceroy; Friday, December 17, 2010 at 05:04 PM. Reason: Source added.
The decline of the civil service - Zafar Iqbal
This is a must read article for getting to know the history of civil service in Pakistan and how it was used by politicians for their vested interests through the course of our history.
The decline of the civil service
By Zafar Iqbal
MS Anjum Niaz’s column in Sunday’s Dawn Magazine of April 9, 2006, seems to have incensed Mr Rashid Akhtar of Lahore. As a former member of the civil service I was rather flattered with Mr Akhtar’s observation that “throughout the history of Pakistan, CSP (Civil Service of Pakistan) officers have held sway over almost all the affairs of the country at different levels and positions.”
I wish we had been all that powerful. We might have had a better managed country today. The politicians, the army, the other government services such as the police, the customs, the income tax department etc. are, in Mr Akhtar’s opinion, of no account.
For one thing, the columnist was only talking about the Indian Civil Service. She was obviously kindly disposed towards it as both her father and father-in-law were in the service. From her latest column it appears that she is convinced that the CSP is dead. It is not. But it has been badly mauled by successive governments. The officers still occupy many of the top jobs but the quality of their output has deteriorated. The truth is that they do not really care any more.
The ICS came in three categories: In the first category there were the white men representing Whitehall; they ruled India. In the second category were the Indians who qualified on merit in the examination held in Delhi. In the third category were the quota positions, reserved for Muslims who had passed the examination but were not on the merit list. These were nominated to the ICS.
Pakistan inherited about 85 ICS officers at the time of independence — they largely came from the third category. Before 1947, the ICS comprised the ruling class under British domination. Things changed a bit with the implementation of the Government of India Act of 1935 but not much and not for very long. After 1947, this disappeared and the politicians took control.
Competitive exams for the ICS started around 1858. A merit Home Civil Service for Britain came into being with the Civil Service Act of 1871 and a combined examination was introduced. Before 1919, the people coming out on top tended to opt for the ICS, the others opting for the Home Civil Service. The Montague-Chelmsford reforms discouraged people from coming to India and the people at the top tended to opt, in increasing numbers, for the Home Civil Service. The 1935 Act indicated the coming exit of the British from India and nearly all the top people opted for Home Civil Service.
After 1947, Pandit Nehru retained the ICS now renamed the IAS (Indian Administrative Service) very much in its original form except that policy no longer originated in Whitehall but was decided by the Congress party in New Delhi.
In the beginning, much the same prevailed in Pakistan. We were, however, very short of officers and some lateral entrants were inducted into the CSP from the provincial services, some from the defence services and a few others, probably not more than 20 in all. The balance of the shortage was made up with something called the general administrative reserve plus officers from other services. The final set-up was, however, influenced by the ICS.
The first competition-wallahs for the CSP had appeared for the exam in Delhi in 1947 and after training came into service around 1949-1950. However, the most prominent bureaucrats in the early years were Mr Ghulam Mohammed, Chaudhry Mohammed Ali and Khan Qurban Ali Khan, none of whom were from the ICS. To these, one could perhaps add the names of G. Ahmed, Zahid Husain and M. Shoaib, again none of them from the ICS.
Women were ineligible for the civil service, foreign service or the police. There was another caveat that a candidate who got less than 50 per cent in the viva voce, no matter how well he did in the written exam, was ineligible for the civil and foreign service. All that happened was that those who did better in the CSS exam were considered of superior ability. Not absolutely true but not an entirely inappropriate generalisation. But the CSP, nevertheless, excited a degree of hostility. For instance, horse-riding was pilloried as making them elitist — a completely mistaken impression. The mostly middle-class young men had never encountered a horse before.
In Pakistan, there is a tendency among people to regard themselves as government servants and not public servants. This was true of the Indians in service when the British ruled India. After independence, attitudes changed in India, but with the dismissal of the Nazimuddin government, Pakistan’s nascent democracy was shaken to its roots fairly early. The rear-destruction of democracy in Pakistan was the result of a conspiracy between the governor general, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan army. The army was inducted by Ghulam Mohammed to ensure the success of his political coup. It took over communication facilities to prevent Nazimuddin from making contact with anyone.
Thereafter, everyone became confirmed government servants. What is worse, they felt quite comfortable with this arrangement. This was further strengthened with the declaration of martial law in October 1958 when executive authority was concentrated in the hands of one man, without any checks and balances and, for all practical purposes, independent of public opinion. One of the requirements of the higher civil service is to advise without fear or favour. In order to protect this function they have to be provided protection from arbitrary action by political authority.
Amongst all the services it was the CSP which had most contact with the public; their behaviour was, therefore, important. Entry to the civil service had two components. The first was assured social esteem; the second, an opportunity to perform public service. Unfortunately, it was the first which seduced most of the entrants. Individuals varied in their attitudes but many of them, particularly in the districts, tended to behave like uncrowned monarchs — the greater their sycophancy towards their superiors the more their haughtiness towards the public.
Within the system the problems we face are ethnic prejudice, favouritism, nepotism, patronage and sycophancy. To some extent it is true of all societies, but for various reasons we have all of these in a virulent form. As a result, no nationally accepted version of competence has emerged. It is still substantially influenced by ethnic prejudice and sycophancy. There is, therefore, a great deal to be said for a structured system where the better ones at entry are given preference. In spite of all these problems, we, nevertheless, continued in a not unreasonable fashion, except for the 1965 war and the lunacy of the action in East Pakistan is March 1971, which eventually lead to the succession of Z.A. Bhutto as president and martial law administrator in December 1971.
His rule was a watershed in the government service structure of Pakistan. Theoretically, he levelled the playing field by bringing all the services at par. Their salaries were equalised and for one year they trained together, but thereafter went their separate ways. Since the establishment secretary also hated the CSP it was renamed the DMG (District Management Group). This did not matter all that much.
What did matter were Bhutto’s intentions. He had no interest whatsoever in the concept of “advice without fear or favour.” He simply wanted his desires to be implemented by the system; whatever they might be. He, therefore, changed the entire legal framework within which the services operated. Constitutional protection was withdrawn. The jurisdiction of the courts was replaced by an administrative tribunal under the establishment division.
The rules governing security of service were abolished, and any officer above the rank of joint secretary could be sent home without given a reason. As a matter of fact, it could happen to any officer at any level. This was further compounded by a complete free for all in the matter of promotions. Through this process Mr Bhutto achieved what he wanted. Respected senior officers were forced to become errand boys. I had no experience of this new culture because I was suspended from service in July 1972 for “arrogance, irreverence and impertinence.” Since I had committed no offence, except to annoy Mr Bhutto, nothing could be done, until the rules were changed and a new Constitution enacted. (My dismissal was announced in August 1973 but that is another story).
In the 1977 elections deputy commissioners competed with each other for getting the PPP the maximum number of seats from their respective jurisdictions. In Punjab, the PPP secured 94 per cent of the seats. Where the local administration did not fully cooperate as happened in the other provinces, the commissioners and provincial chief secretaries intervened, to achieve the desired results. Mr Bhutto won a landslide victory.
After 1970, all elections have been managed to obtain pre-arranged results. This is in stark contrast with our eastern neighbour where, in spite of a certain amount of murder and mayhem, elections are reasonably free and fair.
There are many societal and other differences between India and Pakistan. For one thing, the army has been kept out of politics, their higher judiciary is much more independent and their administrative machinery is more committed to political neutrality.
This stands in stark contrast to the slow degradation of the CSP into a group of rather intelligent sycophants.
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Bureaucracy: how the rot set in - Roedad Khan
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Bureaucracy: how the rot set in
The writer is a former federal secretary
Albert Guerard, the fiercely democratic French historian, once exclaimed: "So long as the bureaucrat is at his desk, France survives."
What is it that is holding Pakistan together? Is it the fake democracy? Is it our rubberstamp parliament? Is it the Potemkin political institutions dotting the country? Is it the coercive power of the state? Or, as in France, is it the bureaucrat at his desk who keeps the flag flying?
This is what the Father of the Nation had to say on the role of bureaucrats. "Governments are formed, governments are defeated, prime ministers come and go, ministers come and go, but you stay on. And, therefore, there is a very great responsibility placed on your shoulders. You are the backbone of the state," he remarked in an informal talk with civil servants in Government House, Peshawar, in April 1948. Mr Jinnah's words still ring in my ears.
On the premise that Pakistan would encounter insurmountable problems in setting up the new state in the chaotic conditions that attended partition, it was decided that an official controlling the entire government machinery, working directly under Mr Jinnah, the governor general, was needed for coordination and speedy decisions. Chaudhry Muhammad Ali was appointed secretary general. He was a very able officer with a long experience in the finance department of the Government of India, a man of prodigious energy and hard rightwing views.
By a cabinet resolution, the secretary general was given the right to direct access to all the secretaries and all the files. To reinforce his position, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali set up a "Planning Committee" (as distinct from the Planning Commission, which was to be set up in the mid-1950s), of which secretaries of all the ministries were members.
Through the mechanism of the Planning Committee presided over by the secretary general, the entire state apparatus was able to function as a unified machine under a single head, more or less, independently of the cabinet. The Planning Committee was, in effect, a "parallel cabinet" of civil servants, with the secretary general functioning as "prime minister".
With the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, and the elevation of Ghulam Muhammad to the high office of governor general, the post of secretary general was abolished. As a consequence, while in one respect the power of bureaucracy was consolidated through the governor general, since he was a former bureaucrat, in another respect it was made less effective, as it had now to be mediated through the cabinet. The political leadership now acquired greater significance, for the power of the bureaucracy could not be exercised without the manipulation of the political leadership and occasional confrontation with it.
The political leadership at the Centre resented Ghulam Muhammad's authoritarian methods and resolved to rein him in. In October 1954, proposals were introduced in the Constituent Assembly for the curtailment of the governor general's powers, in particular to abolish the arbitrary powers under the Government of India Act, 1935, which allowed him to dismiss any ministry, even if it enjoyed parliament's confidence.
Before these amendments could take effect, Ghulam Muhammad declared a state of emergency on Oct 4, 1954, dissolved parliament with a nod from the military and assumed full powers. Under the dubious "doctrine of necessity", the governor general's illegal act was given a semblance of legitimacy by a pliant superior judiciary.
Ghulam Muhammad then appointed a new cabinet. Muhammad Ali Bogra became prime minister In place of Khwaja Nazimuddin and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali was asked to carry on as finance minister. And the biggest surprise of all surprises, Gen Ayub Khan became defence minister, although he retained his position of commander-in-chief of the Pakistani army. Defence secretary Iskandar Mirza, Pakistan's eminence grise, became minister of the interior. These individuals, who essentially represented the power of the military-bureaucratic oligarchy, referred to themselves as the "Ministry of All Talents."
Initially, the army was a junior partner, but its power and influence increased rapidly through the 1950s. Ghulam Muhammad then turned to Gen Ayub Khan, asking him to take over power in the name of the army. Ayub Khan declined. He had his own plans and his own timetable and could afford to wait. The rest, as they say, is history.
During the last 62 years, the country has lived in a state of permanent political crisis. Governments rose and fell with dizzy rapidity, some lasting but a few months, and nearly all of them set up and soon overthrown as a result of trivial intrigues in the corridors of power or military interventions. All this weakened the Republic from the beginning and paved the road to disaster.
Amid so much political instability how could the Republic continue to function and its ephemeral governments manage the business of government? What held the country together more than anything else and enabled Pakistan to function tolerably well was the steady hand of the permanent establishment. It comprised various organs, run and staffed by permanent civil servants, which administered the law, the legislation passed by parliament and the acts and services of government. In its strange but steady exertions one can see much of the secret of the solidity and continuity of life in Pakistan despite the toppling of regimes, dictatorships, the execution of an elected prime minister. In the 20th century a good deal of this bureaucracy seemed to be an anachronism, an apparatus musty from age. In reality it was one of the foundations of the Republic.
Elected and unelected rulers would come and go, some of them whiling away much of their time in the West at the tax payer's expense. Parliaments might be suppressed; ministers might spend most of their time in their hometowns, or abroad, the permanent bureaucracy, the officials high and low, the deputy commissioners, the magistrates, the civil and criminal courts, the revenue officers, the lowly clerks, the postmen, the police officers manning the police stations, the engineers and doctors -- they saw to it that the machinery of government ground away.
Taxes were collected, accounts kept, justice dispensed, and public services and civil order for the most part maintained. Honest to a degree unknown or unpractised among the parliamentarians and cabinet ministers, industrious in a plodding sort of way and fairly efficient, possessed of a strong sense of public duty, of a remarkable esprit de corps, and of a pride in their professional code, but also woefully unprogressive and unresponsive to the demands of the evolving society, they were a pillar of the state. Like the French permanent establishment, they saw to it that the business of government got done even in the most chaotic moments.
Once the civil service was the backbone of the state. No longer. Successive governments have reduced public servants to the level of domestic servants. The service we inherited on independence, known for its integrity, objectivity and political neutrality, has over the years been thoroughly mutilated, demoralised, politicised, corrupted and changed beyond recognition, and is now a ghost of its former self.
Not surprisingly, when tragedy struck in the greatest flood in our history, one fifth of the country went under water and millions of people were rendered homeless, there was nobody to look after them. Elected representatives of the people just vanished and were not to be seen anywhere. Civil administration was paralysed.
The lesson of history is that when the dykes of administration crumble, revolutions begin.
Email: email@example.com, www.roedadkhan.com
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Exposed - Asif Ezdi
Monday, December 13, 2010
During the Musharraf dictatorship, much of the most important diplomatic business between Pakistan and the US used to be conducted through telephone calls from Washington and in direct dealings between him and the US ambassador. The main “advantage” of this form of diplomacy for both sides was that Washington got its response promptly, while Musharraf was able to cut out from the decision-making process all but a small band of chosen and faithful advisers, held together and guided solely by a common wish to prolong their hold on power. In one call shortly after 9/11, Colin Powell delivered his famous ultimatum to Musharraf and quickly got his consent.
The coming into office of an elected government in 2008 was supposed to change that. But as the French saying goes plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The people have changed but the way the affairs of state are run has not. That is especially true of the manner in which top-level diplomacy with the US is conducted. As the cables released by Wikileaks confirm, the doors of the Presidency are always open for the US ambassador. Zardari himself meets him frequently or telephones with Washington, sometimes without the knowledge of the Foreign Ministry.
A cable sent by Ambassador Patterson following a meeting with Zardari on January 2, 2009 is both revealing and shocking. It says: “Zardari reminded the ambassador that it had only taken a ‘phone call’ from the US to ensure that Pakistan did not oppose the US-India civil nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.” She was referring to the discussions at the IAEA Board of Governors in July-August 2008 on a safeguards agreement with India which cleared the way for the approval of the India-US nuclear deal by the Nuclear Suppliers Group shortly afterwards.
Pakistan had initially objected to the safeguards agreement but later gave up its opposition under US pressure. Now we know that only a ‘phone call’ from the US had sufficed to produce this turnaround. There is more. The cable goes on to say that “Zardari emphasised he had no problem making decisions, recalling that we had asked him to refuse the release of detainees in the context of ‘peace deals’ [with Islamic militants] when the army and the ISI were pressing to do so.”
It is breathtaking that Zardari was at such pains to assure the US ambassador that he had no qualms about setting aside the advice of the Foreign Ministry or the army when it went against US wishes. A more obsequious act by a person occupying the highest office of state is hard to imagine.
The cables also reveal that Zardari has been talking to the Americans and the Brits on ISI appointments and a “reform” of the agency, codeword for bringing it under civilian control and curtailing its sphere of activity. Most countries would brook no foreign meddling in such matters but Pakistan under its present rulers is an exception. Zardari discussed this matter in November 2008 in a telephone call from Miliband, then the Foreign Secretary of Britain.
While Pakistani political leaders, whether in the government or in the opposition, have been assuring the US ambassador that they could be counted upon to take care of American interests, none of the cables released so far shows that they took up issues of vital national interest to Pakistan such as the US push to “make” India a global power or the denial of civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan. A cable sent by the US ambassador in February 2010 reports on the unhappiness in “Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment” on the US favouring India over Pakistan, most notably by civil nuclear cooperation with India. But our political leaders either have no comprehension of these matters or are so keen for US favours that they do not want to jeopardise it by raising “inconvenient” subjects.
If the Wikileaks cables have unmasked the true face of our rulers, they have also further exposed the duplicity of the Western countries which deny Pakistan access to civilian nuclear technology and regularly berate the country for allowing “terrorism” from its soil while they remain mum on Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir.
The main reason why the US continues to deny civilian nuclear cooperation to Pakistan today is that it does not want to displease India. But Washington has refused to admit it and instead seeks to justify its refusal on grounds of Pakistan’s “proliferation record”. A cable on the meeting between Senator Kerry and Zardari in January this year now implicitly confirms that India has been given a veto over this question. At this meeting, Kerry said that a “necessary condition for the US to consider civilian nuclear assistance to Pakistan” was “Pakistan’s ability to reach a new security arrangement with India”. The message is clear: Pakistan should first get India to withdraw its veto.
Kerry’s remarks are not necessarily official US policy but what he says is important because of his position as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading member of Obama’s political party. Zardari does not seem to have responded to Kerry’s suggestion for a “security arrangement” with India – which brings us to the second main reason why Washington has so far not given any serious consideration to Pakistan’s request for nuclear cooperation: Pakistani leaders have never raised the issue as one of our top priorities or linked it with the topmost US priority vis-à-vis Pakistan, namely getting the country’s cooperation in the war in Afghanistan.
Washington no doubt senses that when Pakistani leaders raise the issue of civilian nuclear cooperation, they do it for much the same reason as they object to drone attacks: to cater to domestic opinion. The real priorities of our rulers, Washington knows, lie elsewhere. As Zardari told Kerry at this meeting, he needed “a deal” with the United States to “strengthen his political position”.
After the revelations made by Wikileaks, the credibility of Pakistan’s political and military leadership and the US government has been eroded further by their lame efforts to question the veracity of the cables. Gilani was easily the most disingenuous when he said that they are “just the views of junior officers” and “are not authentic.” Holbrooke was only slightly less outrageous when he refused to rule out that the cables might have been “doctored.” Similarly, the claim of the ISPR director general that the army has been following a “policy of supporting the political process within the confines of the constitution” will certainly do very little for the credibility of the institution.
If our leadership really wants to win the people’s trust, they should follow the example of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan who has publicly declared that if allegations made against him in a leaked cable are proved, he would resign.
The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Thus are we governed - Roedad Khan
November 10, 2010
Thus are we governed
The Zardari government treats truth as an insignificant value which can be suppressed, distorted and readily sacrifised to the will of power. Every now and then ministers make outrageous statements and spread blatant lies without the slightest regard for truth or principle.
Prime Minister Gilani told journalists recently, “There is no corruption in Pakistan.” Everybody knows this government is corrupt from top to bottom, from the bark to the core. “Talks held with US on equal footing,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Everybody knows this government deals with the US with its “knees on the ground”. Nobody believes a word they say. The time for such stupid remarks is over. Such cruel jokes cannot amuse a country that is prostrate, exhausted, impoverished, humiliated, abandoned and no longer independent.
Today we have a government that is not a government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is a criminal syndicate, an organised crime ring. If you want to know how this cabal plunders this poor country, visit the Supreme Court and watch the proceedings.
The farewell address of George Washington will ever remain an important legacy for small nations like Pakistan. In that notable testament, the Father of the American Republic cautioned that “an attachment of a small or weak toward a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.” “It is folly in one nation,” George Washington observed, “to look for disinterested favours from another...it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character.” No truer words have been spoken on the subject. Pakistan is paying and will continue to pay a very heavy price for the folly of attaching itself to America. In this country democracy is only permissible when the results are favourable to America. Not otherwise.
We lost our independence years ago. The decolonisation of Asia, triggered by the Second World War, led to the retreat of foreign powers and the creation of a number of nation-states, including India and Pakistan, in the region. Of all the de-colonised, newly-independent countries, Pakistan is perhaps the only country which has lost its independence, has been re-colonised and turned into an American colony. Today it is not just a “rentier state”, not just a client state. It is a slave state, ill-led, ill-governed by a power-hungry junta and a puppet government set up by Washington.
“Liberty once lost,” Adams famously told his countrymen, “is perhaps lost forever.” We Pakistanis lost our independence and all our democratic institutions in October 1999 when General Musharraf toppled an elected government. Sadly, Pakistan also lost her honour and became a ‘rentier state’ on Musharraf’s watch when he capitulated, said yes to all the seven demands presented to him at gunpoint by Secretary Colin Powell and joined the “coalition of the coerced”. Regrettably, this situation remains unchanged even though the country is now under a democratic dispensation!
Marx once said: “Neither a nation nor a woman is forgiven for an unguarded hour in which the first adventurer who comes along can sweep them off their feet and possess them.” October 7, 1958 was our unguarded hour when democracy was expunged from the politics of Pakistan with scarcely a protest. The door was opened to Bonapartism. The result is the mess we are in today. Today there is not much independence or democracy left in Pakistan to celebrate.
A lesson to be drawn from the works of Gibbon is that Rome’s enemies lay not outside her borders but within her bosom, and they paved the way for the empire’s decline and fall – first to relentless barbarian invaders from the north, and then, a thousand years later, to the Turks. Many early symptoms that heralded the Roman decline may be seen in our own country today: the ever-present threat of military intervention in the affairs of state, concentration of power in one person without responsibility and accountability, contempt for the constitution and the Supreme Court, absence of rule of law, high-level corruption and greed. Today what is at stake is the survival of the state itself. At this time, all those who see the perils of the future must draw together and take resolute measures to secure our country.
“After joining the coalition of the coerced”, this is what we get: a spurious democracy brokered in Washington, an accidental president facing corruption and criminal charges, a rubber stamp parliament, a figurehead and corrupt prime minister, and to add insult to injury, Zardari regime – a facsimile of the Musharraf regime in civilian clothing. Potemkin villages dotted all over the country, the nation’s army at war with its own people; flagrant violation of our air space and national sovereignty by US aircraft, resulting in the killing of innocent men, women and children. No protest by our “democratic government”, no expression of remorse by our coalition partner in the so-called war on terror, no regret. The state of the federation is chilling. It would stun someone who went to sleep soon after Independence Day in 1947 and awakened in the present.
All philosophers tell the people they are the strongest, and that if they are sent to the slaughterhouse, it is because they have let themselves to be led there. In other countries there are men and women who love their liberties more than they fear persecution. Not in Pakistan. Here the elite who owe everything to this poor country do not think in terms of Pakistan and her honour but of their jobs, their business interests and their seats in a rubber stamp parliament. Surrender rather than sacrifice is the theme of their thoughts and conversations. To such as these talk of resisting foreign intervention is as embarrassing as finding yourself in the wrong clothes at the wrong party, as tactless as a challenge to run to a legless man, as out of place as a bugle call in a mortuary. What is tragic is the total failure of the politicians, the intelligentsia, the intellectuals, infact, the entire civil society to comprehend the threat posed by surging American imperialism to the country’s very existence.
How can authentic democracy flourish in this country when people are not prepared to defend the core values of the nation – sovereignty of the people, inviolability of the constitution, supremacy of civilian rule, a fiercely independent, incorruptible judiciary, rule of law, an independent, incorruptible chief election commissioner, a neutral, non-politicised and honest civil service, social justice, egalitarianism and ruthless accountability of rulers? How can authentic democracy take root if people have no faith in their democratic institutions; if they do not value representative governments; if they are not prepared to make any sacrifices for its sake; if they are unwilling to defend it and if they are unable to do what it requires?
In this atmosphere of gloom and doom, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s act of courage, his defiance of the military dictator, promised a resurrection, a rebirth of the nation. Today he alone is the incarnation of the values for which we are fighting. Rarely, in the history of human endeavour, have so many owed so much to one single, solitary individual. The conspirators who have ganged up against him and the reborn Supreme Court must not succeed.
The writer is a former federal secretary.Email: email@example.com,www.roedadkhan.com
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Last edited by Viceroy; Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 11:17 PM.
A crisis of the system - Roedad Khan
Thursday, July 15, 2010
A crisis of the system
The writer is a former federal secretary.
Just when you thought our situation couldn’t get worse, the Punjab Assembly managed to get it down another notch. All the MPAs, without exception, from one end of the political spectrum to the other, ganged up against the media and unanimously passed a resolution condemning it for exposing fake degree holders! President Zardari and his government are already at war with the Supreme Court and seem determined to defang it. Now, in a rare display of unity, all the political parties closed ranks and were gunning for the media. This is not surprising because no corrupt or authoritarian ruler, elected or un-elected, can afford an independent judiciary or an independent media. No wonder, both are under attack in the democratic Pakistan today.
Freedom of the press is one of the bulwarks of modern civilisation. Newspapers are the cement of democracy. Their freedom from government control, direct or indirect, is essential for a democratic society. Of all the sentries posted by the constitution of a free country to stand guard over its freedoms, the most vigilant is the media. If it is removed, or hoodwinked, or thrown in fetters, arbitrary power and slavery take over. It is then too late to think of preventing or avoiding the impending ruin.
The duty of a journalist “is to obtain the earliest and the most correct intelligence of the events of the times, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation. The press lives by disclosures. It is bound to tell the truth as it finds it, without fear of consequences – to lend no convenient shelter to high-level corruption or acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world”.
The press is, par excellence, the democratic weapon of freedom. News allows people to judge for themselves whether the people they voted into office merit their trust. Honest news is essential to ensuring that people know what their soldiers are doing in Waziristan as much as what their politicians are doing in their boudoirs. News, independently gathered and impartially conveyed, is an indispensable commodity in a society where the people rule themselves. Without the free circulation of news, there could be no free press and without a free press, there can be no free democracy. As Rebecca West put it, people need news for the same reason they need eyes – to see where they are going.
The state of the federation would stun someone who went to sleep in 1948 and awakened in the present. On August 14, 1947, we thought we had found freedom, but it has turned out to be another kind of slavery. The independence of Pakistan is a myth. Pakistan is no longer a free country. Today it is not just a “rentier state”, not just a client state. It is a slave state with a puppet government set up by Washington.
It is torture to live in an unrepublican republic. Today Pakistan, a camouflaged, thinly disguised civilian dictatorship, is a land of opportunities, heaven for a handful few and hell for countless millions of poor people. It is a paradise for gangsters, swindlers, smugglers, tax evaders, fake degree-holders and so on and so forth – all the dregs of humanity.
All the pillars of state, with the exception of the Supreme Court and the media, are dysfunctional. The president, the symbol of the unity of the federation, is totally indifferent to public welfare and is interested only in protecting himself and his ill-gotten wealth. Parliament, the so-called embodiment of the will of the people, is fake like a Potemkin village. It is deaf and blind to the anguished cries rising from the slums of Pakistan – Misery! Give us bread! Give us drinking water! Give us light! Give us the right to live! Its “stunning” performance fascinates only a few enlightened souls; whereas nine out of ten Pakistanis are totally indifferent and unaware of its existence. Quite a few members of this august body are fake degree holders. They concealed the truth, misrepresented their qualifications and managed to enter parliament through shameless, blatant lies and deceitful means. Instead of masquerading as chosen representatives of the people, they should all be tried and sent to prison.
We have a disjointed, dysfunctional, lopsided, hybrid, artificial, corrupt political system – a non-sovereign rubber stamp parliament, a weak and ineffective prime minister, the epitome of self-satisfied mediocrity, who changes his public statements as often as he changes his designer suites. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is rudderless and sliding into darkness. It is like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can’t stretch out your hand to prevent them. Such is the feeling conjured up by the corrupt rulers of Pakistan as it enters a period of great uncertainty and sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire.
There are periods in history which are characterised by a loss of sense of values. The times we live in are preeminently such an age. If you want to see a free nation stifled by inept, corrupt rulers, through its own apathy and folly, visit Pakistan. The great French thinker, Montesquieu, said in the 18th century: “The tyranny of a Prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy”. An irresponsible inept, corrupt, government is the inevitable consequence of an indifferent electorate. Politics will never be cleaner in this country, unless and until citizens are willing to give of themselves to the land to which they owe everything”. Today apathy is the real enemy. Silence is its accomplice. “The thing necessary,” Edmund Burke once said, “for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing”.
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” Jefferson wrote in 1787. If a referendum on this question were held in Pakistan today, millions of Pakistanis would, I am sure, opt for a free, independent media.
Both the government and the opposition have declared war on the media. This is an alarm call of the most compelling time and is ominous. The fear of conspiracy against the independent judiciary and independent media hangs heavy in the air. Our history can show no precedent for so foul a plot as that which the corrupt politicians of Pakistan have hatched against the two pillars of state.
It is time to turn the page. The time to hesitate is through. This is a moment of great hope for Pakistan. Don’t let it turn into a national nightmare. In this transcendent struggle of the Supreme Court and the media against fake democracy, neutrality is not an option. You’re either with the people or against them. There is no half-way house. Every citizen must ask himself now: if our core institutions are to survive, if Pakistan is to survive, whether we can afford to let our corrupt rulers remain in power and destroy all our core institutions.
How will this crisis pan out? Either this is a cyclical crisis in the system and it will soon resolve itself, or else it is a crisis of the system and we will soon witness the passage of one epoch to another. Whether the distortions, conflicts and resentments that exist in our society today are peacefully resolved or explode in revolution will be largely determined by two factors: the existence of dynamic democratic institutions able to redress grievances through legislation and the ability of intellectuals to transform a local fire into a nation-wide conflagration and fan the flames of social discontent and transmute specific grievances into a wholesale rejection of the existing order.
One thing is certain. For anything to change in this country, everything has to change.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.roedadkhan.com
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Lessons from a revolution - Roedad Khan
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Lessons from a revolution
On July 3, 1776, one day before the United States came into being, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail: “Yesterday, the greatest question ever debated in America was decided, and a greater one, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among men. A Resolution was passed without one Colony’s dissent ‘that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, and as such they have, and of right ought to have, full power to make war, conclude peace, establish commerce and do all other acts and things which other states may rightfully do’”. On July 4, 1776, the Congress at Philadelphia adopted the historic Declaration of Independence, drafted mainly by Jefferson. It was the expression of the “American mind”. The time to separate from the mother country had arrived. The umbilical cord had to be cut. The die was cast.
When America was engaged in the most just of struggles, that of a people escaping from another people’s yoke, and when it was a question of creating a new nation in the world, outstanding men came forward to lead the country. Three Americans, George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – all conservative members of the colonial elite turned revolutionaries, set the world ablaze and changed the course of history. These three men, more than any other, helped end British rule. They transformed His Majesty’s American colonies into a Sovereign, independent country.
The preamble of the Declaration asserts that under certain circumstances, revolution is justified. Governments must rest upon “the consent of the governed”, for they are set up to protect certain rights – “Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness”. It was a revolutionary document in the sense that it justified a revolution which had already begun. Years after the colonies had won their independence, John Adams noted that “the revolution was effected before the war commenced. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people”. The loyalty of Americans had been undermined by years of struggle and agitation before the first shot was fired at Lexington.
“All men are created equal”, the Declaration asserts but Jefferson and the others were not thinking of those who owned no property or slaves – those who were themselves owned property.
They were not thinking of women either. It took American democracy – the greatest democracy in the world – 86 years to abolish slavery, 144 years to enfranchise women and 189 years to assure the black people the vote! “What to the slave is the Fourth of July”?
The black orator Frederick Douglass would ask in 1852 in an Independence Day oration and would answer that “your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us… You may rejoice. I must mourn”.
At the time of Independence African – Americans accounted for 20 per cent of the entire population of 2.5 million colonists, rising in Virginia to as much as 40 per cent. Jefferson’s attempt to incorporate a paragraph attacking slavery in the Declaration of Independence was struck out by Congress! Today, Obama, an African-American, is the President of the United States of America! A black family occupies the White House. A new dawn had arrived or so we thought. How wrong one can be?
Independent America, it was hoped, would become an “Asylum for mankind”, and offer refuge to the world’s oppressed. Like a shining beacon, America, it was hoped, would herald the “birth of a new world”, the beginning of an epoch in which humankind across the earth could “begin the world over again”. Alas! This was not to be.
The American dream has turned sour. Two hundred years ago, America caught the imagination of the world because of the ideals it stood for. Today its example is tarnished with military adventurism and conflicts abroad. Today America is symbolized not in the Statue of Liberty but the naked black hooded Iraqi man connected with wires setup on a box by his American perpetrators.
The photo of this naked, hooded, wired, Iraqi prisoner, standing on a box after having been told he would be electrocuted if he stepped or fell off, may well become the lasting emblem of this cruel, unjust war, much as the photo of a naked, fleeing, napalmed little girl became the emblem of the Vietnam war.
In the past, some envied America, some liked America, some hated America but almost all respected her. Very few respect America today. They all fear America. Today Muslims perceive America as the greatest threat to the World of Islam since the 13th century.
“One of the great lessons”, British historian Paul Johnston wrote, “is that no civilization can be taken for granted. Its permanency can never be assured. There is always a dark age waiting for you around the corner if you play your cards badly and you make sufficient mistakes”. Today America seems to be experiencing what Toynbee called “the dark night of the soul”.
Today America has lost the high moral ground it once occupied. It stands alone in the comity of nations, forsaken by most of its erstwhile friends and allies. There was a time when great causes pushed America to great heights that would not otherwise be achieved.
That is no longer the case. Before there were three faces of America in the world – the face of Peace Corps, the face of multi-nationals and the face of US military power. The balance has gone wrong lately. And the only face of America the world sees now is the one of military power.
Today free people are not looking to America for guidance in constructing another world order. Today their greatest fear is not America’s withdrawal from the world but its overweening involvement in it. This is certainly not America’s finest hour.
Today American troops are scattered around the world from the plains of Northern Europe to the mountains of Afghanistan and the plains of Iraq in search of a phantom enemy, bombing and killing innocent Afghan and Iraqi men, women and children.
Though it rejects imperial pretensions, it is for all its protestations, perceived in the world as peremptory, domineering and Imperial. Its actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are perceived as part of an open-ended empire-building plan with geo-strategic goals.
Under this plan, the United States would acquire a permanent military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq for projecting its power in central Asia, South Asia, Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
The farewell address of George Washington will ever remain an important legacy for small nations like Pakistan. He cautioned that “an attachment of a small or weak toward a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter”.
The strong might have interests and objectives that could be of little real importance to the weak; but once the latter submitted to acting the role of a satellite, it would find it no easy task to avoid being used as a tool by the strong”.
It is folly in one nation, George Washington observed, to look for disinterested favours from another…it must pay with a portion of its independence and its sovereignty for whatever it may accept under that character. No truer words have been spoken on the subject. If you want to know what happens to a small country which allows itself to be attached to a powerful country like America, well, visit Pakistan.
The writer is a former federal secretary.
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Heading for the dead end - Roedad Khan
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Heading for the dead end
Our moment of truth has arrived. For Pakistan the hour has struck. To borrow the prophetic words of Dostoevsky, “I have a presentiment of sorts that the lots are drawn and accounts may have to be settled far sooner than one might imagine in one’s wildest dreams”.
Terror is the order of the day. Pakistan is experiencing the warning tremors of a mega political and economic earthquake. Today all the symptoms which one had ever met within history previous to great changes and revolutions exist in Pakistan. Pakistan no longer exists, by that I mean the country of our dreams, our hopes, our pride. Today a moral crisis is writ large on the entire political scene in Pakistan. The Pakistan dream has morphed into the Pakistan nightmare. The country is in deep, deep trouble. This is the darkest era in the history of Pakistan since 1971. The independence of Pakistan is a myth. Pakistan is no longer a free country. It is no longer a democratic country. American military personnel roam all over the country without let or hindrance. They violate our air space with impunity, bomb our tribal area, and kill innocent men, women and children with the full approval of our democratic government.
We were once the rainbow nation, the world’s greatest fairytale. We were a nation founded on laws and rules. What Zardari has done is essentially to throw away the Constitution, defy the Supreme Court and say that there are some people, no matter how corrupt, who are beyond the Constitution, beyond the law, beyond scrutiny, totally unaccountable. People are naturally filled with anger and angst. If you believe in democracy and the rule of law and sovereignty of the people, you would not be anything other than angry, living in the current day and age.
“Every country has its own constitution”, one Russian is alleged to have remarked in the 19th century. “Ours is absolutism moderated by occasional assassination”. The situation is not so very different in Pakistan. Two years after Bibi’s assassination, the mystery surrounding her death remains unresolved. Nobody knows who killed her. And nobody seems to care. In democracies, constitutional amendments are especially solemn moments. In Pakistan they are easier than changing the traffic regulations.
Pakistan has lapsed into languor, a spiritless lassitude. A sense of guilt, shame, danger and anxiety hangs over the country like a pall. It appears as if we are on a phantom train that is gathering momentum and we cannot get off. Today Pakistan is a silent, mournful land where few people talk of the distant future and most live from day to day. They see themselves as ordinary and unimportant, their suffering too common to be noted and prefer to bury their pain.
Today the political landscape of Pakistan is dotted with Potemkin villages. All the trappings of democracy are there, albeit in anaemic form. Parliamentarians go through the motions of attending parliamentary sessions, question hour, privilege motions, etc. endless debates which everybody knows are sterile and totally unrelated to the real problems of the people. Everybody knows where real power resides. Everybody knows where vital decisions are made.
One of the lessons of history is that when people lose faith in their rulers, when they lose faith in the sanctity of the ballot box, when elections are rigged and votes are purchased; when the gap between the rulers and the ruled widens; when there are no ways for people to express political preferences from time to time in an atmosphere free from fear, coercion, or intimidation; when known corrupt people, tax evaders and smugglers are foisted upon a poor, illiterate electorate unable to make an informed political choice, and raised to the pinnacle of power; when elections throw up not the best, not the noblest, not the fittest, not the most deserving but the worst and a legion of scoundrels, and most important, when hunger and anger come together, people, sooner or later, come out on to the streets and demonstrate Lenin’s maxim that in such situations voting with citizen’s feet is more effective than voting in elections.
What point is there preaching democracy to men, women and children dying of hunger or on the verge of committing suicide? What use is a ballot paper to skeletons? Hungry men have little to live for when their rage becomes ineffective. When one is tired of everything, it is time to give up everything. The calculation is as simple as that. A disgust for life is their sole reason for ending it.
Today we have a disjointed, dysfunctional, lopsided, hybrid, artificial, corrupt political system – a non-sovereign rubber-stamp parliament, a weak and ineffective prime minister, appointed by a powerful accidental president facing corruption charges at home and abroad. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is rudderless and sliding into darkness. It is like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can’t stretch out your hand to prevent them. Such is the feeling conjured up by corrupt rulers of Pakistan as it enters a period of great uncertainty and sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire.
We live in a miserable age of charlatans and mediocrity. In this desert of talent and virtue, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has emerged as a brief candle of courage, goodness and patriotism. Today the only ray of hope is the Supreme Court. People must rally round it and defend it; the first threats of counterrevolutionary activity have already begun to appear. Attempts are being made to subvert the people’s will and overturn the judicial revolution.
If people won’t even speak up in its defence, the present corrupt order will acquire the mantle of legitimacy and permanence. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all Pakistanis to fight for our liberties and be prepared to face all consequences.
I, like many, see Pakistan heading for the dead end. Who is there to lead us out of the hole the present rulers have dug? Do leaders make history, or do events take control and determine the course of history? “Do you think that history is changed because one individual comes along instead of another?”, Oriana Fallaci asked Willy Brandt. “I think that individuals play a definite role in history”, Willy Brandt replied, “But I also think that it’s situation that makes one talent emerge instead of another.
A talent that already existed… If the individual and the situation meet, then the mechanism is set off by which history takes one direction instead of another”. Today Pakistan is ripe for profound changes. The current situation is too severe to be treated with painkillers. It has reached a stage when surgery is required. The day is not far off when words will give way to deeds. History will not always be written with a pen.
Is this one of those moments of history when all that is needed is for someone to push open a door? The answer is yes and yes again. When a nation is in crisis, as Pakistan is today, it needs a man to match the crisis. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
The hour will find the man.
The writer is a former federal secretary.
Email: email@example.com, www.roedadkhan.com
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The unmistakable mood - Roedad Khan
Monday, June 14, 2010
The unmistakable mood
If you want to know how a country can survive despite its leadership, despite its government, well, visit Pakistan. Democracy is a splendid conception but it has the disadvantage, on occasion, of placing in the lead men whose hands are dirty, who are mired in corruption, who will sap the strength of their country, not in years but over a period of months. The idea that you can just hold election, fair or unfair, while everything remains colonial, feudal and medieval, means you won’t get democracy but some perversion of it as we have today in this country.
Elections are necessary but not sufficient. Elections alone do not make a democracy. Creating a democracy requires a free and independent country, an inviolable constitution, a sustained commitment to develop all the necessary elements: a transparent executive accountable to parliament, a powerful and competent legislature answerable to the electorate, a strong, independent judiciary, and a free and independent media. To assume that vote alone will automatically bring about a democratic metamorphosis would be to condemn Pakistan to a repeat of the cycle seen so often in our history: a short-lived period of corrupt, civilian rule, a descent into chaos and then army intervention.
Harold Macmillan, the British prime minister, was once asked by a young journalist what he feared most in politics. “Events, dear boy, events,” he responded. For Pakistan events are coming thick and fast: an ongoing, highly unpopular war against our own people in the tribal area, daily American drone attacks on our soil, killing innocent men, women and children, target killings in Karachi, massacre of Ahmedis in Lahore, total breakdown of law and order in the backdrop of spiralling inflation, driving thousands of angry protestors to take to the streets almost everyday. Their demand: nothing more than provision of basic necessities of life and the right to live. On top of all this, came a catastrophe of epic proportions in Hunza, caused by a landslide which has blocked the entire flow of the Hunza River, threatening everything in the valley all the way down to Tarbela.
Crisis is a crucible in which governments, residents, prime misters and other politicians are tested as nowhere else. The response one would expect from the head of state never happened. He seems too indifferent, too callous, too insensitive on the television screen. What is worse, he stayed away from the scene of this great human tragedy and did not bother to visit it even once. Hurricane Katrina defrocked a faith–based Bush. The Hunza crisis has similarly unmasked President Zardari.
What is it that people really expect from their president when a disaster strikes? The people expect the occupant of the presidency to keep hope alive, to assure them that they will survive; that they will get through it. He has to react promptly, direct recovery and mobilise resources. Above all, he must inspire confidence because everybody looks up to him in a national crisis. And so he has to be that larger-than-life figure. The change in intensity in the news media – cable channels are broadcasting round-the-clock pictures – has sharply increased the pressure on the president and his administration. In such a situation, people want and expect more of a personal connection. That did not happen.
People still remember how General Azam handled the flood crisis in East Pakistan. He struck a human chord and won over the hearts of the people. They loved Azam and still remember him with affection. In stark contrast, President Zardari looked so cold, so unconcerned, so indifferent, so distant, so wooden and so bureaucratic. Nothing about the president’s demeanour – which seemed casual to the point of carelessness – suggested that he understood the depth of the crisis.
And what of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani? The less said the better. He visited the affected area on May 21, 2010, five months after the massive landslide. After an aerial visit of the 19km long artificial lake, he told reporters that the disaster reminded him of the problems Pakistan had to face during partition when it had to face a sea of incoming refugees. With that Gilani turned his back on Hunza and never went there again. His visit drew sharp criticism from the affected people who dismissed it as a crude PR exercise. No wonder, in public perception, Gilani is speedily becoming a more or less honorary prime minister, living in a kind of twilight just outside the things that really matter.
Isn’t it a great tragedy that at a time when the nation is battling the forces of nature in Hunza, Pakistan’s democracy is in limbo, parliament is paralysed and the opposition languishes in torpid impotence. The constitution is a figment; all civil and political institutions, with the exception of superior judiciary, remain eviscerated. All power is still concentrated in the hands of President Zardari. He wields absolute power without responsibility and is accountable to none. Nothing moves without his approval.
At a time when the country is at war, Mr Zardari, the supreme commander, spends almost his entire existence in the confines of a bunker – his macabre domicile which he seldom leaves these days. Mortally afraid of his own people and the sword of the NRO judgment still hanging over his head, he is more concerned about protecting himself and his wealth rather than protecting the country or the people of Pakistan.
Today the political landscape of Pakistan is dotted with Potemkin villages. All the pillars of state, with the exception of the Supreme Court, are dysfunctional. Pakistan sits between hope and fear. Hope because “so long as there is a judiciary marked by rugged independence, the country and the citizen’s civil liberties are safe even in the absence of cast-iron guarantees in the constitution”. Fear that in spite of a strong and independent judiciary, the present corrupt order will perpetuate itself because both the president and parliament are in collusion and out of sync with the spirit of the times.
Pakistan is in deep, deep trouble and is going down the tube. The ‘wechselstimmung’ or the mood for change is unmistakable.
The writer is a former federal secretary.
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