The sad state we're in

Pakistan's recent past has not been just about Musharraf. He embodied in his person attributes that most right thinking people in the country thought were the most undesirable and distasteful aspects of Pakistan's polity which cab be summarised as 'Arrogance at Home and Servility Abroad.'   The conflating of appearance and style with substance, and rhetoric with practice The recent Olympic Games can help to decipher some of these attributes, which represent perhaps the dominant style of Pakistani politics, exemplified in particular by the politics and modus operandi of retired General Musharraf. However, whatever he did or said is found to varying degrees in most aspects of Pakistani politics and society. The Commando had a deeply flawed and malformed character but he is not the only one with these characteristics. So there is no room for complacency or smugness. In fact Olympian efforts are needed to undo all the bad that was done under Musharraf and then go on to reconstruct and reconstitute a better Pakistan. The attributes mentioned can be deciphered by locating his claims about his own abilities in a framework of higher international standards. He missed no opportunity to propagate himself as a super commando and a political supremo who will deliver the last blow. Musharraf's thinking and deeds, his swagger and bragging (could this be a reflection of personal insecurity as his origins are from the Ganga-Jamna region and not from around any of the rivers of Pakistan) blurred his sense of reality and fantasy and left Pakistan in a huge mess. His actual abilities and lack of principled commitment to the nation (like those of many if not most Pakistan politicians) are far removed from his exaggerated sense of self-importance. During his period in office the political culture of Pakistan took a down turn and can be summed up by the slogan, 'Servility Abroad and Arrogance at Home' which has been mentioned above. Of course these 'virtues' of servility and arrogance have always been part of Pakistani political culture, but during Musharraf's time these were pushed to a higher art form and became deeply embedded in the country's political practice and culture with the help of glib and servile camp followers. The origins of Pakistan's multiple problems derive both from personality types from all walks of life including politics and from the postcolonial structure of the country. Personalities matter, because the character and personality of someone at the top of the power hierarchy and in public life is important and does have consequences for the country. But it is also structural in that the unequal power relations embedded in the total sum of socio-economic, cultural and ideological and foreign relations and processes allows particular types of individuals to usurp power and the services of politically itinerant persons shorn of principles or moral scruples. Unlike most other countries in the Muslim world, there seems to be no shortage of individuals willing to be the court jesters of whoever is in power. And its corollary, holding on to power and privilege at all costs, including bribery, corruption, violence and open sale of moral scruples. To these can be added the sale and killing of patriotic Pakistanis on the behest of imperialists and adopting the imperialists' language to describe their own patriotic people: 'terrorists', 'extremists', 'barbarians', 'murderers', 'backward;' triumphalism and joy at the murders in Karachi on May 12, 2007. Even culture has not been spared. The shallowest of Western and the sleaziest of Indian culture has now become an accepted part of Pakistani culture and has displaced quantity with quality. All aided and abetted by Musharraf and his cohorts. If one measures up Musharraf's claim to be a Super-Commando (or his civil-political counterparts making similar claims) with anything like an international standard, say performance in an Army Olympiad, and keeping in mind the Pakistani contingent's abysmal performance at the Olympics, he would barely make it to the Second Division League; in this sense he would be more of a boy scout than a Commando; or he might have been joint-last in every event along with his India counterpart. But most Pakistani politicians would not have fared much better at the Politicians Olympiad either. They would barely be among the 'also ran' category, politically-morally speaking. Further proof: Pakistan does have a national heavyweight boxing champion, but compare him to Mike Tyson. Pakistani track and field sportspersons clock times and cover distances which are abysmally below Olympic standards. In another context: Compare the fighting spirit of the Soviets against the Nazis at the Battle of Stalingrad in WW11, with the Pakistani Army's efforts in Bangladesh when it suffered one of the biggest defeats in history. About 90,000 military personnel surrendered after two weeks of fighting. And this was a defeat at the hands of only India a country with a population not known for its toughness, fighting qualities or physical strength and which does as badly at the Olympics as Pakistan. But similar to Pakistan, India also from time to time brags about having the best army and the finest soldiers in the world; clearly both countries share a common (thankfully small amount of) culture.  Pakistan is lucky to have India as an enemy. A less decadent country could have spelt disaster for Pakistan. Pakistan needs to make an effort of Olympian proportions to metamorphose itself into something much better. It is time that Pakistanis threw out the politicians and political culture which gestated under Musharraf, by electing individuals and political parties who not only should talk about formal aspects of democracy, but also apply its substance to the lived life. Individuals who can meet the challenges and needs of the epoch (political and socio-economic and cultural transformation, independent foreign policy) and respond to the needs of the people here and now (safety of life and limb citizenship rights, social welfare) but are also accountable for their and others actions, who lead an exemplary personal and political life in terms of modesty, simplicity, honesty, frugality, hard work and dedication to solving the huge problems that confront the nation. All these are virtues that were and are in short supply in Pakistan, which the Commando further twisted and changed into gnarled and grotesque caricatures. The Commando's strutting, bragging, swaggering and threatening behaviour contrasts with his timid exit. He was a crow who thought he was a peacock. Can the current political parties and their leaders in Pakistan transcend the unwholesome legacy valorised and entrenched under him through moral-political purgatory? Signs are that this is unlikely if one considers the outcome of the presidential elections. Email:

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