I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that the Pakistan of August 2014 is well on its way towards a decisive journey and real democracy – or at least, a brave attempt is in the wind to initiate a determined and resolute process towards that cherished national goal. The recent six year so-called democratic experience in Pakistan (2008-2014) has clearly demonstrated that the present brand of so-called democratic dispensation can no longer work in this country.
Let us try to take an unbiased look at the recent political events leading to the August 14th “Azadi-Inqilab” March on Islamabad. A segment of the incumbent power elite may disapprove of Khan-Qadri methods (status quo forces never approve of change), but viewed from a purely Realpolitik angle, the Khan-Qadri demands for a revolutionary change in the current political system and its manifested status quo-oriented traditional political culture is absolutely justified because this political structure is completely incompatible with the needs of present-day Pakistan. In many ways, the PPP-PMLN so called democratic era (2008-2014) and its failures have contributed immensely to bringing about this perceptual change in the political consciousness of this nation, most specifically of the younger generation, who have rejected, out of hand, the totality of the existing political dispensation.
And why should not the entire nation and specifically the younger generation feel this way? Imagine, that in the last six years of this sham democracy, dominated by PPP-PMLN right-wing vested-interests, not a single national debate on a fresh developmental discourse has taken place! The PPP leadership, during its tenure, remained essentially oligarchic and non-reformist, while the incumbent PMLN leaders have reached the ultimate limits of their plutocracy. As I stated in one of my previous articles, “In precise terms... individual wealthy people exercise a combination of economic and political power, and consequently, have an overall dramatic impact on the entire shape and structure of society.” Much of the political capital and financial expertise of the PMLN incumbent leadership has been injected into mega-projects inconsistent with the urgent and present needs of society.
The questions are: Where are the national priorities of the PMLN leadership? Does the PMLN leadership truly understand the nature of real issues and challenges that are being faced by the common folks of this country on a daily basis? Do the PMLN national managers have enough managerial competence to deal with and resolve fundamental socio-economic problems of Pakistan’s ordinary citizens? Is the incumbent PMLN leadership equipped with the necessary expertise to deliver “people-centric” ideological and knowledgeable solutions for the sustainable socio-economic development of this nation? Does the incumbent PMLN leadership appreciate the precise requirements of a democratic doctrine suitable for a present-day democratic society? Do they truly understand, given their rigid mindset and traditional political conduct, the management of the complex, complicated modern society? I’m afraid they don’t – and that is precisely the crux of the problem.
What today’s Pakistan needs is a proposed set of comprehensive goals that should be unprecedented in their discourse towards a “people-centric” socio-economic ideological future. Taken in their totality, these goals should clearly reflect an integrated and transformative agenda which builds and expands on the interlinked socio-economic challenges that Pakistani society faces today. It is important that the Pakistani state and its democratic institutions commit to eradicating poverty for everyone everywhere in the country. The Pakistani state must commit itself to a human development agenda targeted towards eliminating socio-economic inequalities in society, promoting rapid economic growth, creating jobs, streamlining plans for healthy and environmentally clean urbanization, resolving the energy crisis and planning sustainable consumption and production levels, and giving this nation a self-sufficient and self-reliant economic system. Above and beyond, the Pakistani state must ensure and promote peace, justice and institution-building in the country.
However, the unfortunate reality is that the recent “democratic” era, of the PPP-PMLN governments shows no appreciable history of where initial or preliminary steps towards these important national goals were taken. The fact of the matter is that the PPP-PMLN record has been extremely dismal on this count and, I believe, that the incumbent PMLN leadership does not have the managerial capabilities and political management capacities to deliver on the fundamental and essential elements needed in a democratic society.
The latest irony of the PMLN 14 month rule is that its leadership has dragged the country into an environment of chaos. There has been institutional polarization, divisions and conflicts all over the political spectrum since they took over governance after a public mandate that is now openly challenged as rigged and stolen. Pakistani democracy lies in shambles. The people of Pakistan are suffering while the economic and political power of this country’s incumbent ruling elite has ascended shamelessly – but that’s about to take a nosedive.
And that’s where the August 14th “Azadi-Inqilab” March figures into the political mix with its much-awaited, complex and far-reaching political consequences. Imran Khan and Dr. Qadri must be credited, at least, with giving this nation awareness and highly-developed political consciousness, offering a visionary outlook and real-time democratic-oriented actions to demonstrate and prove that people can and will force a change in the ways this country has been run. The PML-N cannot escape the inevitable that is bound to happen in tomorrow’s Pakistan in whatever shape and manner it may occur. I need say no more about Imran Khan and Dr. Qadri: I know, as a social scientist, that history will judge them and it may judge them as the most prominent and phenomenal revolutionary leaders and actors in the struggle for democratic freedom in Pakistan.
Times have changed, and so has the political consciousness of this nation – and so will the nature of democratic politics in this country. There is no going back now – the day of judgment is already upon us – it can be delayed but it cannot be set aside indefinitely. That is what we are going to learn from the August 14th “Azadi- Inqilab” March.
Hold your breath – In the air is the wind that will shake the barley!
The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.