Curse of the carpetbaggers

Pakistan’s enigmatic political history makes for some very fascinating reading. Unrelenting turmoil could describe it best. It has rarely seen any sustained periods of stability, peace and progress. All such periods, though far and few in between, were cut short by political intrigues and conspiracies within the polity itself or through overt, covert or remote military interventions. It has been remorselessly and repeatedly let down by its ruling elites, both civil and military. Its political history is unfortunately yet again in its cyclic-repeat mode; something that has happened with infuriatingly metronomic regularity for the past few decades! To begin with pure, unadulterated democracy has never really taken root in our country. Two of its major afflictions have been the lack of any democratic traditions within the parties themselves and the inevitable military interventions-hybrid arrangements. The major political parties are in effect dynastic-family enterprises and fiefdoms aimed at self-aggrandizement, a ruthless grab and retention of power and personal gain. The electorate has now caught on to this obnoxious practice and is likely to reflect it in the polls. Military interventions, and the inevitable political engineering thereafter, have put paid to the evolution of unfettered democracy and viable national politics. Ominously, this political environment has given rise to a coterie of charlatans which acts as a macabre agent of forced, contrived change in domestic politics. Comprising politicians of the same ilk, it has emerged as a decisive tool of political engineering. It has traditionally been employed to manipulate the national political balance, make or break governments, at will. This readily acquiescent commodity, known variously as the Carpetbaggers, the King’s Party and even electables, has hurt and demeaned Pakistan’s politics ceaselessly.
Pakistan has repeatedly suffered from this political malady. It has traditionally had weak governments which have looked at powerful quarters for support. They have invariably benefitted from this ubiquitous group of Carpetbaggers. With the right inducements or pressures, these political chameleons have always willingly jumped onto or off a designated wagon. Paradoxically, on cue they will jump onto another wagon and yet another one, ad nauseum. They are unique in the brazenness of their endeavours and have no equal in the world. They suffer no pangs of conscience, have no moral or ethical compunctions and display absolutely no qualms about the loss of any prestige, self-respect, pride and/or dignity for their (mis)deeds. They appear to follow no particular political ideology and trample over their constituents’ political aspirations and inclinations with rank contempt and disdain. They justify their disloyalty to their voters, their ficklemindedness, spinelessness, selfishness as acts in the “national interest”. They call politics the “art of the possible”- conveniently forgetting that this honourable and dignified art must be practised with an ideology, character, principles, scruples, loyalty, integrity, honesty, grace, pride, honour, dignity and above all, steadfastness. However, these are virtues quite alien to this lot. This has been the most toxic norm(al) of our national politics for decades now. As a rolling stone gathers no moss, this group of electables too, does not garner any respect, credibility, trust or confidence of the electorate. It is high time that the nation does away with the repugnant existence and role of Carpetbaggers. Such groups have been a constant albeit abhorrent scourge of Pakistani politics. They have been abject failures in national politics and have been exclusively employed in noxious manipulative, destructive and disruptive roles. They have traditionally played their controversial, servile parts quite barefacedly. The nation must immediately stop reinforcing their base exploits. It must ostracize them at the hustings; banish and hound them out of the political spectrum through the ballot box. Period. Nevertheless, are we yet again primed to commit the same political faux pas of yore?
A political party, ostensibly with the largest following, came into power with the help of such a group. The hybrid system through which it remained in power fell through eventually and so did its reign. It erred grievously by desecrating national and military monuments in the wake of its leader’s arrest and is suffering its inevitable fallout. The guilty are being rightly brought to justice. With its acquired leadership gone, this party will now rely upon whatever remains of the resoluteness of its voters. The supple, easily malleable Carpetbaggers jumped ship at the first signs of trouble and have unashamedly reached out for more “promising” shores. Furthermore, the two major parties, with the same old, tired, tried and tested set of leaders, will expect to flourish in the supposedly more conducive political environment. What have they achieved in their earlier avatars to deserve yet another chance? For instance, there is not one city, town, village or even a community in the entire country that has been provided with an uninterruptible supply of drinking, potable water, over the decades that they were in power! Numerous other wretched failures abound. They have failed miserably in delivering in the health and education sectors too. The current state of the economy, the hopelessness, helplessness, dread and uncertainty prevalent in the society, the massive brain-drain, the skyrocketing inflation, the backbreaking cost of living, terrorist attacks, Pakistan’s international isolation, its inability to deal with the IFIs-IMF etc have all severely demoralized the nation. It looks askance at the powers-that-be for relief, succour, hope and a future - no matter how dim! These politicians have failed to deliver despite the multiple chances they have had. It is high time that the nation stops reinforcing these pathetic failures too. It must give vent to its frustration, indignation and rage at the polls! The nation must seek a paradigm shift in its political choices. It must seek newer horizons through fresher, more enlightened leaders who are conversant with the dynamics of this fast-evolving, technology-savvy, modern world. It must break free of these pedantic, controversial politicians, still floundering about hopelessly in the past. The time for change is nigh. We must have free and fair elections, under the Constitution, without fear, favour or exceptions. Let new options emerge. Let the people decide, choose and pick. Let pure democracy reign supreme. Let Pakistan prosper!

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at im.k846@gmail.com and tweets @K846Im.

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