Prime Minister: This is a brief report for your eyes only on the state of affairs on Pakistani streets, examining how common citizens are thinking, feeling and questioning the prevailing political discourse as well as viewing their own existence in the present-day socio-economic environment within political ground realities.
But first of all, let me share an interesting metaphor and an intriguing thoughtful analogy with you. Someone recently remarked, “Going to Church does not make one a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes one a car.” This analogy illustrates our political predicament; merely saying Pakistan is a democracy does not make it democratic. The point here is that democracy is not just a voting ritual; it is the process of a revolution of perceived possibilities aimed at attaining and maximizing public welfare to its ultimate best. The public fear is that as long as the PMLN political managers are temperamentally stuck to the traditional socio-economic-political model, the possibility of a way forward does not exist.
Irving L Janis, world famous American academic and research psychologist (author of the book Victims of Groupthink) observed that national political leaderships, even in well-established democracies, tend to be alienated from major public sentiment at the pinnacle of their political leaderships when surrounded by complacent second-tier subordinates who only feed the leader information to support his/her perspectives on national issues. It is a survival game - these tactics keep the second-tier political managers within the ruling circle; however, this practice deprives the top leadership of diverse and vital information feedback on public issues, thus distancing the top leadership from current public sentiment. I am no authority to judge whether this kind of political manipulation and management is being conducted by the PML-N in the corridors of power. One can only hope that political sense prevails in the interest of the nation and democratic norms.
Prime Minister: I am obliged to share with you that the news on the Pakistani streets is certainly not good. The majority of Pakistanis, those who ride buses, buy haleem and channay from street vendors, who send their children to inadequately staffed schools and bear the brunt of economic and social inequality, those who suffer the consequences of poor medical services and are deprived of power and gas, those faced with growing unemployment, rising costs of daily consumables and a nonexistent law and order situation, are now asking vital questions on political management and making loud and clear judicious statements and judgments on the state of this country’s affairs.
These men and women on the street, the majority of Pakistanis, complain that the rulers of this country consider them dispensable commodities. They believe that they are viewed as unaware, unperceptive, uneducated, lacking in political consciousness, inconsequential in the national decision-making process and, above all, unfit to understand and appreciate the intricacies and dynamics of political management and national priorities. They claim that they are conscientious and fully cognizant of what is going on but are simply the victims of this country’s political culture that has timelessly subjected them to socio-economic marginalization and political oppression.
One of the most important questions being asked on every street corner of Pakistan these days is about financial aid from the Saudi government. The Saudis have given such a massive amount of money on the personal guarantee of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, that common people are asking what exactly it means. Does it mean the PM will return the money to the Saudis from his personal account if they were to demand it back? Or does it mean that the Prime Minister has assured the Saudis a repayment check from the national exchequer should they so demand it? Has the PM negotiated a payback in some sort of civilian or military service deal requested by the Saudis? Or is it an unconditional grant without a time bar? If it is, what has motivated the Saudis into such a massive act of generosity now? Another related question concerns the sudden visit of the Bahraini Emir; the first visit of its kind in forty years.
Whatever the merits or demerits of these negotiations, the Prime Minister is well-advised to share the information with the Pakistani public with complete candor, diplomatic honesty and within acceptable levels of this nation’s self-interest. Indeed, it would calm public nerves. However, the PMLN leadership should be prepared to reframe and redefine the course of Pak-Saudi and Pak-Bahraini diplomacy, if needed.
Here, I offer my personal view on these issues which might help the PMLN foreign policy establishment and perception management experts in diffusing public uproar over the matter. Both the Pakistani incumbent government and the public in this country must understand that the recent Saudi and Bahraini perception of a threat to their countries’ stability is not without due merit and adequate political reasons. We must understand that this “existential threat” does not emanate from Iran, but from the US-West-led “New World Order” strategy that has already changed the shape of politics in the greater Muslim world. Exactly 100 years after the first World War in 1914, the US and the West is busy again trying to reshape the Islamic map in order to continue military, political and economic domination. The plan this time seems to be to break these nations into small countries, to encourage conflict between different ethnic groups, and to promote sectarian rivalries within them. As we know, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Indonesia, Egypt and Afghanistan have already been politically divided to different degrees of ethnic conflict by direct as well as convert US-NATO interventions, and this process is being accelerated by a meticulously organized plan to transform the present day international political system. That is the threat and it is at the heart of what the Saudis and Bahrainis are feeling – and understandably fearful of. Pakistan’s role at this crucial moment in a fast-changing international political system cannot be of a military nature in its dealings with other Islamic countries. This is a God-sent opportunity for Pakistan to establish itself as a leading player and important actor in the conciliatory process between different Islamic countries to help in the consolidation of peace and stability in the contemporary international system.
The question is: Can the PMLN leadership and its foreign policy managers handle such a task? This remains to be seen.
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.