Our neoliberal parliamentary oligarchy

The sickening jor-tor games of power-players are intensifying in the name of democracy these days. Old hounds have smelt elections and they are performing their petty partisan tricks with an earnestness that is palpable. Amidst their finger-pointing and hand-shakes, they don’t forget to throw punches at their favourite punching bag: Pakistan’s security establishment. Is our military really a burden and our democracy such a boon? Or is it the other way round?

After two months of bickering, our supreme civilians finally came round to reviving military courts for another two years. They didn’t do a thing to fix the broken justice system which had necessitated military courts in the first place but sprang into action when faced with their renewal, finding ingenious ways to dilute their authority and malign the military. Did the military stop our parliamentarians from reforming our justice system? They had two long years to do it.

Can we blame the military for the fact that we do not have a foreign minister for the last four years? Can we blame it for the mounting debt and the lack of transparency in government affairs? Can we blame the military for the nepotism in state institutions that have made them dysfunctional? Can we blame it for the rampant corruption in civilian corridors of power? Can we blame the military for the moral bankruptcy of our political elite and their lack of vision? I don’t think so.

Isn’t it odd that these old political hands dying to lead Pakistan once again have nothing meaningful to say about the challenges we face as a state and society. They give no explanations for their failure to perform and their piecemeal politics offer no solutions to our pressing problems. They are focused on maximising power within the oligarchic bubble of our so-called parliamentary democracy. Their eyes are fixed on crumbs that fall from the imperial neo-liberal table.

The passion for power harboured by members of our entrenched political elite is too obvious to ignore. We have seen how intricately this desire for power on part of our so-called leaders is enmeshed with the desire to abuse it for promoting private partisan interests. We have seen how the public ends up paying the exorbitant price for their greed. Clearly, their desire for power has nothing to do with any notion of national interest or public welfare.

They talk about serving us but are obviously only interested in ruling us. They think they can go on as before even after being thoroughly exposed in the public eye. The lions and acrobats showing at the circus don’t impress the people of Pakistan anymore. We can see through the magical illusions and the clowns are no longer funny. But the circus of democracy is warming up for the next show all the same, regardless of its irrelevance to the people of Pakistan, and to our future.

The hectic political angling of power players is exclusively focused on winning more seats in the next election. They fight like greedy cats happily confined within cages of parliamentary democracy and neo-liberal economics. They know these cages well and would rather be in their confined turf than in uncharted territory. They know that the system doesn’t work for the people, but what do they care. They are fine with a system rigged against the people of Pakistan and in their favour.

No amount of scapegoating of the military could hide the cluelessness and corruption of our supreme civilians. The military might have its flaws but seen within the context of Pakistan’s power structure, it stands out as the only state institution that is still functional. Whatever its past sins, it is playing a positive and crucial role today. It is not only performing its duty of defending our borders and fighting terrorism, but also filling the vacuum of governance created by our political elite.

The national census is being conducted with the help of 200,000 army troops as we speak. We can’t hold elections without the involvement of the army. Soldiers police our cities and come to the rescue of citizens caught in natural disasters. From guarding government buildings during the PTI dharna to securing the Gaddafi stadium for the hyped-up PSL final, our government can’t do without them. So can we really term the military’s involvement in national affairs as an encroachment upon civilian turf? Is it such a bad thing?

It is interesting that those irked by the mixing of military and politics find nothing wrong with mixing money with politics. They have nothing to say about how it turns governance into business, and democracy into oligarchy.

Interestingly, the detractors of the military don’t mind unethical multinational corporations and their local collaborators making private profit but are averse to the idea of subsidiaries of the military doing it, though the commercial activity of the military go towards the well-being of over 1.5 million Pakistani citizens that serve the military if you include the paramilitary forces and reserves. If shady property tycoons can develop housing schemes for private profit left, right and centre, what’s wrong with the Defence Housing Authorities doing the same for benefitting a state institution?

This is not to suggest that there is no room for improvement in the working of the military but the punches thrown at the institution by our supreme civilians are clearly meant to deflect attention from their failures and crimes. After all, one could discuss the flaws that need to be removed in a constructive manner without demonising an important state institution that we depend on to survive in a war-torn world. But then, it would kill all the fuss about saving democracy.

I know that only good acts have permanence and evil deeds evaporate without lasting impact. We are destined to move towards goodness, and all those pushing us in the opposite direction would eventually be defeated. Sometimes I feel that I should be patient and let God’s plan unfold. But time is ticking faster than ever before. And I also know that the divine plan is fulfilled through human agency on earth.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at hazirjalees@hotmail.com

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt