All over the world when crisis erupts people turn over to the governments. Not in Pakistan here an ousted prime minister is turning to the people to redeem his own and his party’s lost pride and prestige. Leading people in politics warrants advancing people’s interests not needing people to advance your own interests. The problem with Nawaz Sharif throughout his political career and more importantly as the leader of one of the biggest political parties in Pakistan has been that he has been an ‘empire builder’ instead of a ‘rule builder’. Sidelined from political glory by a unanimous verdict of the highest court his influence and standing as an admirable political leader may hardly be ever emulated. Clearly his political authority and influence is on the wane.
If the former prime minister was ever aspiring for greater democracy would we be like this — a nation threatened and under assault by democrats themselves. Democracy was supposed to bring us peace, prosperity and happiness — not nepotism, favouritism, selectivity and the tyranny of majority that has curtailed institutional freedom and left the poor and wanting people of this country in great pain and distress.
The former prime minister’s road journey predictably will be largely a personal and party satisfying show. It may even suggest to him that he has won but unfortunately for him he has already lost it where it counts.
Today it is not a single institution that is at the centre of power in Pakistan — there is more power parity amongst the institutions (the military, judiciary, parliament and media) than there ever was and the result is — power in this country is shared and stands diffused. The former PM will realise this when his government sponsored and enabled GT Road sojourn to Lahore ends. What then?
Pakistan’s politics will never acquire maturity unless political parties address national issues instead of focusing on personalities. No doubt, there is focus by the ruling party to meet the targets that it had set for completing the energy and infrastructure projects, but far more is expected. Similarly, PTI in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa did improve the education and health facilities. But at the national level it never veered far away from its single-point agenda of corruption. True, this malaise needs to be accorded a high priority but it is not the only challenge Pakistan is facing. Nor can it be tackled effectively without a comprehensive approach involving other elements of national power.
What Pakistan needs today is a sustained national security strategy which can only come from a leadership that holds clear and lasting strategic vision. The country needs a political leadership that utilizes the virtues of democracy to prevent authoritarianism, extremism and helps the military not only to throw its weight behind it but also shapes its military posture based on its political interpretation and estimates about the enemy.
The Constitution gives the political leadership the power to formulate and constitute foreign and security policies of the state. But has this been the priority of the political leadership? Which political leader has ever called for a review of our defence and security policies — not on how they should be shaped on his personal direction and whims but by formulating a group of academics, military leaders, journalists, diplomats, and think tanks, senior and accomplished citizens to review them and shape recommendations to be later reviewed and articulated by our security cabinet and military leadership.
The world has been suspicious of what has been going on in our backyard. What efforts (besides the Memogate and Dawn Leaks scandals) has the political leadership undertaken to vehemently deny and disqualify such a world assessment? Politicians giving the impression to the world that there is a ‘permanent government’ and a ‘deep state’ in Pakistan that does not relent only raises questions on their own lack of political power and governmental credibility. Why do they claim that they ride on the popular support of the people who elect them when all they do is project to the world their political innocence rather than competence? If power is to be exercised not by the military and the nation-state than the real question is what role has the political leadership played over the years to build such a state?
Institutions within a state must cooperate and compete but what cannot be allowed and sustained is for anyone to create an environment for them to confront. Unfortunately, but truly the former prime minister’s reactive strategy after his disqualification is leading us to that front.