Our Political Culture

(Askari Raza, )

“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first”. (Ronald Reagan). That defines the universal character of politics.

The politicians everywhere, tell lies and make reckless promises. Ours are no different, except that ours are miles ahead of others in these fields.

All politicians seek to acquire power. It is a very genuine and legitimate ambition to nurture. So do ours. But continue to blame others for doing so. That is professional naivety.

The commonalities notwithstanding, every country has developed its own political culture. Ours is thoroughly corrupt. But by comparison it is much more benign and much less exploitative and unscrupulous than that of our neighbor India.

One propensity of our political culture was emphatically highlighted during recent tempest in the Senate. The leaders of the opposition admitted that their honorable senators were guilty of selling their souls to the devil, (the government) in voting against their parties’ interest.

After one of the past senate elections a senator friend had to resort to some arm-twisting to get back his 25 million he had given to someone to vote for him. Those were the days when the rates of senate seats were being openly discussed on the major TV channels without an eyebrow raised by the honorable senators. My senator friend had said that despite the secret ballot there were always ways to find who did not vote for you. It should thus be possible for various leaders to find out the dissidents in their parties. May be they have already found them out.

The strongest statement came from the leader of the opposition, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. He called these fourteen dissidents as Meer Jaffars and Meer Sadiqs. One Meer Jafar of Bengal, a traitor was enough for the upset defeat of a powerful Bengali ruler Siraj Ud Doula. That had paved the way for the British rule in India.One Meer Sadiq brought about the downfall of the lion of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. If one Meer Jafar and one Meer Sadiq could change the course of history, fourteen of them coming together must have caused ominous concerns in the opposition ranks.

That goes for the honorable members of the Upper House with serious implications on legislation in the country. The other organ of the parliament, the National Assembly had already acquired a notorious reputation for horse-trading in the past. It is difficult to erase from memory the days of Changa Manga and Murree where the MNAs were held hostages to save them from the allurements of the opposite camp.

During the first reign of BB, a grade 19 civil bureaucrate posted in the National Assembly came to my office. Before he took a seat he blurted out. “What on earth is General Kakar (the COS) doing?” I was taken aback. General Abdul Wahid Kakar enjoyed a tremendous reputation as a professional and an honest and God fearing human being. He came from an illustrious background, (nephew of Abdul Rab Nishtar) and carried himself with honor and dignity. The emotional outburst continued. “He will be answerable to God for our deplorable condition. All the members of the parliament whether belonging to the ruling party or the opposition, with hardly an honorable exception were concerned with their personal welfare. National interest got served, if at all by default only. General Kakar as the COS has to save the nation from these vultures.”

I heaved a sigh of relief. Although it was difficult to convince him, I was always for military remaining away from politics. But later when I had closer exposure to the politicians’ functioning, I remembered this honest, God-fearing, emotional young man still burning with the desire to give his best to the country. He eventually rose to the highest position in his cadre but what emotional losses he had to suffer on the way, only he could tell.

I could not and would not have conveyed the young man’s concerns to the Chief, but I know for sure that many hadsounded similar apprehensions to General Kakar, Jahangir Karamat and to Musharraf too. I remain convinced that having known general Musharraf from very close, only a naïve Nawaz Sharif could have pushed him into bringing about a coup. Not hit below the belt, he would have retired asa good Army Chief and the Army as an institution would have been sparred the pangs and shame of some terrible blunders he committed at National level.

Coming to the Military I believe there is no holy cow. All are equal before the law. But those parroting enemy propaganda without substance cannot hide their real and vicious motives.For instance, the allegation of an unsuccessful murder attempt made by the ISI Chief. The victim survived afterapparently a mock attempt by those who had intimate knowledge of his secret sojourn. It was a sheer insult to the efficiency of the ISI, a proven pain in the neck to many famous foreign intelligence bigwigsthat it had failed to execute a simple plan on its own soil. The childish manipulators should have been sued for undermining ISI’s professional reputation.

The best of all came from Mr. Bazinjo. For a lifetime achievement award in politics he was a sure candidate of a cock-sure opposition. It was not to be. He dumped his and his backers’ failure on the Chief of ISI. Someone suggested that the ISI had confronted the dissidents with some unmentionable videos. To quote an innocent old lady, why had they allowed someone to make those videos?
ISI is actually busy with much more important issues. I suggest we leave it and the Military alone to attend to their extremely sensitive business in an alarming security environment.

Good luck to the politicians and their old culture in serious present distress.

(Major General (r)Askari Raza Malik is the author of book, “Pakistan in search of a Messiah”)

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