Is Imran still our best fighting chance?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

5 month’s into administration, is the jury still out on IK and PTI?

Or are we witnessing a sad meltdown not just of governance but of the hopes of the millions who voted for the Khan?

Are we witnessing the tragic spectacle of a group of inept and inexperienced novices, at sea on how to administer this complex country called Pakistan?

Are we seeing the growing footprint of an establishment silently trying to plug this lack of capacity and capability in governance?

Are we fated to see the continuous erosion of civilian public sector institutions and deliberate acts of ommission and commission by other state institutions, keeping these civilian public center institutions on ventilators? Ineffective, weak, toothless!

Are we tragically fated to be administered by silent behind the scenes forces and not through legislatures and governing bodies and civilian institutions peopled by persons of integrity and competence?

Are the early missteps and floundering of a first time party in power at the Center, existential to governance and the Country?

Are we fated to have massively fouled up this best fighting chance in so short a time of taking back the nation from the clutches of the kleptocrats and plutocrats so starkly exemplified by the Sharifs, the Bhuttos and the Zardaris and decades of misrule and loot and plunder, including the periods of military dictatorships?

Are we fated, as a Nation to revert to a rule of charlatans, crooks, robber barons, mafiosi, looters and plunderers, garbed in “democratic robes”?

The same “Democrats” who in the same breath and in a most bizarre manner foist their biological offspring on this wretched nation, in a macabre display of democracy and shamelessly defended by their democratic pretenders?

Are we fated to see the incredibly painful public spectacles of the educated and the aware amongst us, spinelessly and shamelessly, slave worshipping, boot licking and brown nosing Maryam, Bilawal, Hamza?

This Roll of Dishonor is long and painful.  Leading jurists, former superior court judges, military generals, landed feudals, leading business people, multi billionaires, renowned journalists, poets, writers, left wing secular liberals.

All make up this bizarre collage of the shameless!

Other than a pure lust for power, money, influence, and other crumbs that feed the ego, nothing else rationalizes the personal choices these people make in the obsequious manner they humiliate and insult themselves in front of a Bilawal or a Maryam!

So here’s my reality check!

Tragically we are a bloodthirsty lot. We love mayhem, criticism, confusion, blood, gore.

Our prime time TV shows, of which I’m a part, put to shame the Roman Gladiatorial encounters!

Here’s my view of our society after 5 months of being in the thick of things or the opportunity to see and experience things at very close quarters.

1. The entire Pakistani society, from top to bottom is corrupt, ill disciplined and completely self centered and selfish. We do not not operate under any process. Formal Processes being mere facilitators of the “informal process”.

This goes for all of us.  You and me. Each one of us. Rich or poor.

Anytime we have a problem or need some work done or undone, whether right or wrong, especially in Government, we pick up the phone or contact somebody, directly or indirectly.

We either use money or power and influence or our network to get our job done or escape punishment from our misdeeds.

Each one of us regularly, every day, corrupts and pollutes the very system we criticise.

Ungortunately in this jungle, the poor and the weak, suffer the most, held completely hostage by an extractive, cruel, rent seeking environment.

2. The entire government machinery, rare and honourable exceptions aside, has been so politicised and brutally raped by everybody, both civilian and military administrations included, that it has very limited capacity, capability and desire to execute.

They operate on the time old tested principle of  either covering their backsides or making as much money as they can.  Mostly both!

3. For the last 70 years, since partition, our political governance has been in the hands of a corrupt coterie of plutocrats and kleptocrats, comprising rich politicians, landlords, feudals, businesspersons, who were part of every administration, whether civilian or military.

The military dictators, Ayub, Yahya, Zia, Musharraf, all using them to perpetuate their own rules. And civilian administrations using them as handmaidens to loot and plunder

This kleptocracy / plutocracy deliberately weakened our civilian institutions and hijacked our electoral processes, so they could retain political power and loot and plunder at will.

For this dishonorable class of vagabonds, most disguised as upholders of democracy and defenders of the parliament, changing parties is as easy as changing diapers.

They owe no allegiance to any ideology or values but one. How do we remain in power and continue to loot and plunder?

And it is this last value which defines the slavish behaviours of those licking the boots of a Bilawal or a Maryam.

4. Then is the very powerful footprint of our security establishment seen in every sphere of life. This is a natural consequence of 3 decades of military rule and the near death of our public sector civilian institutions.

Its a sad Chicken and Egg story.

But this influence is a reality and in my opinion, very detrimental to civilian public sector institutions becoming strong and effective and for Pakistan’s strength and stability in the long run.

In a counter intuitive way, Pakistan’s future strength, security and stability, lies in our security establishment voluntarily reducing their footprint to allow civilian institutions to breathe, grow strong and prosper.

Recently, I was appalled to read a comment from a retired three star laying down “conditions” under which the Military will cooperate with a Political government.

While we all value the tremendous work and sacrifices of the armed forces in the war against terrorism for which they have our eternal gratitude and prayers.

While we all appreciate and admire the discipline, professionalism and patriotism of the institution.

While we all admire their efficiency, effectiveness and ability to execute.

None of the above justifies in any form or shape their determining the destiny of the nation. Period! As partners, Yes! As Masters, No!

There is and can never be any justification, whether qualified or unqualified to support anything contrarian to this perspective.

When a military spokesperson waxes, however eloquently, on every issue under the sun, be it military, which they should, or economic, political, foreign affairs etc, which they should not, not only do they damage the reputation of the institution, but the Government and the Country.

And perhaps their biggest damage is the fodder of a “Praetorian State” they provide to our enemies inside and outside. The recent article in The Economist magazine being a case in point.

This kind of thinking also provide political lifelines to our plutocrats and kleptocrats like Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari, who distort it to serve their own political objectives and ends.

Having said the above, the massive influence of the miltary establishment is a reality.

It is for them to realise that we have a rare once in a blue moon opportunity of a fighting chance under Imran Khan to strengthen our civilian institutions, break the back of the corrupt mafia of plutocrats and kleptocrats, and make this country strong.

This can only happen if they begin to limit their interference as much as possible and start to reduce their footprint which extends into the exclusively civilian domain.

This they must do in close partnership and collaboration and under the authority of a competent and an honest Executive.

For starters,  they should speak less and be seen less!

So it is in this extremely complex context and very challenging environment environment that Imran has come into.

A corrupted, ill disciplined society.

A corrupt, inefficient, ineffective public sector.

A bunch of rich and powerful politicians who have hijacked the electoral process and a stranglehold on political power.

An overwhelmingly powerful security establishment which influences and exercises power in most if not all key spheres of governance, inhibiting the growth of civilian institutions.

And in all this, if there’s hope in an individual who can overcome the above odds, despite his and his team’s weaknesses and inexperience, it is Imran. Of this I have no doubt.

And the reason for my optimism stems from five things.

1. The efforts by the Government to address root causes. Especially on the economic front. To paraphrase Napoleon. A Nation marches on a full stomach.

2. Imran’s and his inexperienced team, learning the ropes and making better decisions. And hopefully we see some better people coming into the cabinet and some bad eggs leaving

3. The cracks appearing in the power structures of the political mafia. Nawaz in jail. Zardari under pressure.

4. Governance reforms, albeit slow.

5. A genuine realization in our military leadership that this is a rare moment of opportunity to get the country back on track. This thinking will hopefully set in motion a reduction of power and influence and support the strengthening of civilian institutions

Whether he succeeds or not, is another issue. But my money is still on Imran!

And that’s why I believe he’s still our best fighting chance.

*-Haider Mehdi*