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Pakistan: Amid Political Turmoil

Huzaima Bukhari

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”George Orwell

While growing up, it was difficult to imagine that Pakistan would become engrossed in a political turmoil that continues to assume larger proportions with each passing day. In the first couple of decades, no matter how critical a situation, some way or the other the people would stay united and faced whatever adversity stared them in their face. Pessimism was unknown then but now under the prevailing circumstances people are fast losing faith in optimism. This kind of a situation is critical in the life of a nation and immediately calls for measures that can revive and reclaim the lost trust in governments that have been compelled to consistently let down aspirations of the people.

As Ernest Hemmingway observes: “The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency, the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity, both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists”.

An interesting perspective of the present state of affairs as seen by Plato, an ancient philosopher, who said: “There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.”

Many may consider this quote as an antithesis of all the humour and fun deliberately made of both philosophers and the subject of philosophy by dim-witted leaders in order to perpetuate their hold by keeping young minds from thinking analytically. Thus philosophy began to take a backseat and subjects that got propelled to the forefront were those that enabled the younger generation to merely earn a living. The need to twist minds from reasoning to divert their attention towards the importance of material gains was essential to blindfold the masses from actions having detrimental effects in the long run.

Such has been the condition of the Pakistani nation that has over the last many decades been led to believe that its prosperity lay in religion, unquestionable belief in fate and blind following of its respective political leaders chosen by the various segments of the people. This is obvious from the way the public throngs different venues set by these ‘champions’ to listen to their reveries and raise slogans dictated to them. This can be seen in the call for strikes or protests that multitudes respond to fearlessly and unthinkingly resort to acts without weighing repercussions of any imprudence they may indulge in that can cause damage to property or even lead to loss of lives. This can be experienced on all forms of media where volley of abusive and offensive words are exchanged both by uncanny rulers and their supporters. This is apparent from the mindsets that refuse to hear or challenge the behavior of those in power and those aspiring to be in power. Ironically, faith in the Al-Mighty is not as strong as it is in those who have always been responsible for ditching this nation on many occasions, yet there is absolute complacency towards them and extreme maliciousness towards their opponents.

This is best explained by Henry B Eyring in the following statement: “We live in a world where finding fault in others seems to be the favorite blood sport. It has long been the basis of political campaign strategy. It is the theme of much television programming across the world. It sells newspapers. Whenever we meet anyone, our first, almost unconscious reaction may be to look for imperfections”. So, all one reads and listens to are the weaknesses and scandals of political adversaries and all are actions are directed to silencing dissenting voices.

If Einstein was alive today, perhaps his comments on Pakistan’s political turmoil would be what he said to an Associated Press reporter in 1930 about Germany then remarking that desperation can never make good politics. He said: “Reduced to a formula one might say simply that an empty stomach is not a good political adviser. Unfortunately, the corollary also is true—namely, that better political insight has a hard time winning its way as long as there is little prospect of filling the stomach”.

In a country where there is high inflation, wastage of resources, food security is at risk, the younger generation is totally disillusioned and the rich, mighty and powerful are shamelessly unapologetic about their selfish acts, political opponents are daggers drawn with each other, there seems little hope for a ‘turn-around’ that could prove revolutionary in terms of prosperity and uplift of the down-trodden. In such moments of depression one can only seek redemption in the canons of philosophers and those who practically demonstrated their philosophy.

Advice for the leaders: “It’s time for political leaders across the ideological spectrum to realize that, while partisanship is understandable, hyper-partisanship is destructive to our country. We need more visionary leaders who will earnestly strive for bipartisanship and finding policy solutions that can move America (read Pakistan) forward”—Martin Luther King III.

Another important suggestion from John Lynch: “We will not agree on every issue but let us respect those differences and respect one another. Let us recognize that we do not serve an ideology or a political party; we serve the people”.

To the people desperately looking for a prosperous and politically stable country, Robert A Heinlein says: “Political tags such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, liberal, conservative, and so forth, are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want to be controlled and those who have no such desire”.

Therefore Evgeney Morozov suggests to the people that rather than flowing with the tide and accepting systemic faults as the way of life: “A vibrant society can challenge those in power by documenting corruption or uncovering activities like the murder of political enemies. In democracies, this function is best performed by the media, NGOs or opposition parties”.

The way social and political media reacted to the assault on journalists Ayaz Amir and Imran Riaz, is indicative of some sparks in ashes capable of flaring up the nation’s philosophical bent to clearly see through deception and high-handedness with respect to its own future position. Despite the surmounting bleakness there does appear a glimmer of hope in a brighter forthcoming era.


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)

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