Monday, June 04, 2007

A Recipe for Pakistan's Future

There has been a lot of theorizing about the post-Musharraf future for Pakistan. Many fear chaos and a fundamentalist takeover of the country. To your Blogger these views are a load of pessimistic tosh promoted by the current regime to frighten the West..

There are others who dislike Musharraf but loathe Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif even more. To them my message is to stop fretting and relax.

There are those who insist that the illiterate masses of Pakistan are unable to cope with democracy. Most of these people are members of the rich elite who disparage the very idea of passing control of the country to the majority. It is time they hushed up, for their views have been followed for most of the past sixty years.

To my mind the concept of a free society consists of a lot more than just holding ‘free and fair elections’.

Just take the example of the pre-1997 British colony of Hong Kong. Obviously there was no ‘Democracy’ in Hong Kong, ruled as it was by a Governor presiding over a 14-member Executive Council during the 1970s and 1980s. And despite the absence of direct elections, British Hong Kong was one of the freest societies in all of Asia (I know because I lived there for a while).

Why so?

It was free society for two simple reasons – it had an independent judiciary implementing an impartial rule of law and a completely free press that held every individual accountable.

So try and imagine a future scenario with Benazir Bhutto in power and Asif Zardari trying to, once more, rake in a few million dollars from a government deal (the same could, of course, easily apply to the Sharif brothers). The moment the word of the ‘deal’ got out (in Pakistan few things can remain concealed for too long), it would be reported in the press and discussed ad nauseum on television talk shows with audiences of millions. This would then be followed by a suo moto judicial hearing and the guilty party would soon find themselves in deep trouble.

Am I being unduly optimistic? No, the world, my friends, has suddenly changed. Hope is finally in the air.

So I would implore you all to look at the bigger picture rather than simply focus on individuals and their past records. We should all struggle for two causes: the judiciary and the press.

It will not be an easy battle as the entrenched Establishment (the higher-ranking military, bureaucracy and the rich elite) will resist change every step of the way. Right now there is a rare wind of change in Pakistan and we must not allow it to fail.

While all of the Pakistan’s problems cannot be solved by installing an independent judiciary and a free press, at least it will help bring an end to the mega-kleptocracy that has blighted our country and its people for the past five decades.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Onlooker, You have got the best blog on Pakistan’s politics on the entire blogger and I do admire your optimistic assessment. But I can be classified in the category who “dislike Musharraf but loathe BB and NS even more.” You have pointed out two causes for Hong Kong being a “free society”, i.e. independence of judiciary and a free press. Our judiciary is still the way it was in 1954 but due to the advancement in technology we now have a lot more freedom of expression and media than a decade ago. We definitely have great expectations from this freedom of press. But Hong Kong is not known for it’s freedoms. It is known for it’s economic development, manufacturing and industry. And in the Hierarchy of Needs our first priority should be alleviation of poverty and economic development. Democracy and freedoms, though important, but hold a secondary position.

Alam said...

stupid so-called educated ppl like Nauman (see prior posted comment) r responsible for military rule in our history.

Honk Kong is not Pakistan. We have different geo-political and ethnic sitaution in pakistan. And even in Honk Kong, the resistence to Chinese imperialism after British went away, was on streets. China has a complete different set of policies in Hong Kong compared with the mainland China.

libertarian said...

onlooker thanks for the thoughts.

Many fear chaos and a fundamentalist takeover of the country. To your Blogger these views are a load of pessimistic tosh promoted by the current regime ...

There are those who insist that the illiterate masses of Pakistan are unable to cope with democracy ... It is time they (the rich elite) hushed up ...
Agree. Easier said than done though. They control some hefty levers in society.

Am I being unduly optimistic?
Maybe so. Hope you're right though.

Freedom is not free. There's a hefty price to be paid - some of it in blood. This next year will determine whether the Pakistani nation can blow away the existing state and replace it with one of its own fashioning.

jusAthot said...

"There are but two parties; … founded in the radical question, whether PEOPLE or PROPERTY shall govern? Democracy implies a government by the people… Aristocracy implies a government of the rich… and in these words are contained the sum of party distinctions".
Thomas Benton (American 19th century statesman)

There is one flaw to Nauman’s theory: The rich elites got richer but the poor did not share these riches. Without restoration of democracy and civilian rule, as the primary priority – all it will do is create more “Military, Inc.” as Dr Ayesha Siddiqa very well articulated in her recent book of the same name: “There are gross inefficiencies … mired in crony capitalism”. And those who get rich by dipping into our “cookie-jar” (National Treasury) are not known to share their wealth, let alone pay Zakat for the ideals of poverty alleviation. Maybe the ends should never justify the means as such experiment in social re-engineering has proven. Instead of Hong Kong (PROPERTY) model, we should try to emulate our neighbour – India’s (PEOPLE) model, which is more applicable to our case, considering all the factors, including the traits and mindset of the people. --- jusAthot
PS: It is nice to see Libertarian in concurrence – it is big of him to do that in this age of egotism.

Ahsan said...

i agree with pretty much everything you say. my only point of contention would be the unspoken assumption you seem to be making: that political parties will behave any more democratically than the military.

1. let us not pretend our two biggest political parties "are of the people". they too are run by rich elites and they too, at their core, harbor a disdain for the common man. ironically, the parties that are true grassroots organizations are the ones that most forward thinking pakistanis find anathema: MQM, JUI, JI.

2. let us not pretend our two biggest political parties are for a free press and independent judicairy and rule of law. their record stands before us to judge.

i completely back the sentiment that if we have an independent judiciary and a free press, MOST things will take care of themselves. however, i am skeptical of our democratic forces allowing/facilitating a truly independent judiciary and a truly free press. let's hope i'm wrong and you're right.

AAS said...

I agree with most of what has been posted. The stirring of a movement is upon us but the question is are we going to fail?

To Onlooker, i truly believe what u said but i can't accept any leadership former or present that has a possiblity of leading us in the future...if they have a record of mismangement and corruption and atrocities.

We need to capitalize on this stirring and create a movement that gives birth to new political parties that do not start of as cult of most parties are today.

Have a question for everyone. Excluding the usual characters does anyone know of persons that would do well to lead such a movement or political party??

Ahsan said...

um, iftikhar chauhdry? (i'm only half joking)

AAS said...

Dont' worry Ahsan. I suspected someone would say that. I admire what he is doing but again i do sense that he would become like all the others.

So Anyone have any ideas? This does seem bad if we can't come up with a couple of names. Sigh!

Ahsan said...

i think the point to be made is that this obsession with personalities instead of institutions is what got us in this mess in the first place. it also convinces leaders, whether they be military people or politicians, that they are indispensable. after you yourself said in your last comment:

"We need to capitalize on this stirring and create a movement that gives birth to new political parties that do not start of as cult of most parties are today."

doesnt asking for "one or two names" as you do run counter to your earlier point of not falling into the trap of the "cult of personalities"?

for the record, i am agnostic as to what type of politician chaudhry would be. what i do feel strongly about is that he shouldnt become one. he was doing a great job as chief justice...why would we want him as anything other than that?

jusAthot said...

I think we should also consider the Five Principles suggested by Dr.Ahmad Faruqui:

“The Five Principles outlined below:

1. A professional army: For too long, the army has been politicised. In the future, it will accept its position as a creature of the state, not regard itself as the state. The army will foreswear that it will play any role in politics. It will carry out the defence policies of the state, not make them. The defence ministry will prepare the defence budget, not the army. It will be openly debated in parliament, not covered up from the public.

2. An accountable executive: Elected officials will rule the country but they will not have a license to mint money for themselves. If they don’t perform, they will be removed through constitutional means.

3. An independent judiciary: The courts will uphold the constitution and ensure that rule of law prevails in Pakistan. They will ensure that free and fair elections are held on schedule.

4. A conscientious legislature: It will ensure that the constitutional provision of separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is honoured. It will take on the job of expunging religious extremism from the country’s psyche.

5. A normal relationship with India: Pakistan’s foreign and defence policy in the first 60 years has been India-centric in a negative way. The arms race with India has diverted billions of dollars that could be used for poverty alleviation in Pakistan. It has to come to an end. In its place should come enhanced bilateral cooperation and trade, building on the positive synergies created by the joint oil pipeline from Iran.

The Five Principles sound utopian … but they represent the only way forward. The current dispensation, focused on the single principle of an army chief who exercises unity of command over all organs of state, is the antithesis of Jinnah’s vision that was based on separation of powers. No amount of “enlightenment” can moderate its dictatorial character.

It is premised on a new beginning, under which the leaders in the post-Musharraf dispensation literally sign a new “compact” between themselves and the people.

Once the old political order is gone, Pakistan will truly gain its independence. Better late than never ….”

Ahsan said...

with all due respect, these principles are not utopian. they are what someone wishes in their dreams while sleeping in utopia.

libertarian said...

justathot: Faruqui is one the smartest guys around. However, his 5 points sounds like some political science textbook with minor context to make it seem real. onlooker's approach of small but significant gains (judiciary, press) sounds more believable (with some valiant leaps for my feeble imagination). Faruqui's approach is positively delusional - must have had some of that home-grown San Francisco weed before writing that piece :-)

Oh, about the ego thing - fear not. I'd be thrilled to be dead wrong on this one.

jusAthot said...

libertarian: Undoubtedly, some of his points are futuristic in their vision, and maybe not for our quick fix. Frankly, I think his points about the judiciary, and India-centric policies are viable and long overdue. It is however, smug to demand that no diagnosis ever made of an illness unless the investigator has the perfect prescription. Surely we are not awaiting a redeemer with the “finished blueprint” for Pakistan’s system overhaul?

In the meanwhile, give the guy a break and not outright cast it off as being delirious from smoking a joint. Can’t say I know much about dope – or the level of potency between Frisco and Cupertino weed. Heck I’ve been wrong about many things – without the high of a joint. Cheers :-)

libertarian said...

justathot: I believe Faruqui is one of the smartest guys around (corresponded with him briefly). The weed thing was a joke. His article just seemed out of character with his other writing. As for Cupertino weed - can't say I've tried it - if any is being cultivated on my front and back yards, my gardener's the one getting high :-(

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