Monday, June 30, 2014

Pakistan Needs Boring Democracy -- Not Mesmerizing Mutinies

Pakistan is a nation full of mutineers who know little about governance, economic development, or international affairs. (I myself was a naïve revolutionary in my early 20s but came to the United States and thankfully lost the fervor after writing a doctoral dissertation on revolutions.) In hot summer months, when the people are suffering from the punishing shortage of water, gas, and electricity, the dapper mutineers of Pakistan, living in comfy homes fortified with maids and servants, yell and roar to change everything bad in the country -- corruption, family favoritism, religious intolerance, honor killings, police brutality, economic injustice, U.S. drone attacks, airport shootings, and scores of other social, political, and economic ills that beleaguer the nation. The problems they identify are real. The solutions they offer are perilous.
The Pakistani mutineers are amazingly diverse. They come in military uniforms, religious costumes, playboy outfits, and even plain clothes. Some mutineers have acquired foreign citizenship, some deliver live speeches from abroad, and some have returned home after frittering joyful youth in Western countries. Most mutineers are home-grown radicals who see little virtue in democratic evolution. Some hold the reins of power but do not believe in the rule of law. Some rebels are driven by dreams of personal glory but the most mesmerizing kind believes that God has chosen them to protect Pakistan. Among the most mesmerizing rebels are Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain (U.K. citizen), Imran Khan, and Tahir-ul- Qadri (Canadian citizen). General Pervez Musharraf, a world-class mutineer, who overthrew a democratically elected government to grab power, attacked India in Kargil, killed hundreds of seminarians to curb terrorism, and detained the Supreme Court Justices to pursue stardom, is facing treason charges.
Logic of Mutinies
Pakistan is a wonderful laboratory for the world to study the cobweb of anarchy for here the logic of mutinies is unassailable and almost all mutineers have valid points. For example, most politicians are dishonest, uneducated, and spend most of their energies in interpersonal quarrels. Very few develop even elementary knowledge of statecraft. Seeing blatant incompetence of the politicians, the military generals find reasons for mutiny. However, the military generals see the use of force (dunda as they say in local languages) as the solution to most problems. Each military general who unlawfully assumed power in Pakistan either dismembered Pakistan or sowed the seeds of dismemberment. Politicians, therefore, find reasons for mutiny against the generals. A persistent tension between the generals and politicians has weakened the primacy of the constitution. A country without stable and reliable rules of succession from one government to the next cannot deliver prosperity to the people.
Pakistani politicians themselves weaken the very constitution under which they are elected or establish federal and provincial governments. Soon after a government assumes power, opposition parties begin to conspire to shorten its constitutional tenure of five years. Mass rallies are staged to disrupt normal life. Public property is destroyed. Open gun battles between the police and protesters break out and are shown on live television. Those who have lost the elections rarely concede with open hearts. The system is so thoroughly corrupt that the charges of vote fraud are always credible. If political parties respect each other's mandate, they are accused of collusion and "match-fixing."
But opposition parties are not the sole mutineers.Even the ruling party begins to misbehave soon after assuming power. Close family members are granted lucrative jobs, political offices, and government contracts. The rule of law is compromised to promote favoritism and punish those who criticize government policies. There can be no light of law when every heart is lost in darkness. No social order is possible when the leaders in power are anarchists and mutineers.
Boring Democracy
Pakistan needs boring democracy, not mesmerizing mutinies (boring means to make a hole in a solid substance with persistent rotation). A nation facing existential problems needs silence, not agitation; patience, not protest; cool-headed hard work, not emotional eruptions. A boring democracy has no use for rebels; it relies on experts and professionals to solve problems. For example, it takes time to build reliable water, gas, and electricity networks. Dependable utilities require technical knowhow, resources, long-term investments, and a transparent accounting system under which services are billed and bills are paid. A boring democracy executes well-planned projects and distrusts orators who promise to fix chronic shortages in a year or so.
Likewise, a boring democracy shuns mass rallies, destruction of public properties, and a politics of ultimatums and deadlines for meeting political demands. Most importantly, a boring democracy shuns fiery rhetoric. It encourages the slow grinding of the rule of law and does not throw away the system if some outcomes are disappointing. It stays the course when the course is rough. A boring democracy urges politicians to use measured and cautious language, and deliver more than they promise. In a boring democracy, elected officials spend most of their time studying problems and developing skills to find creative and durable solutions. They do not waste time on TV talk shows, engaging in fruitless and mutually defamatory accusations. Democracy prospers when the politicians, even if truly boring, are highly competent managers (as some are in Norway and Sweden, the most prosperous and democratic nations on the planet). Pakistan needs to develop a culture of anti-heroism and the people need to be be highly skeptical of charismatic mutineers. Those who bring the most benefit for the nation are frequently quiet and self-effacing persons.
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