Faith in the political process -DAWN

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THERE is no doubt it will be a long, hard battle to cleanse Pakistan of the toxic effects of the hybrid experiment, whenever it is finally wound up. If there are doubts, those are about the ability of those who will follow to deliver.

With society polarised like rarely before, lawlessness rampant, an economy in the doldrums and institutional failure, rather than any success, defining key state pillars, one should be filled with endless gloom.

But in a country where the youth bulge is so pronounced, some 29 per cent of its population being between 15 and 29 and 64pc younger than 30, prophecies of doom and gloom must be the ultimate shirking of responsibility, in not taking the bull by the horns.

We, in the media, with so much analysis and so little news, must rate among the top shirkers in our blighted land where opinions — not sure how often they are our own — are pushed as fact, even as facts scream out to be seen as such and addressed.

The only meaningful reform in society can come from ensuring that the rule of law is supreme.

For a sizable number in society, corruption is the number one issue confronting the country and if eliminated will usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity; for others the whole corruption issue was a manufactured one to undermine representative rule in the country.

And once the corruption mantra picked up momentum, it was used to push back any assertion of people’s rights to representation of choice and a realisation of their aspirations. The resultant mess is what everyone is lamenting today. But wish things could really be that simple.

Whether an entirely manufactured concept or one rooted firmly in reality, the issue has seriously undermined people’s faith in the political process and class and it is up to the latter to address it meaningfully at their earliest opportunity.

When it’s possible this pathetic tool of political engineering and vendetta, NAB should be eased out of its miserable, non-performing existence and its video-compromised leadership also put to pasture. That, however, should not be the end of the matter.

The only meaningful reform in society can come from somehow ensuring that the rule of law is supreme. I mean just look at some images, and not exclusive by any chance, from this past week alone to see how much esteem from the highest in the land to the lowliest minion hold the law in.

Two barely one-minute-long clips from Karachi, mirroring the state of play elsewhere too, on social media, with one showing a murder accused walking out of the courts before getting into their SUV after being declined bail, with the police duty-bound to keep them in custody nowhere in sight.

The other shows an accused in custody in a well-known kidnapping case strolling out of a shopping mall to freedom in full view of the CCTV cameras after the police assigned to take him to court for a hearing of the case took him there and gave him free rein to do as he pleased.

Yes, yes the Sindh chief minister has ordered the arrest of the policemen and they will pay a price etc etc. That isn’t the point, is it? The impunity with which the cops did what the cameras captured must speak of a mindset, one filled with utter and total contempt for the law.

I am sure the next example, mainly because it is being mentioned here, will be found provocative and upsetting by many partisan readers but the day after the Lahore High Court rules the prime minister’s pet, and flawed, Ravi Urban Development Project illegal what does he do?

He flies to Lahore and does one of those in-vision messages against the backdrop of an element of the project, reminiscent of Bahria Town adverts, suggesting this was a stunning idea and that the judgement will be overturned on appeal.

Let me take you to spring of last year and that famous election in the Senate where just before the start of the voting two honourable senators PML-N’s Musadiq Malik and PPP’s Mustafa Nawaz Khokar discovered (hidden) spycams intrusively surveying the polling booths to capture the members exercising their right to choice freely, anonymously.

Nearly a year on, there has been not a word on any investigation that may have happened. In fact, another story then that Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani may have been present in the Upper House till the small hours of the morning possibly aware of what was happening went this way.

“Jaanay dein us story ko, please,” I recall the chairman beseeching one journalist to let it go. And what happened? That was the last we heard about it. These are not tricky civil-military issues but simple rule-of-law questions that should have been addressed by elected public representatives.

Reverting to the need for a direly needed credible mechanism to deal with corruption, one good reason for the political class to act ought to be enlightened self-interest. The age when the officer corps of the military mainly came from the landed (privileged) elite has long gone.

For years now, the officer cadre is predominantly recruited from strictly middle class urban or similar socioeconomic backgrounds in the rural areas. To them the corruption mantra is a big deal. It explains away a lot of their own deprivations and wants.

So, given the chance to formulate an opinion (they don’t join the senior ranks and get to play political games until much later) and feed it into the system their seething views also inform and facilitate the decision-making at the top. One can deride these views as half-baked and ill-informed.

But when they have a bearing on who governs the country and how, these become significant. The onus of redressing this falls squarely on the shoulders of the political class whose own future, and the issue of the people having faith in the political process, rests on it. Does it have what it takes?

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.