The Breeze Amid Political Heat


*Originally published in The News.

Since the past one month, the political temperature has been rising by the day. Attacks against the government have grown only to culminate as an intentioned final blow in the form of marches to the capital to unseat the PML-N government.

Imran Khan’s PTI and Tahir-ul-Qadri’s PAT are driving their respective marches and inquilabs.

Any political crisis is inevitably a breeding ground for opportunism, point-scoring, mud-slinging, propaganda, vendettas and agendas. The case hasn’t been dissimilar in Pakistan where the two-seater Chaudhrys of Gujrat, and the lone-parliamentarian Sheikh Rasheed have been hanging on inquilabi coattails.

However, amid the political chaos and uncertainty has been a positive development.

From JI, PPP, JUI-F, ANP to MQM, there has been a perceptible manifestation of political maturity. Having placed their own political agendas, differences and issues on the second rung of priority, they have come together in their advocacy for political dialogue; advice of negotiation, concession, flexibility and reconciliation to the government; and in the process, palpably demonstrated the spirit of democracy.

Publicly speaking on the dangers posed to Pakistan, its nascent democracy and hopes for a democratic future by current developments and the government’s response to them, many notable members and leaders of these parties such as Khurshid Shah, Raza Rabbani, Aitzaz Ahsan, Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira, Mehmood Achakzai, Hasil Bizenjo, Zahid Khan and Afrasiab Khattak have emerged.

With separate visits made by these parties to the ruling government’s leaders and members, imparting advice and help to them in dealing with the marchers; this political engagement has been a welcome occurrence.

The government’s decision to allow passage to both marches was a prudent abandonment of the jitters and edginess it had been demonstrating by the placement of containers, barriers and other measures that were characteristic of its tendency to overreact and create crises; and making monsters of minions.

In Hamid Mir’s recent show of Capital Talk, Federal Minister Saad Rafique revealed that the government’s decision to allow passage to Tahir-ul-Qadri for his march was reached in consultation with the PPP.

It seems that the parties have learned from their mistakes and the lessons of the past which dictate that political infighting, politicking and the politics of destabilization only benefit and strengthen the forces against democracy at not just their cost but of the country too. 

It is also quite remarkable how JI has emerged as the voice of sanity and sense in the prevailing political chaos; a credit that clearly goes to Siraj-ul-Haq for practising his political leadership responsibly, thereby bringing the party to the forefront of the battle against potential destabilization in Pakistan.

Adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in America, Arif Rafiq agrees by saying:

 “Siraj-ul-Haq has been playing a solid role despite being in a tricky situation [coalition partner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa]. They have a long way to go on the rights of women and minorities. But change on that front isn’t impossible.”

Political unity and maturity augurs well for Pakistan.

In the current crisis, it has attempted to function as a conduit between an obstinate opposition party and a sluggish government. Provided success at the end in the form of a deal out of this political pandemonium, this is sure to set a solid precedent as solution to future political tangles. Previously, it was witnessed in the signing of the historic 18th Amendment under the PPP government which effectively defanged the president by removal of the infamous 58(2)b that long stifled Pakistan’s democratic sprouts in the 90s; and enhanced political autonomy – all of which was a stride in Pakistan’s transition to a proper parliamentary republic.

Similar was the case during Tahir-ul-Qadri’s ‘inquilab 2013’ in Islamabad, which was deflated by the PPP government’s shrewd and sensible handling in cooperation with fellow political actors.

The late Eqbal Ahmad wrote in one of his articles that military intervention in politics only ends when ‘the legitimacy of the civilian system of power is established over a period of time.’  However, he went onto reason the unending military intervention and interference in Pakistani politics as, ‘We have been lacking both the political framework and leaders capable of investing the civilian system of government with authority, and taming the warrior class.’

Democratic continuity is the root of this much-needed establishment of legitimacy of the civilian system of power, a cause for which some of the prominent political parties have now been seen to be standing up for amid current political problems through active engagement with the government; PTI and PAT.

Therefore, if it flourishes, this political solidarity, maturity and sagacity can strengthen, empower and invest the civilian system of government with the power, will and dynamism it sorely lacks to face challenges and set Pakistan on the road to prosperity.

Political unity, maturity and sagacity are undoubtedly essential complements to Pakistan’s democratic evolution.

And one hopes they prevail at the end of the current political turmoil; and democracy triumphs.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

10 comments on “The Breeze Amid Political Heat

  1. s h says:

    The message is essential to comprehend the core value of the political dynamics. However, the fundamental principle of democracy should be exposed: transparency of the electoral process, appropriate separation of power among different branches of government, accountability and justice. Otherwise, the very concept of democracy will always be a joke because of the current tyrannical type of government which tries to hide under the flimsy mask of democracy. 

    • Very eloquently put, there is nothing in what you’ve stated that can elicit any disagreement.
      The principles and essentials of democracy that you have pointed out are the very aspects of this system that Pakistan is struggling to absorb; having witnessed the first ever term-completion of a democratically-elected government and the transition from one elected government to another after 66 years, n 2013.
      However, I disagree that the current government is ‘tyrannical’. It has its stains and blotches, but tyranny is a word I would want more associated with a regime like Zia’s.

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

      • Rehan says:

        I don’t think even Zia was ‘tyrannical’ . I would think that Shah of Iran was more tyrannical . Zia is purported to be an evil Dictator. He was no angel at all but to me , it seems that Democracy has harmed the country more than Dictatorship. We, as a Nation , are not yet ready and mature for “democracy” . We are a people that need to be ruled with an iron hand so that we would remain in our proper place .

  2. Rehan says:

    The 2013 handling of TUQ protest / dharna was indeed very shrewd. I am not like all those analysts out there , but I do think Zardari is probably one of the most mature politicians around in terms of self control. He must have been under a lot of pressure but I never saw him lose his cool and that trademark smile. That’s something I would like to see in IK ( too much to ask?)

  3. Sarwat AJ says:

    All I came to know of pakistani politics and society, was lack of tolerance, in all areas of life. Unbelievable to an extent, is to see a party can present their protest, whatever that protest may be. Defining the health of that credibility, is another issue, but giving a chance to march and present their demands without use of force or resistance, is something new.

    • Your thoughts mirror mine exactly Sarwat.
      I do believe that diversity, difference and the right to protest are at the very heart of a democracy; but do think that the cause, aim and legitimacy of some protests need to be considered too. But whether out of shock or admiration, it is indeed remarkable how these protests against the very existence of the government have been allowed to pass and be carried out without even the raise of a stick or stone. This is, surprisingly, a new milestone for Pakistan’s democratic transition.

  4. Another Pakistani says:

    The definition of democracy is pretty vague in a country like ours. Here Tribalism, dynasty, origins, family friends and most of all fleet of sycophant blind followers define everything. You me and everyone is infested with the bias and association to family names is evident in every manner. A national consensus should be reached in defining the idealistic terms for real democratic norms. Until then exploitation of the word democracy should be discouraged.

  5. Asma says:

    Good Article. The goverment system in Pakistan seems weak. More power must be present with the Prime minister of Pakistan.
    And troublemakers must be dealt with force if required.

  6. rehanud1975 says:

    It seems even that breeze is gone now and the flames are spreading everywhere. There is so much confusion all around and the “brothers” , Imran and Qadri are not being very helpful !!

    May Allah help us all , Amen !

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