New 'Rules of the Game' in Pakistan

Pakistan : Sixty Years On: Towards New 'Rules of the Game'
by Mushahid Hussain: The Nation, August 7, 2007

While addressing the National Defence University's Media Workshop on June 26, one of the participants asked "who would you hold responsible for the mess created in the country in the past 60 years"? Respondiing to this question,the following four institutions were cited, in their order of priority:

First, the Judiciary legitimized wrongs and abuse of power beginning with the famous judgment of 1954. And, more often than not, they failed to provide speedy justice to the non-privileged, non-VIP sections of society (which is now thankfully being rectified).

Second, the Armed Forces went beyond their constitutional mandate by usurping state authority on one pretext or the other, beginning with the 1958 Martial Law.

Third, the political forces betrayed their mandate through an arrogance of power and abuse of authority, plus their proclivity to welcome every military takeover.

Fourth, the bureaucracy rubber-stamped wrong decisions of their political-military masters, just for the sake of perpetuating their perks and privileges.

Pakistan has been let down by its elite, many of whom have come across as greedy, grabby and self-serving. Conversely, its people have demonstrated patriotism and faith in the future of their country through their sacrifices. It is these people, especially the youth, the women and the middle class intelligentsia mobilized under the dynamic leadership of Quaid-i-Azam, whose hallmark of leadership was character and unimpeachable integrity, that won Pakistan for the Musalmans of the sub-continent.

While the state structure and its traditional political elite are in stagnation and out of sync with the popular mood, Pakistan's people and society are being driven by a determined self-starter approach. They have a "can do" confidence, evident repeatedly in our history. Whether it was Pakistan's role as the voice of the colonized Muslim peoples in the in the United Nations in the 1950s, the bravery of our young officers and soldiers in the 1965 War, the Bomb Project motivated among others by the commitment and idealism of Dr. A. Q. Khan and the grand vision of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, winning the World Cricket Cup under the inspirational leadership of Imran Khan, the selfless service to humanity of Abdul Sattar Edhi, the spontaneous nation-wide volunteerism during the 2005 earthquake, the coverage of the Lebanon War by 5 Pakistani TV channels with 2 hijab-clad young women also serving as war correspondents or the historic restoration of the Chief Justice – all these are amongst Pakistan's finest hours. During the Indian cricket team's visit to Pakistan two years ago, the national character of Pakistanis was on full display: large-hearted, warm and welcoming, even applauding India's victory on Pakistani soil, displaying a sportsman spirit usually absent in most countries, including India, when they face traditional adversaries.

Sixty years on, Pakistan today is a dynamic, vibrant and open society, in which there are no Holy Cows. An assertive and articulate middle class has emerged in the context of a "Silent Revolution" in 3 areas:

Ø Role and participation of women in public life;
Ø Education, which is finally getting the priority it deserves;
Ø A fiercely independent print and electronic media .

This change is reinforced by the demise of a once-powerful Establishment through a transformation via the streets played out in full public view in the 133 days of the judicial crisis from March 9 to July 20, in a democratic, largely peaceful and constitutional manner.

Holding fair, free and transparent elections is only one vital component of the democratic process. Pakistan's biggest challenge is to liberate the country's politics from an undemocratic mindset that believes in a winner-take-all approach with little tolerance for dissent and difference of opinion. In building such a democratic political culture, it is important that merit, not just money and power, be the basis of political participation. In the past, an entrenched elite relying on family lineage has treated the political system like personal fiefdoms with a "born to rule" mindset.

Pakistan today has come of age politically and now the biggest challenge lies in institution building. This involves fashioning rules of the game among the 5 major pillars of society who can be drivers of a better tomorrow: the political forces, the judiciary, the armed forces, the media and civil society. Of these five, the most pivotal role is that of the media because by speaking truth to power and showing the mirror to the elite, they are charting a newer, bolder course.

Pakistan needs a healing touch, and genuine national reconciliation by ending political polarization that has often degenerated into a personalized vendetta.

This challenge can be met today, as was the bigger challenge overcome against virtually impossible odds 60 years ago single-handedly by the Quaid-i-Azam. He created Pakistan without Big Money, without an Army and without any foreign country's support, elements which are deemed indispensable for today's politics. As the Pakistan Movement demonstrated, it is the support of the people that is decisive in bringing change under a leadership that has courage, conviction and character.

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