Destruction by courtiers

Nations are built on honest hard work and struggle, not by consuming chocolate or relying on courtiers. What has not worked in seventy years will not deliver now either

Seath by chocolate and destruction by courtiers (darbaris) have a lot in common, as they are highly palatable and grow on you. One is a dessert to die for, while the other surrounds you to death. With centuries of colonisation and autocratic foreign rulers, the Indian subcontinent has been infested with generations of ‘darbaris’, who have been responsible for the downfall of several rulers. It has become almost impossible to get rid of them.

A college was notorious for its sycophancy.So an upright principal was posted there to clean up the mess. In his very first address to the faculty and staff, he declared his intent to bring merit and uproot the courtiers. A faculty member, who was an established ‘darbari’, got up saying, “Sir, this is what I like about you”. Sycophants are everywhere.It is not easy to get rid of them. I am sure the meritorious principal was eventually trapped and destroyed by the ‘darbaris’.

Qudratullah Shahab was a very well respected senior bureaucrat. He was Principal Secretary to the first dictator Ayub Khan. After celebrating his decade of progress, the usurper was removed by the second Khaki ruler Yahya Khan, who then called a cabinet meeting which comprised mainly of courtiers who heaped praises on him. Shahab warned the General that such kind words were a norm in the presidency and he should be careful for his survival.

On 18 February 2018, during the PML-N public gathering in Sheikhupura, Dukhtar-e-Pakistan was bestowed with a crown of Gold for her courage and support of her deposed father. With such sycophancy by the courtiers, the leader starts believing in their potential and their right to rule which eventually cause their downfall. As an undisputed leader of the masses, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) fell into the same trap.

In 1970, he contested the elections with new faces and won. But by the time of the next electoral exercise in 1977, it was just the opposite. Party tickets were awarded to the so-called established electable who had badly lost the previous contest against his party novices. Even an astute individual like ZAB was surrounded by ‘darbaris’ who were the first to abandon him when the chips were down.

Zia was cunning and sly who believed in status-quo. He used individuals and then got rid of them; the change was not on his agenda. When his own handpicked prime minister tried to be his own man, he was removed. Pervez Musharraf started with great fanfare with his seven-point agenda, which included accountability and devolution of power. Several politicians were arrested. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was asked to capture them. But eventually, the accused individuals made it to his cabinet and became his courtiers as they were good at it. Finally, the accountability seeking General left following the promulgation of ‘National Reconciliation Ordinance’ (NRO) that brought all the ‘thugs’ back into the corridors of power.

Half of Musharraf’s cabinet is now a part of the ‘Sharif court’. The remaining half landed in the ‘Kaptaan’s court’. Both parties are convinced that these courtiers are an absolute necessity

It did not end there; half of Musharraf’s cabinet is now a part of the ‘Sharif Court’, which relies heavily on their courtship. One of them had to resign after the Khatam-e-Nabuwat amendment fiasco while two are facing contempt of court proceedings.

The remaining half of Musharraf’s cabinet landed in the ‘Kaptaan’s Court’, who was also convinced of their courtship abilities. Physical fitness, dyed hair and black sunglasses have become the PTI image of leadership. In the days of Zia-ul-Haq, display of piety became a norm with ‘Lotas’ all around.

Courtiers have destroyed empires, movement organisations and political parties. The defence mechanisms against them have all failed. Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, ZAB, Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir, Nawaz, Musharraf, even Imran – the PM in waiting – are all surrounded by courtiers who tell them what they want to hear. There is no room for debate or dissent, leaving the field open for the darbaris who then take over to enforce their own agenda. In such a scenario, change will remain a pipe dream.

In seventy years, we have only experienced three people friendly cabinets. The first was formed by Quaid-e-Azam in 1947, second by ZAB in 1971 and the third was Kaptaan’s Shadow Cabinet that was announced in 2010. The rest have been enemy gangs dominated by courtiers. Since 5 July 1977, it has been downhill for the nation. Everything from defacing the constitution down to the manipulation of the ballot has been tried for vested interests. Nation building seems to be on no one’s agenda.

Nations are built on honest hard work and struggle, not by consuming chocolate or relying on courtiers. What has not worked in seventy years will not deliver now either. In the words of Allama Iqbal, leadership calls for ‘Hazar aur Mujood say Bezar Karay’. Those who survive on praise and on the doctrine of all is well, definitely stall progress. At best, they can defend status-quo and then hide behind its stagnation. In the information age, courtiers should be disposed of in the dustbins of history for humanity to move forward and flourish. The recent removal of disqualified PM from the position of the presidency of the PML-N, the party of courtiers, may prove to be a step in the right direction. It may even contain the destruction by the courtiers by attacking their hatcheries and exposing their misdeeds.

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. Email:

Published in Daily Times, March 5th 2018.