The doubt rattle

“And isn’t it a bad thing to be deceived about the truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing the truth you mean knowing things as they really are.” — Plato

My last article that appeared in this newspaper traced the history of bureaucracy in Pakistan and how it has demeaned itself through decades.

In addition to the usual intake of comments, I was surprised to receive a telephone call from a senior bureaucrat posted in Lahore, who was one of the lead-honchos of the pen-down strike that was orchestrated in the wake of the arrest of Ahad Cheema by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

After establishing my identity and stating his, he went on to lavish extravagant praise upon the piece that I had written the previous day. He termed it a mirror that I had held in front of them (the bureaucracy) to see how they had fared to the detriment of the state. After much more in the same parlance, he went on to assure me that he, along with his colleagues, would ensure that, instead of serving the cause of the rulers, bureaucracy rises to do its duty to the state and the people.

Surprising that the call was, it nevertheless reiterated that all may not yet be lost in this country and that one still had cause to nurture hope. I did tell him that the time for rendering sermons was over. They have to act and their intentions would be judged not by what they say, but by what they actually do.

Since then, one further aggravating step has been taken by the ruling elite in Punjab which smacks of the self-righteous mindset at play in handling matters concerning perpetuation of corruption. Making unholy use of the tyranny of brute numbers that they command, the rulers bludgeoned a resolution through the provincial assembly condemning the actions of the NAB.

It is time for the ruling elite to shed the self-righteous apparel that they have worn to hide their myriad spots and sins. It is time for propelling the system into a trajectory that would be defined by the standards of its inherent transparency, accountability, efficiency, efficacy, and, above all, its humaneness. It is the suffering multitudes who need to be attended, and not the ruling elite who have been fed to an exorbitant degree of opulence, eating of the bountiful state largesse

Since we are at it, let’s also talk about the deafening doubt rattle that is being blatantly and systematically orchestrated against certain institutions which are being dubbed as impediments to the evolution of democracy in the country. For umpteen months now, we have been hearing that conspiracies were afoot to sabotage the Senate elections, even postpone the next general elections. And much of this poisonous rattle has been emanating from the ruling party stalwarts and their pitiable chameleons in the media.

Now that the Senate elections have been held in the country, paving the way for a further depraved stock of individuals to sit as members of the upper house of the parliament, the rattle is likely to continue baring its fangs, leading up to the general elections. In the process, the holding of the Senate elections would not be attributed to the mandatory continuation of the democratic process in the country, but to the ‘heroic’ resistance that the political parties put up to thwart the multifarious conspiracies of the powers that be.

But what these conspiracy-theory-mongers would not like to talk about is the way the system is being corrupted by the political parties and the danger it poses to the evolution of a genuinely democratic culture and polity. By barely looking at the results of the recent elections, one would know the role money and other forms of gratification played in securing results which cannot be justified on the basis of the respective strengths of various political parties in the national and provincial assemblies which, collectively, constitute the electoral-college for the Senate elections.

PPP emerges as the main culprit in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. The blatant bidding of the Balochistan and FATA seats is also not a secret. Has the Election Commission taken note of it? Will it conduct an enquiry into these dishonourable dealings? Will the political parties extend support to such an enquiry, or will they dub it as yet another conspiracy against democracy in the country?

Instead of legislating to eliminate the prospect of stage-managing elections through the instrument of gratification, a spate of charges is likely to spiral with every political party accusing others of having horse-traded, declaring itself as being the only right honourable outfit in the arena. This would be confronted by the accused parties with their own charges against the accuser. This demonising exchange would continue for a while and, then, all would be buried a million feet down under like it never happened.

Even more important than this is the shameful congruence among all political parties to keep degrading further the stock of people they send to the Upper House of the Parliament which is also the true symbol of the federation as all constituent units are equitably represented here. Personal servants and proven toadies, sycophants and intellectual imposters — and here I restrain myself from using the terms that such-like people really deserve — are the preferred choice to adorn the Senate and practice their wisdom on how to prostrate obsequiously, satiating the crowning arrogance of  their corrupt lords and masters.

This scenario is so rotten that one is at a loss for words to describe its putridity. It stinks, but it keeps the political pundits happy at the prospect of reaping the creepy entails of what they have sown.

The drama of pointing the accusatory finger at others has gone on for an excruciatingly long period of time. For the political elite, every other institution is out to undo the system. This accusatory finger never points inwards to ascertain their own contribution to the evolution of an excessively degenerate political culture in the country that refuses to look beyond the domain of the personal interests of the ruling elite and those of a close circle of aiders and abettors of their crimes.

This self-righteous paradigm is drum-beaten to a crescendo by a group of media operatives whose lips and pens are sewn to the swelling of their pockets.

The strength, vibrancy and longevity of a system cannot be defined by the myopic benchmark of whether it serves the interests of those who commandeer it. It will be served only by making it responsive to those who need it the most — the impoverished and the downtrodden, the sick and the frail. But, they don’t count in the operative paradigm of the ruling elite. They are dispensable commodities. They are used only when there is a need for them to clap at a public meeting, or cast votes at the elections.

It is time for the ruling elite to shed the self-righteous apparel that they have worn to hide their myriad spots and sins. It is time for propelling the system into a trajectory that would be defined by the standards of its inherent transparency, accountability, efficiency, efficacy, and, above all, its humaneness.

It is the suffering multitudes who need to be attended, and not the ruling elite who have been fed to an exorbitant degree of opulence, eating of the bountiful state largesse.

Let the doubt rattle subside. Let the state institutions do their work. Let the ruling elite look inwards. Then, there could be hope for Pakistan.

The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com. Twitter: @RaoofHasan

Published in Daily Times, March 6th 2018.