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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Peace, For Now: Military Breaks Warring Politicians, Wait For The Next Crisis

Let's not pat ourselves on the back too much. The celebration and the sighs of relief must not eclipse a worrisome development: The massive, embarrassing and unprecedented failure of political leadership in Pakistan over the past couple of weeks. That failure was no small event. The original sin of disturbing the Pakistani political process is born by the United States and Britain. The attempts at political manipulation by both countries as far back as 2006 have destabilized Pakistan. Their latest intervention was designed to protect their interests. Let's celebrate the moment. But let's also take our politicians to task for their failed leadership. And let's keep an eye on the next crisis. It is coming.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—This is the first time that Pakistan's military joined middle class Pakistanis in forcing change on the country's closed club of elite politicians. This may not have been intentional. The recent failures by the political elite and the positive intervention for change by the middle class and the military represent a leap forward in Pakistani politics. This moment in our history must not pass unnoticed.

The events of the last two weeks prove what many of us knew already: that this is a dangerously fragile political system made worse by the inability of its existing players to exhibit the full range of public administration skills and the imagination necessary to run a nation as complex and promising as Pakistan.

The failures of this political class are magnified by the success of the media, the civil society and the lawyers in achieving what was impossible for the politicians. These new players represent a majority of middle and lower class Pakistanis who historically have been prevented from playing their due role in public life by a closed hereditary political system consisting of powerful families and vested interests.

But let's not pat ourselves on the back too much. The celebration and the sighs of relief must not eclipse a worrisome development: The massive, embarrassing and unprecedented failure of political leadership in Pakistan over the past couple of weeks. That failure was no small event. It made our homeland the butt of international jokes. It forced other countries to intervene. It forced our military to intervene. The political failure ran across the board: an inept, dysfunctional government matched by an equally dysfunctional opposition where politicians led the nation to a dangerous impasse. Apart from paralyzing the nation, politicians pursued a series of vengeful, immature moves that pushed the country dangerously close to mutiny, destruction of public peace and a possible rift across ethnic lines.

We have hopefully resolved one crisis. But this is the lull that precedes the next one. Let's not fool ourselves. Ours is a flawed political system that will continue to generate crises. The two top political offices of the country, the President and Prime Minister, will continue to be a source of friction and instability even when both belong to the same political party. Our political parties have ceased to be incubators of change and have regressed into ethnic, sectarian and religious politics. And once again, we've seen how a political crisis came close to igniting a confrontation between two provinces that could have taken an ugly turn. All of this calls for major changes in the political system before the next crisis results in permanent damage. The frustrating part is that not all of this change may be possible democratically. A failed political system won't change itself. If the politicians can't do it, the civil society should. And the military should break out of its traditional support for the feudal elite and help committed Pakistani citizens in bringing change.

Here the Pakistani military has a role. The recent crisis unintentionally proved the reality that the military is a positive force for stability and change in an unstable political system in transition. The military played a role in distorting the system through military coups. But the same military can also help in supporting the middle class Pakistani civil society in reforming the system, pretty much like the military did this time.

Our ultimate goal here should be the type of political system and not how it comes. Pakistan needs a political system where political parties are democratized and party leaderships are rotated through internal ballot, where language- and sectarian-based politics are proscribed, and where the different districts of the country are made to get busy in local development instead of getting busy in mass national politics.

Without this kind of change, the existing system will continue to generate crises and encourage foreign intervention. Here, it must be noted that the original sin of disturbing the Pakistani political process is born by the United States and Britain. The attempts at political manipulation by both countries in Pakistan as far back as 2006 have destabilized Pakistan. Their latest intervention might have turned out to be positive but it was designed to protect their interests inside the Pakistani government.

Let's celebrate the moment. But let's also take our politicians to task for their failed leadership. And let's keep an eye on the next crisis. It is coming.


 


 

By Ahmed Quraishi

Wednesday, 18 March 2009.

© 2007-2009. All rights reserved. The News International & AhmedQuraishi.com & PakNationalists

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