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Friday, March 13, 2009

Time For A Pakistani Putin

U.S. and U.K.-backed democracy is destroying Pakistan the same way it almost brought Russia to collapse in the 1990s. Pakistan needs a creative and unorthodox solution. This includes curtailing some of the chaotic aspects of democracy in order to help Pakistan heal and stabilize. The current system has a government installed by Washington pursuing the Anglo-American agenda of wiping out Pakistan to pave the way for an Indian role in Afghanistan and Central-West Asia and neutralize China, Russia and Iran. The way to counter this strategy is to extricate Pakistan from the American grip.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Independent judiciary is a noble cause. But as the latest political mess shows, Pakistan's existential crisis lies in the failure of its elitist politicians and in a flawed political system unable to match the creativity and aspirations of middle and lower class Pakistanis.

The growth of music, fashion, IT, media and other creative industries in Pakistan over the past fifteen years happened with almost no help from a stagnant political class unable to regenerate itself or allow new leaderships to emerge. Without breaking the stranglehold of this monopoly, Pakistan will not be in a position to stop this ruling elite from continuing to use divisive and destructive ethnic, linguistic, sectarian and confrontational politics as diversions from their failure to provide statesmanship.

It is bad enough that the present government in Pakistan is the result of a 'deal' hatched at the U.S. Department of State in 2006 and early 2007. The deal allowed the President and some of his key confidants to be brought back from exile to rule the country. What is equally bad is that now we have a senior politician, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, inciting civil disobedience and 'ethnicizing' his political problems, portraying them as a battle between a Sindhi President and Punjab, giving himself the right to represent the province. This has evoked retaliatory salvos from politicians in Sindh. Pakistanis are being further divided to suit the interests of expedient politicians.

While this leadership failure spreads, the government appears to have given up even the pretense of protecting the interests of the nation. Now America's failed and disastrous war in Afghanistan is being shifted into Punjab with the decision to shift NATO's transport terminals to the Pakistani heartland. No one knows who took this decision or whether Pakistani citizens were asked for their consent before further endangering their lives for someone else's war. Reports are also pouring in warning that Gwadar is about to lose any advantage that Pakistan could have extracted from this port as a trade conduit to China and Central Asia as the Indian-built Iranian port of Chah Bahar not only gets operational but its land routes to Afghanistan have been completed. U.S. and India have been bitter about Gwadar from the start and wanted to see it scuttled. Now this is being done at the hands of the Singapore government authority that was assigned to run the port and which brought it down to a standstill. Another capitulation to foreign diktat occurred on Feb. 18. The media didn't even notice when President Zardari fired deputy attorney general Sardar Mohammad Ghazi, his own special prosecutor, because Mr. Ghazi had the audacity to say that Pakistan wanted the extradition of Ajmal Kassab in order to force India to answer some of the mysterious details of the Mumbai attacks that New Delhi are avoiding to address despite a formal request from Pakistan. This is where any educated observer can tell you that we have hit rock bottom.

[Update: Sources in the government confirm that the ruling PPP has given instructions to its political appointees in the police and the federal investigations agency, the FIA, not to reveal the results of the probe into the attack on the Sri Lankan team and instead play up the link to 'local extremists'. Apparently, the PPP is keen again to link the incident to anti-India Kashmiri groups. Although these groups have been dormant and non-operational since 2004, the U.S. and the Indian government have teamed up with the PPP government in Islamabad to tighten the noose around Pakistani intelligence agencies and the Kashmiri groups that have given the Indian army a bloody nose in Kashmir.]

Today's Pakistan resembles Russia eight years ago: a nation under pressure from United States and Britain, ruling elites subservient to Washington and London, ethnic and sectarian insurgencies being encouraged from the outside, and foreign-inspired intrigues underway to weaken and neutralize the security establishment from within. The most important resemblance between a crumbling Russia in the 1990s and today's Pakistan is that a chaotic and messy version of democracy with full backing from Washington and London that brought Russia close to collapse is in progress in Pakistan. This version of democracy is controlled through American and British assets within the Pakistani political elite, which itself is increasingly shifting its wealth abroad, pretty much like the pro-Western Russian oligarchs did before the arrival of Vladimir Putin on the scene.

To be fair, any outside meddling in Pakistan is only exploiting flaws in our political system where powerful families perpetuate control over political parties and provinces carved on ethnic basis ensure that even the smallest administrative or political issues turn into ethnic conflict.

Pakistan has reached a stage where it needs a creative, unorthodox, homegrown solution. Pakistan needs a period of stability and healing. Some of the chaotic aspects of democracy need to be curtailed for the said period where a government led by civilian technocrats can run the country, borrowing from the disciplined and organizational powers of the military in a hybrid civil-military arrangement. The first task of this arrangement would be to implement law without exception. Other remedial, long term steps could include disqualifying those politicians whom the nation has tried and tested. This would clean the field for more capable to emerge. Parties can be forcibly democratized by law and lingo-ethnic and sectarian politics should be outlawed. The biggest service this new setup can do to the nation is to reorganize politics through a series of smaller, administrative provinces with a local parliament and a directly elected president. This would build on the existing local government system and localize all politics in Pakistan.


 

By Ahmed Quraishi

Tuesday, 3 March 2009.


 

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