Pakistan’s System is at the heart of its Political Corruption By Atif Salahuddin

Despite fierce anti-American sentiment throughout the country, especially after the US Salala attack in November 2011 which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, Pakistan’s civil and military rulers have once again decided to ignore public opinion and move ahead to safeguard US interests by re-opening NATO’s indispensible supply lines. Such has the abysmal capitulation of Pakistan’s rulers been that they even ignored their own parliament’s resolution which called for a number of conditions including an end to the drone strikes inside Pakistan. The naked brazenness of the US was demonstrated with triple drone strikes that killed over 20 people within days of resumption and reaffirmed the lop sided master to slave relationship.

All of this follows on from the latest political high drama to unfold in Islamabad that has been the judicial decision of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to disqualify Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani from holding office. That followed just days after the Chief Justice’s son Dr. Arsalan Iftikhar was implicated along with Bahria Town property magnate Malik Riaz in allegations of bribery. Whether the dismissal of Gillani and the indictment of the Chief Justice’s son are related is open to question; did the military quietly back the judiciary in its ‘coup’ is also debatable. However what is not beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the dismissal of Gillani has no meaningful impact given that just months remained in his five year term and that the ruling PPP has just elected the notorious Raja Pervez Ashraf as his replacement better known as ‘Raja rental’.

Therefore welcome as Gillani’s dismissal may be given that the man himself was symbolic of a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent administration his departure by itself will not resolve Pakistan’s continuing crisis. Whatever the truth of these latest Malik Riaz allegations they represent the latest soap opera in Pakistani politics after the ‘Memogate’ affair which eventually whimpered out along with Gillani’s dismissal with the real issues being kicked into the long grass. The increasing US drone strikes in recent days, the sustained political attempts to resume NATO’s supply lines, the Pakistan military’s continuing operations in the tribal areas, the crisis facing Pakistan’s economy together with the severe unprecedented electricity load shedding taking place in the searing summer heat have all been relegated from the political agenda, at least officially.

Pakistanis have long grown accustomed to such deceitful and pretentious behaviour from their rulers over many years which has lead to such an erosion of trust that many now rightfully question the legitimacy of a political system that can continue to connive to produce such an ugly state of affairs. As people start to protest violently to vent their frustration with the crisis gripping the country the truth is that Pakistan’s political class are not only wholly indifferent to the immense suffering borne by the people, they are actually inflicting such miseries with their poor governance and corrupt rule as they serve the US agenda in the region.

Removal of one man as the prime minister by the judiciary amounts to little more than changing the window dressing. The decision to re-open the NATO supply lines despite overwhelming public opposition is a case in point that changing the face of the ruler does nothing to alter such treacherous policies and that the present political system does nothing to represent the real views of the people either. Those who believe that the judiciary is a panacea to Pakistan’s crisis fail to appreciate that the role of the judiciary is at best to judge by the laws created by the legislative system, not to replace the rulers.

Hence suo moto case after suo moto case by the judiciary has made very little difference to the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. Indeed one needs to ask why the Supreme Court has not initiated a suo moto case over the US drone strikes given the ample evidence of complicity by Pakistan’s rulers. This is seconded by the deliberate failure of the military chiefs such as General Kayani to defend the country and its people from external attack; all of this amounts to a clear violation of the constitution of Pakistan and the oaths that these rulers have sworn to uphold. It is manifest that such judicial activism is selectively applied to what is politically acceptable to the Pakistani establishment.

Such political manoeuvring illustrates the incestuous relationship between Pakistan’s politicians, generals, judges, journalists, bureaucrats and business tycoons that rely and feed off each other in order to serve their interests exclusively. This has been consistently demonstrated no matter what form of ruling has been applied in the country, whether it has been a military dictatorship or democratic rule. Undeniably either form of ruling is used until it loses all credibility in the eyes of the people and then it is replaced by its other half to give the system a new lease of life.

This has been the case since Ayub Khan’s dictatorship in the 1960s which was followed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s democratic government in the 70s. Then came Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship for much of the 80s and then democracy’s re-run under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in the 90s. After that of course came Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship which lasted until 2008 and now we have the current democratic order; how long this current democratic period will last is anybody’s guess. Moreover even during military dictatorships Pakistan’s Generals have been adept at sharing power with the politicians who are not averse to turning down such offers despite their claims as being champions for democratic rule. Zulfiqar Bhutto’s stint in Ayub Khan’s dictatorship, the partyless Junejo government with Nawaz Sharif starting his political career under Zia and the Q league/MQM government under Musharraf adequately demonstrate this.

The truth is that both democracy and military rule in Pakistan are two faces of the same hideous corrupt system that has been in place since 1947. This system has loyally served the elites whilst impoverishing the many; this is a system which is deaf to all pleas of help from its people. A political system which wantonly ignores the needs of its people but can continue to implement the US ‘War on Terror’ by killing its own people in extrajudicial killings and maintain the rulers lavish lifestyle is neither representative nor legitimate.

It is also evident that both forms of ruling are secular in origin, with no Islamic ruling system in place. An Islamic system would mean the application of the Shariah in its totality with its ahkam and rules implemented for the state such as eradicating usury in the economy and dealing sternly with aggressors such as America instead of allying with them as its foreign policy. Despite this Pakistan’s rulers deliberately attempt to implicitly blame Islam through their mouthpieces in the media for the multiple crises facing Pakistan even though secular rule has been the order of the day. The blame for Pakistan’s disastrous governance for the last 64 years rightly deserves to be placed at the feet of this discredited secular political system, not with Islam.

Such apologists in the wake of the Arab spring are now attempting to deflect democracy’s failure; they claim that Pakistanis still have the right to vote, there is a vibrant media and though progress maybe painfully slow democracy is still the only way forward.  These ridiculous arguments do not even stand superficial scrutiny. Pakistan’s media is the very same media which fails to report from the tribal areas or identify any casualties from US drone strikes. Life for the average Pakistani has not improved one iota but has become a living nightmare since democracy’s latest incarnation in 2008. Power blackouts for nearly most of the day, the inevitable water shortages as a result, gas and fuel shortages, rising unemployment, surging inflation and living costs, deteriorating law and order with increased political violence in Karachi and increasing American attacks are just some of the most visible consequences of democracy’s failure to deliver. This does not even begin to address some of the more longer term issues fundamental to Pakistan such as education, healthcare, industrialisation and agricultural land reforms.

Pakistan is not improving and as the crisis gripping Greece shows that even after 2400 years the birth place of democracy is not necessarily faring any better with its political experiment. Pakistan does not deserve to be subjected to this democratic ordeal and neither do the people have the time to wait. The truth is that such lame excuses are the arguments of the last resort in trying to deflect blame away from democracy’s failure in order to preserve the status quo for the ruling political elite.

Democracy’s failure to establish itself in Pakistan is because at its heart it relies on certain values. Chief amongst these is that man is the sovereign and free to legislate, derived from its secular creed that the affairs of the state and religion should not mix allowing Pakistan’s political class to rig the system in their favour. This effective freedom to do as you please is completely averse to Islam where the Shariah lays down legislation for every affair including affairs of the state. The Muslims of Pakistan understand their deen and reject the notion that Allah(SWT) should be consigned to private life. Poll after poll in Pakistan shows consistent and strong support for the implementation of the Shariah. This is why democracy at its origin has an ideological crisis of legitimacy for the Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Pakistan’s rulers thus look to the US and the UK for political support who in turn heavily meddle and dictate Pakistan’s political affairs in a formula which continues today. It also explains why capitalism is at the heart of the crisis in Pakistan which believes in the freedom of ownership in every way and uses democracy as a means to an end. That end is namely to allow the few to usurp the immense resources of Pakistan as democracy puts the terribly rich, ambitious and powerful in charge. This is why we see members from the same powerful political families contest elections on multiple platforms such as the PPP, ANP, MQM, PML-N and PML-Q to ensure that someone will always get elected in this lottery to safeguard their interests. These individuals use their wealth to literally buy their way into politics with tickets for the forthcoming elections costing tens of millions of rupees. How can anyone expect such ‘parliamentarians’ not to seek to enrich themselves by abusing their positions once in power?

It also explains why some old faces are now flocking to PTI as they anticipate with expectation. Politicians such as Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, foreign ministers under the PPP and Musharraf/PML-Q regimes respectively to name but a few are well versed in this game.  For any party which participates in the system in Pakistan is bound by the rules of the game; those rules do not allow you to tear up the system, that is the price to be paid for entry, political power and patronage from the establishment.

PTI’s claim of bringing a political ‘tsunami’ through this system should be multiplied with a political zero as it does not even have a single seat in the 104 seat senate dominated by the PPP which is necessary to pass any legislation with a two thirds majority. The much heralded and promised PTI reforms such as agricultural taxation and land reforms stand no chance as cooperation from the dominant old parties in the Senate is absolutely essential.  This also explains why Islamic parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami can also never bring any change as they participate in the system and thereby effectively endorse it as they give and take with it. Muhammad(SAW) never compromised with the Quraysh or accepted their offers of power even though they persecuted and attempted to coerce him during his first 13 years in Mecca.

Thus Pakistan today is a rudderless nation with no ideological direction. The two nation theory is deliberately being undermined by the secularised elite in power through the media in a forced bid to halt the growing call for Islam and attempt to normalise relations with India under US geostrategic planning. This was not the aim of the Muslims of India who sacrificed their wealth, property and lives in their millions to demand a separate Muslim homeland and migrated with great hardship to a new state where they could live in peace and security under the shade of Islam. The Muslims of Pakistan have been cruelly deceived and betrayed; instead of true liberation one form of slavery under the British Raj has been exchanged for another under Pakistan’s corrupt ruling system. The demand by the Muslims of Pakistan for the implementation of Islam is entirely legitimate and the genuine will of the people.

The Khilafat system represents a real political ideological alternative for the Muslims of Pakistan and the natural fulfilment of the political movement that led to the partition in 1947. It enshrines constitutional government and the rule of law for at its heart is the Shariah with sovereignty for Allah(SWT) which cannot be changed by any politician or ruler; today Pakistan’s government in the wake of Gillani’s dismissal is attempting to pass new legislation with the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 that will extend immunity already given to the President to every senior sitting government official including the Prime Minister, Ministers’, Chief Ministers’ and Governors’ from criminal prosecution. The Caliph has a contract with the people to deliver on good governance otherwise he would be recognised as a transgressor with an independent judiciary enabled with the power to investigate and if necessary remove any government official from office including the Caliph.

Pakistan’s corrupt secular system is the very cause of its crisis, this is now an undeniable political truth. Pakistan’s situation can never change or improve under its implementation which is nothing less than organised criminality with serial looters and career criminals sitting in power. All the political players who partake in this system do so for their benefit with the ability to pass man made legislation as they see fit for their interests. Pakistan’s rulers will continue to play games by diverting attention with political theatre and alternating spells of military and democratic rule until somebody stops them.

The international order today is in a precarious state amidst capitalism’s great calamity that is enveloping the West with huge upheavals taking place in the Muslim Middle East. Pakistan too cannot remain unaffected by these winds of change. History’s lesson tells us that such tyrannical regimes cannot be sustained indefinitely. The challenge for Pakistan’s people now is not just to protest for the sake of protest but rather such a movement must lead to a viable new political order. The Arab spring has shown that though the people may have revolted there is no revolution yet as the incumbent regimes cling to power through cosmetic face changes, tinkering with the system and in some cases through sheer brute force. Pakistan with its bitter experience with democracy should learn from its mistakes and move forward to re-establish the Khilafat which will deliver an independent and accountable government. Otherwise Pakistan faces a dark and deep descent into inevitable turmoil that almost certainly lies ahead as the system now fails to fulfil even the most basic needs and continues to break down.

The writer is an analyst who specialises in political and international affairs and can be reached by email on and via Twitter @atifsal

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