Perhaps, the immediate answer from any of my compatriots to this interrogative caption is, no. A vehement, no. There is no likelihood of peace between the warring factions of the political society. It is in confusion and disarray that politics/politicians thrive. If all was to be good, what would countries do with politicians? - The unemployed politicians will be far more difficult to handle than the unemployed youth (workforce).
The feud must continue for the sake of peaceful and calm ‘anarchy’ - mental and psychological anarchy that politicians hurl and then each day the political analysts on various TV channels garnish these with more of acetic acid, causing major heartburn to the multitude viewers.
While there should be no refrain in counting our blessings, it is also a demand on our basic intelligence, to acknowledge the many fortunes, we have brought upon ourselves as a nation since our independence in 1947.
The unhappy events are aplenty; it is an arduous task to write about each of them. The continuity of adversities has brought us to a state of depression. There is no sight of serendipity or relief in any facet of life. The challenge to overcome gets dampened by the regular musical chairs that is played out in Islamabad. The number of chairs increases with each successive government, and this increase is directly proportional to the growth and rise of corruption and nepotism. The claimants to booty grow with every change.
Democracy demands as its cornerstone the principle of equality. Hence came the adoption of universal suffrage, which ushers in the concept of adult franchise. This is referred also as common suffrage of the common man; gives the right to vote to all adult citizens, regardless of wealth, income, gender, social strata, race, colour, ethnicity, political leanings, etc. The exceptions in many countries include the insane, not as an opinion but those who are, fully medically certified; and those who are convicted criminals lack the right to vote, let alone get elected. We are an exception to this exception.
The only people free in a democracy are the rulers. Politicians need people; it is that need, which they refer to as democracy. Those who promise less are the best politicians in a democracy. Said Tom Stoppard In 1937, ‘it’s not the voting that’s democracy, it is the counting’!
Parliamentary democracy, which traces its origination to the City of Athens, (during that time, around 5BC the population was approximately 140,000 with male population estimated at 40,000); this form of democracy was adopted by Britain, and rechristened as Westminster parliamentary type.
Many countries, who were enslaved by the British like India, Canada and New Zealand adopted this format of democracy. In Pakistan without the accompaniment of the necessary level of education, which would have allowed for discernment by the electorate between the candidates/ parties, of being either good or bad, the 1973 constitution embraced parliamentary democracy. With two interregnums of martial law between 1973 and now, democracy, in all its beauty and ugliness has prevailed in Pakistan.
Unlike our neighbour that got independent with us, we as a nation have not been able to destroy the society’s feudal structure, inclusive of the feudal mindset of the non-feudals.
The neighbour on the other hand both by negotiation and force, under the fanatic Vallah Bhai Patel’s leadership, absorbed all the Maharajas and princely states including Hyderabad and Junagarh; once these became part of the Indian union, the entire feudal apparatus was dismantled forever. The continuity in political leadership that India got under Nehru was to their advantage. Pakistan lost all of its founding fathers within the first eight years of independence. A great loss. The price we continue to pay.
Feudalism in Pakistan is pre-eminent. It has as its close cousin those who are filthy rich forming part of the elitist structure. The gap between the haves and the havenots, since the 1950s is only widening. Extremely brief periods of economic well-being gave only partial relief from poverty.
The will to destruct the exploitative feudal structure has been in absence. Due to the non-availability of any sizeable middle class, the deficit is yawning. Middle class is shrinking in size over the past several decades.
What constitutes middle class? It is that strata of society that lies between the working class and the capitalist/upper classes of society. In the US, middle class is estimated to be around 52% of the population. The Pew Research Centre has advanced a financial definition to the term middle class - to be part of it, the definition says an average American must have earned anywhere between $30,000-$ 90,000.
While globally there is no single definition of who is considered as middle class, the general opinion is that to be counted as one, there must be ownership of a house, affordability to pay for children’s education and have a residual disposable income to take a vacation for oneself and family at least once in a year.
If we examine the recent economic history of some exemplary nations like Germany, Japan and Italy, it becomes abundantly clear that it is the middle class in these countries that gave impetus to economic growth.
The existence of a strong middle class ensures stability in the demand for goods and services. A growing middle class can become a breeding place for the emergence of fresh and new entrepreneurs as well as politicians. It is the middle class that brings into politics and economics an all-inclusive element.
If the political set up of any country is hostage to dynastic politics, democracy will remain in chains. Competence then takes a back seat to nepotism - we first had a brother duo holding, PM/CM posts, now it is a father-son combo. This malaise exists in most developing countries, but for our misfortune we get to see its ugliest form. Nobody can fault Nehru for promoting Indira Gandhi because she was in herself an island of excellence when it came to basic politics, just like our own Benazir Bhutto; however for the rest of the political inheritors, the less said the better.
Politicians, whose nursery has been either the establishment or the family, rule like warlords. The case in point is an everyday sight in the streets of Pakistan where a four-wheeler would be going at the speed of a Formula One race car, that is backed by another four-wheeler where perched on the open, are gun totting guards who actually point the gun at the masses who have to either give way or surrender to the damage likely to be hurled by the butts of their AK-47s!
The level of education is critical to a flourishing democracy. The electorate must at-least have knowledge if they are voting for or against. An educated population can’t be enslaved; albeit they are easy to govern and manage. In an after dinner speech, John. F Kennedy conjured and invented a letter from his father that read, he said, ‘don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I will be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide’. This quote may come handy for many senior politicians to mention to their self coronated heirs apparent.
Any society’s middle class is presumed to be well educated. The literacy rate, alongside the varying levels of formal education guarantees the availability and sustainability of not merely consumption, but it also induces growth and investment in sectors like health, housing, education, etc. This in turn allows for creation of a welfare state.
To put a complete end to this facade of democracy, the electorate will have to disband itself of its allegiance to dynastic politics. To a few families, politics and democracy is a profession, nay, a matter of ownership/ entrepreneurship, where the chairperson of a political party passes the baton to a family nominated prince or princess of Wales.
The common man has no chance, because he/she is devoid of the political clout, that is in turn dependent on either ownership of lands, businesses and factories - dismayingly many business leaders are more powerful than politicians. The financiers of ‘political freedom’ play a catalyst role in the incarceration of democracy. Hence we witness a very different version of Abraham Lincoln’s version of democracy - he had said, it is of the people, by the people, for the people - instead we have democracy, that is of the few, by the few, for the few. This is the elite class; the middle class is missing, and lies ungrudgingly, between them and a class that resides in the abject poverty.
We will continue to have sham democracy until the feudal apparatus, real and of the mind-set is demolished. The education levels have to be enhanced. Only then will the middle class have opportunities to encroach upon, both the extremes of the territories held by the haves and the have nots.
Meantime, the saga of musical chairs continues.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022