Simply blaming Zardari for all that is evil will only help prolong the paralysis

Uncomplicated analysis – Simply blaming Zardari for all that is evil will only help prolong the paralysis

In Pakistan, however, the analysis is so uncomplicated that it seems like President Zardari was even responsible for these floods.

By Ammar Ali Jan

One of the biggest hindrances for positive structural change in Pakistan has been the unnecessary focus on individuals rather on policies and ideological positions. This phenomena, often referred to as “personality politics”, is pervasive in much of the Third World where individuals become the focal point for condemnation during a time of crisis.

We have witnessed a crude version of a personality-centric analysis in the aftermath of the worst floods in the country’s history when the focus of the “expert” discussions have often revolved around the dismal performance by President Asif Ali Zardari during this national tragedy.

There is no doubt that the activities of President Zardari during this crisis make little sense to anyone except probably his closest advisors who seem to have managed to convince him that public sentiment is not to be taken too seriously. A cancellation of the European trip, or at least a less extravagant display of his wealth, would probably have prevented such a furore on his alleged arrogance. But this is not the first time he has botched an opportunity to appear as a statesman.

While one must accept the validity of this narrative, what are often missing are policy and structural issues that reproduce this status quo. For example, there has been very little debate on why natural disasters affect Third World countries that way they do. In the case of the earthquake in Haiti, the catastrophe was linked to years of wasteful spending by the Haitian government and the lack of priority given to better housing facilities. This debate further extended to the role of Western colonialism and recently, US interference that created a permanent cycle of poverty and dependence for the Haitian state.

In Pakistan, however, the analysis is so uncomplicated that it seems like President Zardari was even responsible for these floods.

One of the reasons why we are constantly stuck in the paralysis of this degenerative system is the inability of our intellectuals, journalists and civil society activists to propose an alternative vision to the existing state of affairs. This lack of intellectual rigour is then reflected in mass movements that often end up spending too much focus on personalities rather than on challenging the structures of power.

For over three decades, all the mass movements witnessed in Pakistan have revolved around individuals. The most classic example is of the Pakistan National Alliance’s (PNA) movement against Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Pakistani politics was clearly divided into two camps: pro-Bhutto and anti-Bhutto. The PNA was a bizarre alliance that included right-wing Mullahs, communists from the National Awami Party (NAP) and liberals such as Asghar Khan. The only issue that united them was their hatred for Bhutto, and since there was little emphasis on a positive alternative, they only managed to pave way for the military takeover by General Zia. And we know how well that turned out to be!

The movement against General Zia, though extremely inspirational for the sacrifices given by pro-democracy activists (mostly belonging to the PPP), it nonetheless failed to discuss such of the most ugly policies formulated by the Zia regime such as attempts at “Islamisizing” the law or curtailing womens’ rights.

Removing Zia was in itself the main goal while other issues could wait. The result was that when Benazir Bhutto became the prime minister in 1988, she was unable to move against the discriminatory laws she inherited from the previous government, nor could she move against the neo-liberal onslaught that was unleashed by the Zia regime with the privatisation of major state corporations and a complete halt to land reforms. She even had to accept the draconian powers acquired by the intelligence apparatus and had to play a junior partner with the establishment when it came to crucial foreign policy issues.

The most recent example of our inability to articulate a progressive agenda in the course of a social upheaval came during the Lawyers’ Movement. Again, the focus of the Movement and the media was entirely on General Pervez Musharraf while ignoring the powerful structures that allowed him to stay in power. For example, there was little critique of the role of the military as an institution in the politics and economy of Pakistan. There were exceptions in this regard, such as Dr Ayesha Siddiqui, who demonstrated the huge influence of the Armed forces in the country’s economy which she argued was one of the biggest threats to the sustainability of democracy in Pakistan. Unfortunately, her point of view remain marginalised as the leadership of the movement remained interested only in removing General Musharraf.

Similarly, there was less emphasis on the unlimited powers enjoyed by the intelligence apparatus in the country, or on the ethnic question that had placed in doubt the sustainability of the Pakistani project. More disturbingly, the movement was even unable to propose a reform of the decadent judicial system in the country, focusing instead solely on the restoration of the Chief Justice as the cure for all our ills.

The result of course was that most of the policies of the Musharraf era remain intact today with no attempt to bring the powerful intelligence apparatus under civilian control, to introduce accountability of the armed forces, to bring back the agenda of land reforms or other such pro-people policy initiatives or to consider revising the country’s foreign policy.

Instead, we are now back to square one, focusing all our anger on President Zardari, trying to convince ourselves that only if he wasn’t at the helm of affairs, our fate would have been different.

This is precisely the danger with the Zardari-bashing that is slowly becoming the favourite pastime of our chattering classes. It gives him too much credit for things that he has very little control over. As I said earlier, it is too uncomplicated an analysis of an extremely complex state and society that has many layers and contradictions and to simply focus on one man as the concrete representation of all such processes is a flawed approach to begin with.

It is important that we start asking tougher questions than what President did or did not do in France. How can we actually improve our disaster management facilities? Is there a serious case to be made for the non-payment of debts? Do we need to question our military expenditure when we know that we are completely incapable of helping our own countrymen in times of a natural calamity? And perhaps most importantly, if we assume that the current political class has failed to meet our expectations, what would a viable alternative look like? It might help us to re-examine the Bhutto-led movement against the Ayub regime that was not only targeting Ayub Khan, but was also attempting to answer such difficult questions.

The need of the hour is refocus our attention on policy issues and structural problems that our country faces and generate public opinion on possible solutions if we are serious about constructing an alternative politics. Simply blaming Zardari for all that is evil will only help prolong the paralysis, since no Bolshevik is currently in a position to storm the palace to replace him.

If we continue to substitute individuals for structural change, we will continue to curse successive governments, while getting frustrated on why no one is listening.

Courtesy: >> The News

Source >>

One thought on “Simply blaming Zardari for all that is evil will only help prolong the paralysis”

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. Although IAOJ does not monitor comments posted to this site (and has no obligation to), it reserves the right to delete, edit, or move any material that it deems to be in violation of this rule.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s