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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Democracy Hustlers

Updated: May 6


In 1970, former (late) PM of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto rose to the power politics by giving slogan of Roti, Kapra aur Makan (food, clothing and house) to the people; and in 2024, his party PPP is still in power based on the same slogan without satisfactory delivery on any one element of the election slogan. The PPP closest rival and ten years younger PMLN is also again in power with similar illusory promises while people remain deprived of the basic necessities of a normal life after 77 years of independence from the British colonial masters. While public felt comparatively better off under three military rules; nevertheless, the Democracy Hustlers including their orchestrated supporting clans of well-paid political supporters, goons, writers, media persons, and well established bureaucrats have throughout kept the comprehensively coerced followers and deprived voters in line as a sustained election winning strategy…. ironically, all in the name of democracy.

             

   It is true that the standard of life has much improved for a few million people out of more than 240 million population, but the ever widening gap between ‘haves and have-nots’ is too stark to be ignored. The depreciation of Pakistani Rupee against dollar from PKR 3.31= 1 USD in 1947 to PKR 279 = 1 USD is the top indicator of Pakistan’s dismal story of democracy, governance and completely collapsed National economy. While the proponents of democracy plundered and stashed away the national wealth to rise from nothingness to the envy of British Royal Family, American rulers and business elite, the State of Pakistan has been made hostage to the World Bank, IMF and other IFIs, besides being tagged as beggars in the eyes of the countries that once used to get aid from Pakistan. The national assets and most precious resources have been sold and leased through shady deals and the people of Pakistan have been helplessly watching the pillage in complete awe and disgust. The Economic Hit-men landing as para-troopers have been kept in place consistently till to date and the national budget of Pakistan has always remained in their hands squeezing public to the death point. The democratic government takes solace and even pride in begging for more and more foreign loans and deferred payment oil supplies by surrendering national domestic and foreign policies. It is heartbreaking and mind boggling for all thinking minds.

      

       I have kept my grocers, barber, tailor and mechanics the same for decades and they are the best and real friendly source of gaining the regular public pulse on the governance, democracy and economy. I have never seen them so desperate, frustrated, agitated and aggressive as I see them now. All of them have switched off their TV sets, stopped listening to the news and TV Talk Shows calling it rubbish, TV plays termed as vulgar and frustrating and contemporary music as irritating screams. Their faces have lost smiles, and mild manners have been replaced with hostility, stiffness or helpless silence. With inflation having broken all previous records and poverty gone beyond measures, survival within fair means has become impossible even for the so-called upper middle class. The unaffordable food prices, medicines, education, fuel, utility bills and unsatisfactory law and order situation all over the country has badly seeped the national morale. No one seems satisfied and happy; and it should be a point of worry and prime concern for the ruling elite as the pressure cooker in which the public has been boiled for the last seven decades seems having reached the bursting point.

       

         The tumultuous history of politics and the successes as well as failures of the civil, military and hybrid governments in Pakistan in the last seven decades need to be evaluated keeping in view the features and fundamentals of the state governance especially with regards to the achievement of vital and non-vital national interest. For Pakistani politicians and rulers, keeping the people deprived and dependent, always gasping for basic essentials of life and keeping them embroiled in Thana (police station), Katchehry(lower courts) and patwari (land record office) is the tactic to stay in power. When occupying both houses of the parliament, the elite sticks to passing bills and ordinances to get clean slate on all the crimes committed and further strengthen the unholy rule as a strategy, which has remained a permanent feature in Pakistani political history.


Despite a very large fleet of ministers, advisors and technocrats the GOP does not seem to take even first few steps towards self-sustenance based on God gifted national resources including highly talented youth bulge, export potential of refined goods, crops, energy and hydrocarbons; besides cheaper availability in the near neighbourhood. The austerity seems to be the most forbidden word by the GOP and the lavish lifestyle, perks and privileges of the legislature, Judiciary and executives baffles all visiting foreign delegations as well as the masses in Pakistan. The level of corruption, desperately slow and unsatisfactory judicial system for well-known reasons, human rights violations, fast spreading menaces like vulgarity, cheap debates and unsavory dialogues on national media, and missing safety and security of life, property and respect…all combined together are tearing apart the national fiber. The majority in Pakistan believe that although always well intentioned, yet the hybrid solutions repeatedly applied to many a manmade national challenges have mostly helped only to induce more incompetence, lack of accountability, retard institutional growth of all departments and impede progress and development in other walks of life in Pakistan e.g. Nizame Salat, desilting of canals/ Bhall safai, digging out ghost schools, fixing Pakistan Railways, WAPDA electric meters and electricity theft issues, sports board, Taxation and documentation of economy on behalf of the FBR/ CBR, ERA/PDM, monitoring of all national institutions for performance evaluation, military/ AT courts to help speed up provision of justice are only a few examples to quote. And one can only pray and hope for the best from the contemporary upbeat initiatives of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) and the corporate green farming Joint venture. The conventional wisdom says, “Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for”. One may regard it as a Tenth Man advice without any contempt.

         

       It goes without saying that without a strong political and economic visionary strategy and structures in place and that too in the hands of honest, well qualified and competent people; it may just be hoping against the hope to see a reverse of an Abnormal State (published November 20, 2023). The first thing first i.e. we need political stability...a tall order though. Therefore, instead of self-serving Democracy Hustlers, we do need to put in place people with unblemished personal integrity, national commitment to make Pakistan a self-reliant state and its people as self-respecting citizens; an old-fashioned gumption though, yet it is a desperate compulsion!

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