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Archive for December, 1994

Governance and Democracy

Dynamic young leadership is usually taken to be a boon for any nation, what we have seen happening in Pakistan over the past 5 years or so makes us cry out for those with experience of more years on Planet Earth. Usually intelligent and articulate, youthful leadership’s potential is often hamstrung by a whole bunch of informal Advisors from the inner circle dating back to school and college days who tend to influence/take part informally in crucial decision-making. This Under-19 lot that seem to surround youthful leadership and remove them from reality (a la Ms Benazir’s astonishing “Karachi is not boring” has undercut the system of governance as both elected representatives and selected officials have had to give way to those who do not have any idea (or expertise) of running an administration or for that matter even have a vested and accountable interest in doing so. Hardly able to find Grozny on the map (or for that matter Kigali), these “Yuppies” near the seat of power have become “experts” on foreign policy, influencing the hot and cold football with the media and as far as law and order is concerned the over-riding perception is that of a bevy of beauties let loose to run amok in a China shop (no pun intended). The hormones of our young leadership need constant companionship (remember John Kennedy’s young Presidency) to while away the time away from the rigours of Statecraft. Americans may remain nostalgic about “Camelot” that the Kennedys brought with them to Washington, the later knowledge about John F’s romp with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Mafia-moll Judith Exner, etc gives shivers to historians about alien influence in the then decision making process.

To compound all this, a suffocating, hide-bound election mechanism has thrown up a very poor quality of leadership, without drastic reforms positively, we will have more of the same. Other than bad advice by dilettantes (and even yesterday’s debutantes) our political leadership is forced to depend upon “special interest groups” (and individuals) for survival once they are in office rather than on the electorate that voted them into office. The major problems thrown up by the present electoral system are nepotism and corruption (and accountability thereof) among our elected elite. Unless an innovative fresh (and natural) approach is made to minimising the predilection of our elected legislators for misusing the powers and privileges bestowed on them by the system, the debilitating process in our fraying society will continue.

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The Ostrich Syndrome

The ruling PPP seemed to strike a discordant note at the hierarchical level at the beginning of this week. It is true that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the NA had been trying to establish their writ (in independence of their party position) by insisting on the sanctity of their ruling in bringing the arrested MNAs to the House. However, the surprising Presidential hint that he would not hesitate to use his Constitutional role if he had to in the face of the worsening law and order situation in Karachi as well as the need to bring in MQM from the cold was in direct contrast to the PM’s assertion that “MQM should rein in its terrorists.” Having been on the receiving end of foreign policy disasters one after the other since the beginning of her reign, PM Ms Benazir had put in all her well known potential for persuasion into the OIC at Casablanca and thereupon savoured the first foreign policy success of sorts in bringing Kashmir to world attention by getting the participants to adopt a resolution, though it may be said quite reluctantly, by the likes of our so-called friends, Hosni Mubarak, Yasser Arafat, etc. That the PM may have been waylaid by the misleading reports given to her by her aides is perhaps the only excuse one can have for her failure to acknowledge that disaster is facing us in the face at Karachi. Having her power-base in rural Sindh, Ms Benazir has to come to terms without any further delay with the urban majority MQM in a spirit of give and take.

Given the deteriorating circumstances, the launching of Operation Clean-Up in May 1992 was necessary. The situation in the Province was reaching anarchical proportions and the then military hierarchy surmised that the populace was fed up of the transgressions and would respond positively. In the initial stages Operation Clean-Up was extremely successful in both the rural and urban areas but the latter exercise became a victim of serving individuals in mufti (in contrast to their uniformed colleagues for the most part) misusing their authority to unleash ill-conceived vendetta targeted on the MQM (only) in trying to bring about political change by military means, a non-starter as any avid student of history can confirm. Fighting in built-up areas while keeping civilian casualties down is not an easy task, the planning of the Operation by the then Corps Commander Lt Gen Naseer Akhtar was outstanding and its execution by his Comd Corps Reserve, Maj Gen Malik Saleem Khan was brilliant. However, the joker in the pack was the ill-conceived organising of the MQM (H) into a potent anti-MQM weapon. The MQM(H) may have genuine grievances but these latter day Quislings have served only to create a backlash among the Mohajir community to absolute resuscitation of Altaf Hussain’s waning fortunes in self-imposed exile. The MQM(H) exists today as a tragic but sore bone of contention in the search for urban peace. Instead of allowing the law of nature to take its course in establishing detente between the warring parties, those who were sidelined, some even being subsequently forced into early retirement for various misdemeanours involving corruption, greed, misuse of authority, etc have re-surfaced. Having ruthlessly exploited the MQM(H) previously, they are now again engaged actively in promoting disorder and anarchy by remote control. What is their “connection” that they cannot be made to answer for their crimes against humanity? The PM gave a broad hint to this effect before she left for Casablanca and repeated it again in a party Parliamentary meeting, why is GOP not bringing them to book with the same alacrity they showed for Mian Muhammad Sharif?

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Apocalypse Now

If posterity were to take events to pinpoint exactly when the clock struck midnight and Karachi ran out of time, the brutal assassination of Mohammad Salahuddin, outspoken Editor of Takbeer and the flight of renowned social worker Maulana Sattar Edhi to London, ostensibly in fear of his life, would serve as symbolic markers. Karachi is now a city filled with fear, full of apprehension of the known and the unknown. For years there has been no dearth of soothsayers predicting impending doom but they can have no satisfaction in being proved right, only contempt for those at the helm of affairs over the past decade who were so deaf and blind that it is not surprising that they acted dumb in the face of catastrophe.

Appoint an Administrator for the whole of Karachi NOW, for purposes of perception of authority let us call the person Lieutenant Governor (or some such title) and give him (or her) a sweeping mandate for an interim period of one year over all the law enforcement and civic agencies in the city, with extraordinary powers under Article 245 of the Constitution to rule over Karachi. The Lieutenant Governor will be directly responsible to the Federal Cabinet through the Governor and will effect such changes in the administrative control of the city as he thinks fit in keeping the city running, in supersession to all other Federal and Provincial entities that are working today. As a psychological stamp of authority, he must have an office in the Governor’s House where he could use the services of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), an outstanding example of citizen participation in solving urban problems.

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Why Do Systems Fail?

A star-spangled group of concerned citizens of various ilk have recently launched a campaign for peace and harmony in the country, particularly in Karachi, by putting their weight behind a mass appeal in the form of a major rally organised by the Mir Khalilur Rahman Society in Karachi and a separate campaign in the media. Opposition parliamentarians led by Mian Nawaz Sharif simultaneously organised an All Parties Conference (APC) in the city. On the surface terrorism’s immediate reaction to this was gunning down of one of the participants, the outspoken Editor of Takbeer, Muhammad Salahuddin. While the actual perpetrator of this ghastly assassination remains a matter of conjecture as late Salahuddin had many enemies (including those whom he had exposed as being corrupt), this vicious repudiation of the combined voice of reason underscores a deep apprehension of impending doom, a refrain heard alike in the drawing rooms of the elite and the tea-stalls of the impoverished, hovering like an ominous dark cloud over the minds of our citizenry. It is almost as if we are willing ourselves into becoming prisoners of our worst nightmares. This deterioration of the national fabric into anarchy, very much visible all around us in every institution of any note, can be solely and wholly blamed on the various permutations and combinations of small coterie in Pakistan that has always wielded power, whether in or out of authority. It is not surprising that these people conveniently remain blind and deaf to what’s happening to this country but do not fail to spout rhetoric far divorced from reality as to the reasons. The elected and the selected, with sometimes little difference between the two, have generally put greed and career respectively (or both together) before their conscience i.e. they have operated on the basis of their selfish personal needs by putting their own welfare and contentment before the safety and comfort of the citizens they represent and/or are responsible for, seldom giving greater priority to the honour and glory of the country they profess to be loyal to.

In this degeneration process, the first factors that we give lip-service to are merit and accountability. Merit is suspect because nepotism has so undermined the process of upward mobility that anyone showing signs of above par excellence is considered dangerous and dealt with accordingly. Those who have reached the upper levels with little to show for ability ensure a vicious cycle where no “upstart” with any merit comes through the pecking order. In Pakistan, as in third world countries, character assassination by the help of motivated intelligence reports is the order of the day, bloody assassination a la Salahuddin takes place only where everything else fails. An endless blackmail is conducted by twisting facts and mixing it with fiction in order to wear down the patience of the victim till he (or she) simply gives up out of sheer frustration. How many voices have we seen silenced, how many brilliant careers have we seen going down the drain in this manner? From time to time fate intervenes to correct this imbalance but the broad momentum of nepotism is maintained to the detriment of those crucial leadership attributes which are a necessity at every level of society and discipline. When merit thus becoming a negative attribute for survival and advancement, how does one expect accountability which in any case is mostly selective because it is directed towards the “enemies” of the powers – that – be (i.e. whoever is in power at that precise moment)? Selective accountability focus undercuts its credibility, the basis of fact being eroded by its motivated interest in persecution for the sake of persecution, sometimes even as a revenge motive, rather than purely altruistic intentions to uphold the laws of the land. There is a conspiracy of silence that makes for a sort of a “Thieves Pact” not to really put each other into any inquisition until one crosses a particular fail-safe line. To be effective, the concept of accountability has to be blind, compromises makes the process ineffective. One of the reasons why we are in a holy mess is because we have systematically destroyed the integrity of the accountability process.

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