Pakistan can be turned into a stable and prosperous nation with a functioning democratic system in a relatively short time. But you will not know this if you listen to Pakistani politicians who are responsible for the deep confusion and division in the country about what needs to be done to put the state back on the right track. All the beneficiaries of our divisive and corrupt politics came together recently to defend their perks in the name of saving democracy.
Pakistanis have never been more ready for change than they are now. Sadly, the existing political system is paralysed and hijacked by special interests that masquerade as democratic players. Most of these players would be disqualified and banned from politics if the existing laws are actually implemented. The understanding between the ruling coalition parties and the movement launched by Dr Tahirul Qadri is a welcome step. But it is yet to be seen how powerful political lobbies will allow changes to laws related to elections and political parties – changes that would weaken the hold of existing political parties. No harm in trying, though.
To be sure, Pakistan’s political parties have turned into powerful cartels of special interests, rivalling and challenging the legitimacy of the state itself. This is not how democracy is supposed to function and this flaw cannot be justified in the name of democracy. The introduction of militant secret armies inside some of these parties poses a challenge to the state’s monopoly over organised military.
Karachi becoming host to different militant wings of political parties to loot and plunder at will is a disturbing and worrying precedent. Other parts of the country are under the threat of going through similar chaos if the rot is not decisively stopped and reversed.
So, is the change that Pakistan needs so difficult to understand? Will it really come through the ballot and a deeply flawed election process skewed in favour of a failed system?
Pakistan needs a break from destructive politics for anything between three and seven years. It needs to reorganise the federal structure by introducing new administrative provinces to put an end to language-based politics. It needs to divide national politics into manageable localised politics. For this we can have local provincial parliaments with directly elected governors. We must encourage the entry of new faces into politics by changing election and political party laws. This should include a mechanism to vet candidates for federal and provincial parliaments. This political transformation should be accompanied by an intensive social programme to reunite the nation on the basis of patriotism and the promise of a good future. All this is a prerequisite for a workable future democratic system.
We have enemies in the region, both on our western and eastern borders, who have a stake in keeping Pakistan destabilised to a certain degree. They will try to disturb any attempt to stabilise the country from within. We need to stop foreign meddling in our politics. The 2006-7 secret deal that produced the current ruling coalition is a dangerous precedent that should never be repeated. Helping and promoting foreign meddling in our politics must be criminalised. We should also stop outside forces from fiddling with the various religious sects in Pakistan. Americans, Saudis and Iranians were allowed in recent years to recruit and groom Sufi, Sunni and Shia proxies. We have paid a terrible price for this meddling.
Most Pakistanis are ready to work with their two respected state institutions – the judiciary and the military – to introduce a capable civilian government that can act as a vehicle to bring changes to our laws.
Don’t listen too much to what our politicians say. Bold change is possible in Pakistan.