Pakistan is yet again at the crossroads of unprecedented political developments, crisis and transformation of its history and true political forces of the country have to rise to the occasion, otherwise the future of the state and society would be at stake.
There are numerous challenges faced by the state and society in Pakistan and political actors, factors and institutions have to take a clear stock of the situation in order to be part of efforts to steer the country out of the crisis. The foremost responsibility is on the political forces of the country to avert multi-dimensional societal, political, economic, security and institutional crisis in the country.
There are several grave challenges faced by the country at this point in time. Of these the most important is that the political system is not functioning to its expectations. Rather, it is not working at all. Resultantly, governments in the saddle, whether at the Centre or provinces or even at the local level, have not been unable to deliver according to their mandate and expectations of the masses. Now there is a big question that whether it is the failure of the political actors and institutions of the country or the entire political system due to which the country is facing the crisis. In fact, it is the systemic failure and to a great certain extent political forces are also responsible for it, which brought the system. If one looks deep into the malaise in the country it transpires that the systemic failure and constraints of the parliamentary political system could not permit genuine leadership to emerge and thrive. Rather, the family and clan-based primordial relationship have been dominating and thriving in the country. So now when we talk about the genuine political forces to come to the front and rescue, then it means that the elements, which remained part of the political system but could not get the opportunity to serve the people as well as individuals, who have been reluctant to enter the political arena for fear of reprisals. These forces have to come together now as the country really needs them.
In another way, to drive one point home is that by political forces mean democratic actors and the future of the country is associated with democracy. However, political or democratic forces could only function to the fullest potential and serve the country and pull it from the jaws of crisis if they are given an appropriate forum and fields to function. But at the same time, it must be understood that political and democratic forces cannot wait for the right atmosphere to function as they are the principal agents to create such a situation not only for themselves but for all other national and social actors to operate to their fullest potential.
But unfortunately in contemporary Pakistan, the democratic and political forces do not realize their responsibility towards society. This is fundamentally because of the fact that most of the political forces are pseudo and they are only in the political arena for self-aggrandizement and vested interests. This can be gauged from the fact that nearly all political forces of the country and their top leadership have amassed a huge amount of financial resources and real estate. Thus, politics has been a lucrative business in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, all political parties have been dominated by individuals and families for which politics is a good business. The fact of the matter is that most of the main political parties of the country are dominated by families, including the Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, Awami National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Balochistan National Party. Only two parties which cannot be called family parties are the presently ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement. This does not mean that these parties are perfect and genuine. Rather nepotism and favouritism within their upper echelons also dominate the two non-familial parties. It is important to note that both PTI and MQM are coalition partners in the federal government but the former is quite unhappy with the bigger partner, the PTI. The reason is that the PTI is not accommodating some genuine demands of power and resource allocation of the MQM whereas the latter is also making some undue demands from the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. On the other hand, within the religious parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami is also a non-family-based party. However, the problem with the Jamaat-e-Islami is that it has a very narrow worldview and a support base and it cannot be called a true democratic party, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
A very important factor due to which Pakistan’s political forces could not play a significant and expected role in pulling the country out of crisis is that the sense and spirit of cooperation and accommodation among them is negligible. They only come together when their interests are at stake. The political parties may claim that they have been cooperating to save they political system, like during the unprecedented sit-in of more than 100 days by the then mainstream opposition party the PTI in 2014, demanding fresh elections as polls were fraudulent which brought the PML-N and its allies to power in the 2013. Without any doubt, all main political parties displayed a rare unity during the PTI sit-in but it was motivated by the self-interest of the political parties. Firstly, all political forces of the country smoked the coming down of the entire political edifice if fresh elections, as demanded by the PTI, had been held. As all political forces have undue personal advantages from the political system while the people have nothing, they wanted to keep it intact. Secondly, as the PTI was a new political force all traditional political actors wanted to pull the rug from under its feet, to stop it from getting power and, therefore, they joined hands. Although they were not successful as the PTI was able to win the July 25, 2018 national elections and got power to run the country. However, the PTI has also been suffering from incompetence and favouritism by its founder, Imran Khan, it has so far completely failed to provide any relief to the masses.
Now this is a situation that one cannot expect much from the political forces to steer the country out of the multidimensional morass but the key is still the political forces. For this, the political forces will have either to come forward and admit all their wrongdoings and pledge to the nation not to repeat the past mistakes or conscientious and earnest individuals from across the political divide must join hands to make a forum to address the grave crisis faced by the country because it is the political and democratic forces that are the key to a secure and prosperous future of Pakistan.