My thanks to journalist Tahir Malik for the following piece on Pakistan.
'A discussion is going on almost in each nook and corner of the country that Pakistan is a hopeless cause, going through the most terrible time since its creation. Today, politicians are corrupt, selfish and inefficient. They have failed to deliver. State institutions are on the verge of collapse. We are witnessing an historic rise in unemployment, price hike and burgeoning intolerance and extremism. In short, Pakistan is a mess! The army ruled the country directly for 33 years and added to the mess. The courts might have helped the media achieve high ratings and produce more headlines, but they have failed to bring justice to the land.
'Despite all that, I believe that Pakistan has reached a turning point. It may look gloomy and deplorable, but hope is visibly emerging behind this veil of chaos, callousness and hopelessness. The biggest element of this hope arises out of the utter failure of governance. Because of this, people have lost faith in state and statecraft. Bad governance has raised the demand of democracy based on performance and high-quality leadership. In the recent past, political ideology used to be the major spotlight of elections. However, the low caliber of leadership and the resulting poor governance has helped to change this mindset. For the first time in the history of Pakistan in general and Punjab (65% of Pakistan) in particular, there is almost no discussion on political ideology: left-right, liberal-conservative, secular-religious, pro-anti Bhutto, pro-anti Zia, etc. Issues of performance and public welfare have dominated over ideological dogmas of past times. That is the most brilliant ray of hope. One may say that the rise of Imran Khan's PTI is mostly because of the fact that the PPP and PML-N have disappointed people in general.
'The contemporary Pakistani politics was born with the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's PPP in November 1967. From 1970 elections till 2008, Pakistani politics revolved around Bhutto's political ideology. To me, he is the father of Pakistani politics. His services to common man and democracy are beyond any doubt. He is the pioneer of populist polices and people's rule in Pakistan. Bhutto's biggest gift to the nation was the sense of dignity and pride he inspired in a common man. That's why Bhutto remained the centrifugal force during his times.
'Generally speaking, pro-Bhutto meant: good governance, religious tolerance, enlightenment, favoring the poor, promoting local culture and traditions, rebelling against the oligarcy, supporting the underdog, anti-imperialism and regional cooperation, having a soft corner for socialism, women empowerment and, last but not least, a delightful life full of pleasure. This mindset was pretty unpopular from 1970 to 1977.
'The establishment did not like the democratic thinking of ZAB. This had brought the state machinery to work in favor of the people. But the establishment felt threatened and the anti-Bhutto conspiracy was engineered during the 1977 general elections. Nine opposition political parties under the umbrella of PNA and led by the father of Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Mufti Mahmood, contested elections against the ruling PPP in March 1977. Bhutto won with a big margin but the PNA claimed that the elections were rigged. The PNA launched a movement against Bhutto's regime, and it gave birth to more anti-Bhutto voters. Soon, the anti-Bhutto campaign turned into a movement for the implementation of an Islamic system. On 5 July 1977, General Ziaul Haq took over as a result of the movement and exploited anti-Bhutto sentiments to remain a power for eleven long years. He started Islamizing Pakistan, whenever, wherever possible.
'Anti-Bhutto political beliefs were defined by the Zia's establishment: love Islam on the surface, be a chauvanist, respect Islamic rituals, funding for the religious causes, support Jihad, do not see Indian and western media, believe that Muslims are the most superior, film and music industry promote promiscuity, the best place for women is home, be fond of Saudi culture, confine the labor class to certain limits, youth should be obedient, and above all, keep worrying for the life after death.
'General Ziaul Haq tried to create anti-Bhutto feeling and succeeded doing that to some extent. Jamaat-a-Islami was also part of that project. Even making of Nawaz sharif from a middle class trader of Lahore to a national political fiture by Zia's military dictatorship was a part of the anti-Bhutto project. Zia knew that Bhutto was hanged to death but he wanted to kill his ideology as well. Zia, with his political progenies, created the front against that ideology which was reflected during 1985 non-party based elections, and then during 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008 general elections as well.
'This way the establishment succeeded to take way the real issues and quality leadership from Pakistani politics. The rulers knew from the very first day what the real issues are: unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, low quality of education, poor health facilities to the people and a lack of economic opportunities for the common man. But they have always lacked the courage to seriously deal with these overwhelming issues. The establishment used Pakistan's highly valuable geographic location in the international and regional politics in their interest, very effectively. They served the west, America and CIA but not the people of Pakistan. In return, they were given enough money and funds to rule Pakistan. This bifurcated Pakistan into the country of rulers where life is heaven and common man's Pakistan where life is in chaos and disorder.
'Now, it seems that the time is on people's side. This new world order is not letting our establishment behave like they had in the past. The old culture of "avoid and rule" is collapsing. For the first time in the history of this country, General Musharraf would be in court facing charges of treason. The serving (now former) Prime Minister Gillani was dismissed for contempt of court. Former Prime Minister Pervaiz Ashraf's papers to context next elections were rejected. PPP's co-chairman and the sitting President is unable to favour his party in the coming elections.
'Pakistan seems to be healing from the wounds of the past. Times have changed and so is the political mindset of Pakistanis. They are suffering from a record price hike, unemployment and despair. But they have reached their path; they have moved on from pro and anti Bhutto political ideologies to political demands based on performance and good governance. This is political development; a political response taking Pakistan to new heights and standards.
'If things work rightfully and demands of the people are met through a democratic process, I am sure after only two or three elections, Pakistan will be liberated from unreal and anti-people rulers and their statecraft.
The writer of this article, Tahir Malik, is an independent journalist and teachers journalism at the University of South Asia.
Again my thanks to Tahir for this.