Talk is cheap, whether of ‘revolution’, ‘change’ or just ‘good governance’.
In a country like ours, the loudest chatter is often just a play on buzzwords by the few failing to deliver on their duties. A year on from the elections, the nation is in a state of war; under a government that operates as if it’s still in disbelief that it has been given the charge; and with an opposition which refuses to understand how nationhood operates.
Be it the long marches, the rallies or the coups, the problem with all of them is they do not address the underlying problem: democratic actors not doing their job.
Put another way, we have neither the government we deserve nor the opposition we need.
The government we deserve
Starting with the former, let me say, first of all, that the ‘kakacracy’ (as a dear friend puts it) is simply not cutting it. Asif Zardari was right on the mark when he recently compared the present government to a faux monarchy.
In the last one year, we have witnessed a systematic failure of the federal government to govern at any level, be it controlling the power crisis or dealing head-on with the terrorists in our midst, this government has managed to float through a year without having to take any serious decisions.
That being said, I will give this government the credit it deserves i.e. they are self-starters. They have self-created more crises than any other government of late.
Be it the ‘Geo Blunder Bundle’ or the ‘Taliban Talk Shawk plan’ or "Musharraf's quick flight out", the initiative to damage things beyond repair has always been with the government.
And while most of the blame does lie with the allegedly apolitical bureaucrats around the Prime Minister, if the PM cannot figure out how his people are playing him even after a year in power, then there’s really not much left to say.
In contrast, the government we deserve is a government which tackles our issues in a viable manner (even if at a slow pace) for long-term impact.
See what Zahid Hussain has to say: No winner in the game
I have repeatedly maintained that our biggest problem is a lack of jobs.
No number of bridges, underpasses, system upgrades and publicity stunts will create jobs in the long run for a country our size.
No provincial government or even the federal government has come forward with a genuine approach on how to create the nearly four million jobs that Pakistan needs every year.
The government we deserve would at least have the heart to address this instead of doling out public finances as a diversion from the real problems.
What Pakistan needs is people who take initiatives on persisting matters instead of burying their heads in the ground like ostriches.
Take, for example, the issue of electoral reforms; it is a genuine issue and has multiple dimensions. Why can’t we have an expansive discussion on this issue and open up the floor to proposals like direct elections for Senate and Presidency?
What’s wrong with having a discussion on updating our system in a phased manner, so that by the next elections we are able to use electronic voting machines?
And while we are at it, why not have more provinces and cancel the FCR that has brought the tribal areas to the brink?
Those are the types of debates that a government we deserve will be involved in.
The opposition we need
If citizens are to have a government we deserve, there needs to be an actual opposition too.
What we have right now is a regional party that used to be a national party, a group of immature cultists with the habit of quitting things in the middle (remember the whole filing a case against Altaf Hussain in the UK stunt?) and a political ****** who has been used more times than the GT road.
That’s the entirety of our opposition right now.
They refuse to understand and respect the integrity of the system while conveniently forgetting their actual job i.e. keeping the government in check.
Instead of getting to their duties, one of them is still reeling from the trauma of winning in the wrong province, while the other one is busy seeking a backdoor to power.
With an opposition like this, who will keep checks on the government?
Who is asking the tough questions about economy and security and education?
Happening today: Opposition hopes to ease tension between govt, PTI
The way the system works is that the opposition, irrespective of how small it may be, asks the tough questions and projects an alternative ideology, instead of trying to leave the system because of being beaten in the elections.
They need to make the government work hard for a reputation. Criticising the government does not cut it anymore because what we really need is ideologically different remedies for the many problems we have on the national level.
The purpose of this design is to give citizens the freedom to choose between different approaches on how to proceed as a nation. Political parties represent differing policy positions, and we vote for the one we most relate to.
Parties may, by all means, debate over their proposed strategies, but never in the entire process, is hurting or destroying Pakistan an option.
The situation we don't want to be in
Keeping this in mind, consider the situation that awaits our nation in the next two weeks.
Our military is waging a war to establish the writ of the government in North Waziristan.
Our government has plagued itself with numerous crises and on top of it, are behaving like teenagers about them.
Our opposition, at least the elected one, refuses to openly admit that their true pain is coming to terms with losing Punjab.
We have a Canadian vacationer who puts up a better show than any Broadway musical.
All the while we, the people, are stuck dealing with the terrorist blowback of the army operation, the rising cost of living, chronic energy shortages and the ever shrinking number of long term job opportunities.
This is not what we signed up for.
We deserve a better government and for that we need an honest opposition. Sadly, if this continues, we will end up with technocrats we don’t want and the same old recycled saviours that everyone can do without.