Discredited political systems
Proving all political pundits wrong, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), is continuing with his sit-in at Islamabad.
Imran Yaqub Khan
Negotiations with the government committee seem to have reached stale mate. Prime Minister Imran Khan continues infuriating the opposition with his angry speeches and yet sends his negotiating committee to sort matters out with the very same opponents. In their quest to score a win, all the major players in this stand-off have turned the political arena into a war zone, discrediting not just themselves but the entire system.
Are these politicians, who call themselves leaders, unaware of the fall out when the process of discrediting is complete, and they have all been proved incompetent or corrupt? Do they believe that Pakistani politics will remain immune to changing global political trends and public expectations? Can political trends from the 70s last in this age of fast paced communications? Do these leaders realize that the world is increasingly turning to leaderless movements and revolutions?
In France, the ‘yellow jackets’ are populated by members from all strata of society. At the other end of the globe, the Arab world saw a dominoes effect disrupt decades old systems. Women’s Rights movement #MeToo brought down many powerful social, entertainment and political figures. In America, a TV entertainer and real-estate tycoon, Donald Trump, won the elections after defeating the old guard. Emmanuel Macron walked straight from his bank into the Presidential Palace.
Perhaps our political class fails to understand how leaderless movements take birth. In Tunis, the revolution started when one jobless young man, having lost all hope, set himself on fire. With his death, a proverbial tsunami of change swept through Arab countries, bringing down dictatorial governments and regimes. Because of social media and the internet, ordinary people have the ability to connect with each. A single spark can, potentially, start a fire all by its own. Where the fire turns and what it consumes, only time can tell.
These sparks are born out of hopelessness with current systems and traditional politics. Coming to life on the streets, these beginning of these movements are easy to identify, but their end and what course they might take are known to none. The Arab Spring was against dictatorial rule, but what would happen once dictators were removed, nobody knew.
The protestors who brought down Husne Mubarak’s regime in Tahrir Square failed at forming a political party which could win the elections. The void left by the decades old rule of Mubarak was filled by Akhwan, an old and organized party. When the protestors were left empty handed, they took to the streets once again and this time round, brought down a democratically elected government. The doors were open once again for a military takeover. In General Sisi, Egyptians have found themselves at the mercy of a ruler far more autocratic that Husne Mubarak.
Not all movements have the same result in all instances. President Donald Trump proved himself to be immune to MeToo, although in the United Kingdom and India, the movement claimed the rights of Damien Green and MJ Akbar respectively.
In 2011, Wall Street was rocked by protests called the Occupy Wall Street movement. Although eventually the protestors failed at their goals, they forced American politicians to include social injustice in their agenda. Analysts say the Wall Street protestors failed because they did not have an alternate plan chalked up.
Why is the world witnessing the rise of leaders of movements instead of political leaders, and party politics being replaced by revolutions? The answer may be complicated and lengthy but one factor is quite apparent; politics today has become like a system of rank and race. The political elite is unaware of and unconcerned by the problems besieging the poor. Drowning in problems, the ordinary man is no longer interested in pointing out the defects of the system to political leaders. He wants revenge; a complete annihilation of the old system.
Traditional news mediums, so long a weapon for propaganda, are becoming less relevant. Social media is far more powerful and has the capability of taking any revolution past international borders. Traditional institutions, political, judicial, elite and intellectuals appear to be fading into irrelevance.
In Pakistan, every politician who took to staging a sit-in, made claims of tsunamis and million man marches. But these sit-ins fail at satisfying the 3.5% population involvement benchmark. This includes Imran Khan, Tahir ul Qadri and Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Is the Pakistani populace losing faith in the ruling elite? Will a leaderless movement rise here too? And if that movement is successful, will it provide for an alternate political solution or push us down the path where an Egyptian-style solution id the only option left?
It is a politician’s job to save and protect not just politics but the state too. If our politicians do not stop discrediting each other, rubbing their opponents nose into every failure, and destroying their reputations, then they will find themselves out of the arena.
This article first appeared in Urdu on Daily Dunya.