The visit of the Saudi crown prince once again exposed the fault-lines existing in the political structure of Pakistan. The government declined to invite opposition representatives to be part of the official ceremonies designed to greet the royal visitor causing deep resentment in opposition ranks. And then adding insult to injury the reason proffered for not calling them was that they would have misbehaved in the royal presence! The fact of the matter, however, is that the opposition’s behaviour was completely opposite to the rumpus caused by PTI dharna that compelled the Chinese president to postpone his visit.
Pakistani political system has not been able to help in attuning any party to adapt to changed circumstances while being in the governing saddle. It has been the common refrain that the agitational nature of political elements follows them even in the responsible positions of exercising state authority. Similarly, opposition tactics hardly alter and remain glued to opposing every move of the government in power with the same agitational fervour. The recent rowdy behaviour witnessed in the federal legislature indicates that no one is prepared to rectify mistakes of the past.
The current animosity in the country indicates the growing distance between political forces that does not augur well for democracy. Political extremism is fast becoming the defining attribute of both the party in power and forces opposing it. The most disturbing factor is the childishness exhibited in public exposure that helps in closing doors of amity. Adding to the turmoil is the resurgence of ethnic forces that now have sprung from the northern parts of the country and could prove dangerous in the long run.
There appears to be a strong disconnect between the administrative machinery of the state and public representatives. The preponderance of accountability outfits are also aggravating the situation by creating a profound sense of uncertainty. Confusing signals emerging from all segments of governance have given rise to an acute sense of unpredictability that is hampering economic growth. This unnerving spectre is quite evident as despite financial succour pouring in economic indicators are going down as described by the central bank.
The on-going tussle between mainstream political forces has turned the elements of extreme right into an unpredictable factor that apparently has not given satisfactory description of its political strategy. The most potent of these groups belong to the religious sect most followed in the country and it holds the most credible mosque factor in the land. Such groups have normally shown the tendency to emphasise the basic ideological premise and seek popular approval on its basis. Currently there are curbs on their movement but such restrictions are not expected to last forever whereas the grass-root support of such groups remains intact.
The socio-political atmosphere in the country is a powder-keg waiting to explode. It appears difficult for the authorities to come to grips with this electric environment as they lack a strong central guidance. The regular official agencies have hardly a clue about how to handle the situation as is evident by the inaptitude of police personnel. The situation is also complicated by the current conditions on external fronts with Afghan talks getting more knotty and India bent upon putting pressure on Pakistan for something that is nothing more than Indian figment of imagination.
The need for a strong guiding spirit is urgently required as in case of Pakistan more democracy is not the ultimate panacea. The democratic process needs a strong hand to save it from itself. The political forces in power are trying to defy the rules of gravity and are refusing to learn from the mistakes of the past. The elements in opposition are hounded by accountability agencies not letting them to contribute anything positive. If they are allowed to function freely then they can prove to be a strong check on the governing elements sparing the official apparatus to concentrate on other important issues.
The history of Pakistan implores us to realise that there are limits to political maneuvering and the most important factor is the provision of space to all segments of the political spectrum. It is rather naïve to keep all sectors under pressure and carry on a policy of divide and rule. Such attempts may provide temporary advantage but the harm caused by them is long-lasting. The Pakistani governing structure is taking a long time to learn this vital lesson. TW