With their Utopian promises, politicians continue to exploit the naïveté and desperate hopes of people
Politicians — regardless of their background, origins, and associations — unrelentingly keep testing the basic intelligence of the poor populace. They seem to consider the electorate a bunch of unintelligent and gullible people, who will be taken in by anything they do or say.
Professional politicians, most of whom talk a lot and do very little, treat this “occupation” not as service to the community or humanity at large — as it is purported to be in the manifestos of virtually all political parties — but as a business. And while our politicians are adept and skilful at applying the “ business model” to their political activities, in the process of practicing such politics, despite the grandiose titles they operate under, they lose all claims to the honour these bestow.
The total number of parliamentarians in Pakistan — comprising the National Assembly, the provincial assemblies and the upper house, the Senate — is 1,232. That makes for 0.00056% of the population of roughly 220 million people. This elite of 0.00056% decides not only the fate of the 220 million, but also of their future generations. This is done with minimal to no accountability, and by their shenanigans they never cease to make a mockery of the people who voted them into those august assemblies.
So 220 million Pakistanis watch the charade as it plays out each day on the small screens in their living rooms and bedrooms. And what they witness via a hyperactive electronic media, leaves them shaken. The sad truth is their dismay is irrelevant to the politicians who run their lives. Meanwhile, as evidenced by the data on the issue, in this land of the pure, the more wicked one is, the luckier he will prove in the cesspool of local politics.
Some politicians proudly proclaim that they believe in “speaking their mind.” And they do just that. “I will thrust my hand down the opposition leader’s throat and retrieve all the ill-gotten money,” and “I will sell the clothing on my body to alleviate poverty in this blessed land,” are two examples. Clearly, they forget that it is no reflection of either grace or etiquette to speak of whatever comes to mind. Conventional wisdom decrees that dignified behaviour constitutes restraint rather than rants, that self-control and moderation are considered the hallmark of good politicians.
The question which then begs to be asked is, if politicians have no command over themselves, why do they imagine they can command others?
Politicians have to learn to temper their comments — and especially when their political rivals — who were bitter foes in the past — band and break bread together, with the one-point agenda of destroying them.
Politics is treated like a profession with no retirement age. All professionals retire, and globally, politicians too. So why not Pakistani politicians? Is it not possible to legislate that any person who has been in active politics for 40 years or is more than 75 years old, should be made to retire from the field? No nation should be held hostage to one man’s thinking — and that too, ad infinitum. However, that may not entirely solve the problem. In our political and social set up, senility is not a matter of age: we have too many examples of the senility — or something akin — of politicos who are forty and below, in all sectors of the economy and society.
In Pakistan, the use of selective and expedient medical afflictions and play-acting also make for successful politicians. One day they are seriously sick in full public view, and soon thereafter, now cushioned abroad for ostensible medical treatment apparently not available at home, they are in full glare of the cameras, walking in the most beautiful parks, frequenting elite shopping establishments and restaurants the world over. This is done with no remorse, because the offending politicians believe the people are idiots. De Gaulle said, “Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised that others believe him.” As evidence of De Gaulle’s claim, watch any “ talk show” between 7-11pm, the time when anchors and analysts, are ably assisted by political guests, to effectively seal the fate of the nation. They perform effortlessly on the political trapeze because they are verbal acrobats, who keep their balance by saying the opposite of what they do … and this despicable attitude is romantically called “jambooriat ka husn.”
Since politicians seem to suffer from a short memory, they are fully entitled to think that the electorate also suffers from the same affliction. Politicians say one thing and do the opposite, or sometimes do nothing, but they talk endlessly about what others — mainly their political rivals — are doing. In the process, they tend to forget how they have chastised each other, thrown dirt at their one-time foes, only to embrace them when the need arises, like long lost brothers.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The politician, who once had to learn to flatter kings has now to learn how to please, amuse, coax, humbug, frighten, or otherwise strike the fancy of the electorate.” Sadly, foolish is the populace.
Today, thirteen ‘wise men,’ not of Gotham, but closely related to them, have collectively decided to go after someone as “senseless as the owl” (this bird in the west is considered highly intelligent), who subscribes to the outdated virtues of honesty, uprightness and accountability.
In the world of accountancy, accountants do not certify any accounts to be “ true and correct.” Instead they write on the certificate,” true and fair” — correctness is not certified. Understandably. Since accountants rummage through millions of transactions, hence they cannot certify correctness. Their opinion is based on available data. Investment decisions that follow are based on the “ true and fair,” assessment of accountants printed in financial statements. And if the auditors have failed to recognise any erroneous facts or figures in accounts they are auditing, it is a given that this was not by deliberate intention, but due to oversight. They cannot be charged with being fraudulent, liars, untrustworthy, etc. Furthermore, their omissions have to be judged in the context of ‘ materiality ‘– ie the quantum of the impact of the omissions. As unintelligent citizens, most of us are unable to, in respect of politicians, distinguish, based on the ‘materiality principle, ‘ the difference between $1500/- versus inward / outward remittances of tens of millions of United States dollars. The electorate, including this scribe, indeed are a bunch of ‘ simple Simons ‘– or in plain English, fools! “A horn in the mind is worse than on the head” (Ben Johnson).
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the last or maybe also the first politician to have studied and understood economics (the nationalisation disaster aside). He knew the nuances of the interplay of foreign and economic policy and it’s importance for the nation. President Musharraf and his aides from the forces were as good as President Ayub’s team, to have a good grasp of economic dynamism. In both cases we had a GDP growth in excess of 5%. Both met their Waterloo trying to be democrats. Globally, men in uniform baffle the electorate, with their keenness to be seen by history as democrats. In the United States they were successful because they entered office after shedding their uniforms and not whilst wearing it … that’s the difference may be, between Ayub Khan and Eisenhower, or Musharraf and George Bush (senior).
Now there is a clamour to alleviate poverty and the suffering of the hapless citizens of the country, through a “Charter of Economy.” Never mind that the “Charter of Democracy” gave people nothing. This new charter will be enshrined in history as “ CMC — the Charter of Mutual Convenience” and we should prepare to learn more of the “Chatter of Economy” we will be subjected to on the idiot box every day.
Corruption of even the best becomes the worst. Bridges are built over non-existent rivers. Our elections are a contest of interests and not of principles or ideology. As said Franklin Adam’s, “The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe with conviction based on experience that you can fool all the people all the time.”
The writer is a freelance contributor