Politicians’ Ill Use of the Word “Politics” is a Red Flag Over Democratic Culture in Pakistan

Carried by Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 20, 2017

In political science, ‘public representation’ entails the ability to assess the wishes of a polity, to fathom their needs, to articulate the same constructively through speech, to address the same through sincere care consisting of policy planning and implementation. Public reps are political beings. Politics is defined as the rules, norms and functions that make an existing state more useful to its citizens. Though democracy as an uninterrupted phenomenon is two hundred and fifty years old, (if you date it from its formation in USA), humanity has yet to design formal education leading to the creation of a public representative, such as Masters or Ph.D  or Post Doc. in public representation, though formal education in political science does exist and philosophically addresses the myriad manifestations of political existence.

In the absence of a formal and scientific academic design aimed at creating professional public representatives, the latter are self-initiated professionals. However, aptitude is as much at the core of this profession as any other. Without the ability to assess the wishes of the public, without caring to fathom public needs, and without the ability that innovatively and dexterously addresses those needs, one cannot be a good public representative. There is a general assumption that only a good public representative will make it to office because his or her selection depends on the choice made by the majority of public.

Because the public representative can come into a governing position without prior training, his/her mettle is to be tested while in office. The imperatives of his/her status require the public rep to move beyond articulation of public needs and policy promise, into the domain of conceiving and implementing policy that addresses public needs successfully. Though trained bureaucrats in their hierarchic office for a long period help public reps govern, yet the latter must exercise leadership in the office they hold. Unless the leaders deliver healthy leadership, the democratic political process is hollow within and unproductive without.

Pakistan calls itself a new democracy because only recently  has there been uninterrupted hand over of power from one representative government to another since Pakistan emerged as a sovereign state in 1947. Paradoxically, it is only during this time, (since 2008) that public reps have started unwittingly making statements regarding their political role that disparage the role itself. This tendency is a red flag over Pakistan’s democratic political culture. If it is not checked by civil society, Pakistan’s nascent democracy will grow akin to a python slowly eating its own tale.

The most significant example of the unhealthy tendency of describing public role disparagingly is the pronouncements made by the representatives of the ruling party PML(N) about their leader and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s  speeches in parliament and his address to the nation post Panama Leaks.  Nawaz Sharif gave one explanation of asset acquisition to the parliament and the public, and another to the Supreme Court during hearing of Panama Leaks case. Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer and other members of his party are explaining away the inconsistency by calling the speeches Nawaz Sharif, the elected office holder at the helm of government, made in his address to the nation on TV and in the elected Parliament of Pakistan as merely “political” statements, that should not be accorded importance during a judicial examination  of Prime Minister’s ‘political character,’ (which ultimately is what the Panama Leaks case hearing is about).

Prime Minister submitted to the court that he bought the extravagant May Fair flats in London with the money raised from investments in Qatar.  Only a letter from a Qatari prince was submitted as proof of the same. During hearing in December 2016, justice Aijaz ul Hassan asked why the PM didn’t mention Qatari investment in his address about Panama Leaks to the nation and the parliament.  Nawaz Sharif’s counsel Salman Butt replied by stating the Prime Minister’s speech cannot be a judicial record as it was only a political speech. !!!!!

No clarification was issued later from the office of the Prime Minister regarding the disparaging comment made about the speech of the Prime Minister of a country in the Parliament and on air as address to the nation.

There are innumerable instances of usage of the concepts “political” and “politics” by Pakistan’s political elite as frivolous, non-serious, unworthy, self-seeking or self-aggrandizing. For instance, when-ever there is a terror attack that claims a large number of lives, the government’s response to criticism regarding its security policy is always the advice that members of the opposition should not do “politics” over a tragedy of national proportions.  The interior minister Chaudhy Nisar Ali Khan has often used the word “politics” in similar manner. On January 28, 2016, a week after the terror attack on Bacha Khan university, Chaudhry Nisar responded to the opposition party PPP’s  criticism of government’s inability to implement the National Action Plan against terrorism in the following words;  “If some one does not like my personality, no matter; but don’t do ‘politics’ on national issues.” Speaking in the aftermath of the tragic Landhi train accident that killed 22 and injured 60, 28 year old Bilawal Bhutto, who studied social sciences  at Oxford, also seems to have succumbed to this culture when he said that there should be no ‘politics’ over terrorism and accidents.

The state is defined as the highest form of community and aims at the highest good. It is founded on political association. ‘Politics’ defines the nature and function of the state. A state’s political rulers and politicians aim at the good of citizens of a state.

The phrase “office politics” is used as a disparaging phrase at unit levels, referring to self seeking behavior, focused on who gets what, when and how. Office politics is perceived as an impediment to the main function of the enterprise. Pakistan’s public representatives, who are quintessential political beings, attach similar meaning to the word politics. They thus not only undermine their own professional credibility as politicians, they belittle democratic culture itself as one devoid of accountability, ethics, and respectable norms with deference to which democratic politics function.

Pakistani politicians’ description of politics fails to take cognizance of the true definition of politics. The manner in which politicians describe their chief function in society has a bearing on the quality of the function itself. Misappropriation of the concept of ‘politics’  is a red flag over Pakistan’s nascent democratic culture.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s