Ayaz Amir was a renowned columnist years before he became an elected legislator from his hometown of Chakwal. Urbane and suave, seeing him with the PML-N makes me wonder about his judgment about a party and its leadership. One should acknowledge his commitment to the PML-N as he has stuck with them during difficult times.
In his column titled “Politicians their own worst enemy” that was published in The News on Friday, 16th July, 2010 he has raised very pertinent points hitting out at the role played by media, self-serving pseudo intellectuals and to top it off his own colleagues in the political system.
He has highlighted the naivete of politicians which brings bad name to their community. He is right in pointing out that it is not necessary to have a conspiracy – chattering and gullibility of people can bring difficulty on everyone. Abid Sher Ali’s crusade on fake degrees as prompted by some of our media jehadis (Ansar Abbasi?!) has brought more shame to democracy than the performance or lack of it.
Politicians their own worst enemy
Ayaz Amir, The News 16th July, 2010
If the political class did not get earlier it should do so now. The target of the campaign set in motion last year was not just Asif Zardari. It was the political system as a whole, all in the name of fighting corruption, the slogan with which every road leading to hell has been paved in Pakistan since 1947.
Zardari was just a metaphor and a symbol. The wheels of intrigue, with a band of media jehadis in the lead, would not have stopped with him. They would have gone on to Nawaz Sharif, ending eventually in that dream of most retired senior mandarins, an ‘interim’ government on the Bangladesh model.
Once upon a time appeals for change were made to General Headquarters, the politically disinherited bending the knee before army chiefs and supplicating them to save the country. The court of appeal this time was the Supreme Court, restored not once but twice by the lawyers’ movement and the prayers of a hopeful nation.
Behind everyone of Pakistan’s four martial laws stood a combination of generals, judges and a section of the press (there was no media as such then). Justice Ramday is not wholly right in saying that whereas the higher judiciary gave a temporary reprieve to military rulers, parliaments gave them permanent relief. As Nazir Naji (with whom I seldom agree) point outs in one of his columns, that whereas the parliaments which sanctified the actions of military dictators were the creatures of those dictators, shaped by them, the judges who legitimised military takeovers laboured under no such compulsion. They were on their benches before those takeovers.
There is thus little room for too much self-righteousness in the broad spaces of the Republic. All who matter are tainted, not one institution which has not sinned, not one tribune which can claim baptism in holy water. This should teach us humility. Instead we see arrogance in a variety of bewildering colours.
Which constitution in the world says there should be elections in political parties? Does the American constitution have this provision? Yet their lordships observe that with the provision of party elections deleted from the constitution, the command of the constitution is affected. And the media, giving a spin to this remark, turn it into another denunciation of the political class.
Making a punching bag of politics feeds into the obsessive delusion of the chattering classes, and indeed the media-obsessed middle classes as a whole, that the thing wrong with Pakistan is the greed and incompetence of politicians.
The political class should have wit enough to understand this danger instead of making matters worse for itself. For two years the PML-N championed the cause of the judiciary as if nothing else mattered, fostering the impression that with the restoration of the Chaudhry-led judiciary Pakistan’s problems would start disappearing.
Now the PML-N is waking up to the realisation — and this is a rude awakening — that there are stars and planets beyond the judiciary. Ik aur darya ka samna hai Munir mujh ko, mein aik darya ke paar utra tu mein ne dekha — there was another river in front of me Munir, I saw this when I had crossed the last river.
The fake degrees issue — dressed up by the self-righteous vanguard of the media, including analysts and pundits, some of them close friends, whose innocence and naivete are not so much astonishing as frightening (perfect exemplars of the doctrine of good intentions) — is proving to be a bugbear not just for one political party but for the entire political system.
And who championed this issue? The PML-N once again, not as a matter of party policy — we should be clear on this score — but through the exertions of just one lone ranger, friend Chaudhry Abid Sher Ali MNA, who deserves a tutorial in the law of unintended consequences.
The torpedo launched by him, and this was an unguided torpedo, is now causing havoc left and right. And who is having another field day? All those who think that if only politicians were cleansed from this land the republic of our confused imaginations would be within our eager grasp.
Politicians can be the world’s biggest scoundrels but it would be a dreary and bleak world if they were the only scoundrels around. Every profession has its rogues, every calling its blackguards. No one will accuse generals and judges, or lawyers for that matter, of being saints. No one in his right mind will describe journalists as knights of any round table. Why raise the bar to the skies when it comes to politicians?
We all cheat on taxes, don’t we? What did New York society lady Fiona Helmsley say on the subject? That only the little people paid taxes. Don’t the imbibing classes cheat on prohibition? Don’t gentlemen cheat on their wives? And is it entirely unknown for upright ladies to cheat on their husbands? Most of us who stick to the straight and narrow are prisoners of the poverty of our opportunities. We would do things if only we could. Most of us stay away from temptation because temptation is not within our reach.
Commenting on Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars, Gore Vidal says that the Caesars, whose private lives encompassed every kind of activity imaginable, were not particularly vicious or depraved. “They differed from us — and their contemporaries — only in the fact of power, which made it possible for each to act out his most recondite (private) fantasies.” He goes on to ask, “What will men so placed do? The answer, apparently, is anything and everything.”
People tend to find a way around stupid or senseless restrictions. Prohibition in the United States in the 1920s spawned a culture of bootlegging, with its attendant rituals of smuggling and violence. Al Capone’s criminal empire was a product of prohibition. The Kennedy clan made its fortune from smuggled whiskey. There has always been a law in Pakistan against the oldest profession. Has it ever worked? Bhutto, against his better judgment, imposed prohibition. Zia added several draconian layers to the original restriction. Those with a thirst associated with the rites of Dionysus find ways to slake it. Most of us live in glass houses. We should be careful about throwing stones.
Mein ne Majnoon pe lark pan mein Asad, Sang uthaya tha ke sar yaad aya. When I picked up a stone to throw at Majnoon, I remembered my own head (my own youth). Ghalib would have uttered a verse or two, of a humorous kind, about fake degrees. He wouldn’t have waxed indignant about virtue and public rectitude. Why are we a nation of such hypocrites?
Musharraf slapped an unreasonable restriction on the political class: that you had to be a graduate to get elected. Those who didn’t fulfil this condition found ways of getting round it. They knelt at the altar of fake degrees. Are fake degrees worse than cheating on taxes?
There is a self-righteous streak in our middle class, especially the non-voting middle class, which makes it adopt over-pure positions, which far from doing any good end up rolling out the red carpet for military saviours.
But politicians are also their own worst enemies. Every conspiracy against democracy is not woven in General Headquarters or Aabpara. Politicians themselves can be experts at self-demolition.
The fake degree issue is a deadly IED (improvised explosive device). The Supreme Court only took up the issue, but not without adding garnish to it, after it had been turned into a tamasha (spectacle) by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education. Politicians as authors of their misfortunes: there is a dissertation waiting to be writing here, in no better place than Montecello University, the celebrated seat of learning famous for its post-doctoral degrees.
The resolution against the media was another own goal, as was the call for the expulsion of Mastikhel from the party. Lahore needs better political management. Things may be bad but not half as bad as they appear to be when the instinct of self-destruction takes over.
Tailpiece: In this season of discontent there is a dire need to encourage voices of sanity. In this regard nothing better than to set aside all differences and adopt Asma Jahangir as candidate (of all parties) for President of the Supreme Court Bar Association. A woman for all seasons, she deserves everyone’s support (although I do wish she’d stop those bhangras at the Wagha border).