Pakistan's Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Photo: Pakistan Inter Services Public Relations/Handout via Reuters
Pakistan's Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Photo: Pakistan Inter Services Public Relations/Handout via Reuters

It is a season of inventing doctrines and spreading propaganda in Pakistan. Old wine is presented in new bottles and termed “new doctrines” and the “new change.”

The judiciary is busy with judicial activism; the military establishment is inventing new doctrines, while the political parties are busy undermining one another to get a share of the cake.

In the capital Islamabad, the traditional opportunist politicians, retired and serving government officers, are all busy proving their loyalty to the establishment, trying to get into their good books. The shrewd men of the establishment operating behind the scenes, who are actually responsible for running the country, are awarding certificates of honesty and morality to the politicians, industrialists and government officers.

After creating a desired “Sadiq” and bringing him in as chairman of the Senate, efforts are now being made to produce an “Ameen” in the aftermath of the next general elections. The terms “Sadiq” and “Ameen” refer to pious and holy men who have no human flaws, definitions that were included in the constitution of Pakistan by the dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq to keep his opponents away from politics.

The Bajwa doctrine, named for Pakistan’s current Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, puts forward a new social and political order that is focused on accountability and repealing the 18th Amendment of the constitution, which grants autonomy to the provinces. It is no longer a secret that “rebel political forces” will not be given much space in the coming elections.

The recently revealed Bajwa doctrine is no different from the Pervez Musharraf doctrine, and according to this view, politicians and bureaucracy are the sole reasons for corruption in Pakistan, and all the failures of state have been caused by them, while every good thing that has happened in Pakistan is to the credit of the military.

The political parties’ continued failure to learn from past mistakes has paved the way for the military establishment to take the driver’s seat. The members of the National Assembly given a ticket by these parties are usually people who spend millions of rupees to win elections, and so it is all about getting their investment back with a profit. The powerful military brass know this, which is why it has always been easy for them to break up the political parties into factions and exploit their opportunistic members.

The political parties’ continued failure to learn from past mistakes has paved the way for the military establishment to take the driver’s seat

The system works only for the elite, consisting of politicians, businessmen, the civil and military bureaucracy, feudal lords and wealthy faith merchants. For everyone else the only way to survive is to obey the system and hope that a little piece of cake will be given to them.

It is easy to exploit millions of uneducated and poor people in the name of patriotism, religion and democracy, something the powerful elite have being doing since the creation of Pakistan. Unfortunately democracy and dictatorship are two sides of the same coin, both forms of governance in Pakistan only benefiting the elite and powerful sections of society.

Since there is no concept of quality of life, being able merely to exist is a luxury for millions here in Pakistan, and the powerful elite know this very well. The vast majority of the population is deprived of basic facilities and lacks true knowledge, being hostage to their own set of rotten beliefs; this a very easy target for manipulation by the powerful.

The tool that has always worked successfully for the political and military elite is the ignorance of the masses. The more you keep them ignorant, the easier it is to rule them. The powerful military has the patriotism and religious card, which it plays smartly, while the political elite have the democracy and victimization card, which is played equally well by them.

Over the last 70 years it has been all about them. It is all about who will grab the greater share of power and who will rule the country. For the masses it is all about choosing a lesser evil, and when it comes to choosing, the political elite is obviously a better choice, as they will at least spend a little on the masses.

While the majority of intellectuals and writers are dancing to the tunes of the emperors and playing the role of devil’s advocate, no one bothers to pay attention to the fact that it is the system that needs to be fixed and that both the military establishment and the political establishment are the beneficiaries of that system. The military eats up a major chunk of the national budget while the political elite is happy to get kickbacks and commissions from its projects in the name of the people’s welfare.

It is not difficult to think rationally and understand that 70 years are more than enough for both the dictators and the elected representatives at least to provide basic facilities of education, health and clean water to the masses, but since the priority has always been only about grabbing power and resources, no concrete steps have been taken in this regard.

According to the World Health Organization, only 32% of the population in Pakistan has access to clean drinking water. Millions of children, instead of going to school, are doing jobs to feed their family. Nearly half of the children in Pakistan are chronically malnourished. According to a Ministry of Planning and Development report, nearly 30% of the population is living below the poverty line.

The habit of the masses worshipping personalities rather than ideologies makes it easy for the elite to manipulate the masses, and instead of solving these real issues they keep the masses busy in non-realistic issues. People affiliate with political and non-political ideologies on the basis of their egos, set systems of belief or for personal gain.

A supporter of the Pakistan Peoples Party will vote PPP because for him, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave his life for the poor. Little will any of these voters or supporters like to see the deteriorating condition of Larkana and the province of Sindh where poverty, corruption and the lack of education and health facilities are the worst in the entire country.

The same is the case with Nawaz Sharif’s voters and supporters, who think Sharif has eliminated poverty and dealt with other social and economic issues during his 35-year political tenure. The supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are not ready to admit that Imran Khan is banking on all the political opportunists to come into power and that the provincial government his party leads in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has failed miserably in providing relief to the masses.

The military establishment’s supporters do not like to admit that direct and indirect military rule has only resulted in a larger military complex, housing societies and other profitable business ventures. It is all about worshipping one’s own self-created heroes and misconceptions. As long as the masses are ready to be used as pawns, they will be manipulated by both the democratic and the military doctrines every now and then.

Only a social-welfare state with a doctrine of providing the masses with the basic needs of life can progress and prevail in the modern age. Instead of inventing democratic and undemocratic doctrines and engaging intellectuals in defending these doctrines, the power players need to invent ways to address socioeconomic issues and counter extremism and polarization in the name of religion, protecting doctrines so our future generations can live in a truly pluralistic and progressive society for years to come.

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

6 replies on “Politics in Pakistan: manipulation of the masses”

Comments are closed.