The twin marches and sit ins over the weekend of August 16th and 17th August, outwardly appearing to be an effort to remove corruption from Pakistan, but in reality is nothing more than a distraction. The leaders of the two parties – Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf and Tahir Ul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek – are at the very least establishing confidence in the existing system by attacking individual political leaders, their parties, their failed policies, Pakistan’s dubious electoral process, the bias judiciary, corruption, but not the mechanism of law making which leads to all of the above.
These ‘Dharna’s’ (demonstrations) organised by Tehreek e Insaaf have infused confidence in the system of democracy, a system that has repeatedly failed the people. By mobilising the youth and selling them the slogan of ‘Naya’ (new) Pakistan, Imran Khan is attempting to reverse the chronic apathy that has taken root. Also by taking power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), it has endorsed democracy and its ways of placing legislation in the hands of corrupt law makers.
Tahir ul Qadri and his Pakistan Awami Tehreek, appeals to the more religiously inclined and generally older conservative demographic. Qadri returned to Pakistan to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, his brother and their ruling party to pave the way for sweeping reforms of the country. He has called for the military to be involved in choosing a caretaker government, leading many commentators to conclude that they are in fact the hand behind this ‘revolution.’ Qadri has repeatedly stated that what we are witnessing in Pakistan is not ‘real’ democracy, and that he is calling for a ‘democratic’ revolution.
The objectives of these marches are to once again cement faith in the faltering democratic system in the face of pathetic results. A recent survey of 84 countries by the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research service found that in 2012, Pakistanis were spending 47.7% of their income on food (the highest ratio of any of the countries surveyed). Inflation is set to rocket once more as CNG, used in more than 4 million vehicles in the country, is set to be replaced by costly LNG. This will lead to an estimated increase in fuel costs of Rs 170 over the standard cost of filling a CNG tank of Rs600, to approximately a staggering 28%. This will not only affect the individual consumer but have an inflationary effect across the entire economy, as the costs of transportation affects all goods that need to move from one place to another. To top this off, debt stock as a percentage of GDP, which was 29.2% in 2009, rose to 42.2% in 2013 and there is no indication of this trend reversing.
It has always been lamented that there are no institutions in Pakistan and the Electoral Commission is seen as a key body that can be projected as making the democratic set up ‘accountable’. Nawaz Sharif it appears is going nowhere , despite protests. He is corrupt but then so is every other party. Like his predecessors he is following a foreign agenda both on the economy and on foreign policy. Economically he is slavishly following the agenda of the IMF in selling off huge amounts of government assets, ranging from areas in Oil and Gas, Telecoms and infrastructure in exchange for paltry bailouts.
As for the foreign policy, he is happily pursuing America’s war in Waziristan, an operation which has long been desired due to NATO admitting to the problem of resistance fighters they set up for the occupation of Afghanistan from Pakistan. Therefore to remove Nawaz is to put these endeavours at risk, something which America and its stooges in the military top brass would not allow. There is no appetite for the army to take over in any area of influence due to these reasons, so you will not hear on PTV ‘Mere Azziz Humwatno’ from Raheel any time soon.
The drive for all this is ultimately to keep a circus going on which distracts people from the main issues,such as being engaged in America’s war in Waziristan, structural problems with the economy driven by a Capitalist agenda and fundamental problems in the law making process which continually enables thieves to occupy politics through acts like NRO. With an eye on the Middle East, where people are beginning to question and are struggling against their secular systems, it would be most untenable for the secular military/political establishment to remain if public opinion is for the establishment of an Islamic System. This would not just challenge their petty thrones but also the neo political objectives of their Western masters. The most realistic outcome of this charade is a reformed Electoral Commission of sorts, so that people will again wait with baited breath for the next election of the circus that is politics in a democratic Pakistan.