Here we go again

Posted on February 26, 2009. Filed under: Public Square | Tags: , , , , |

Just when things seemed like they were going well (actually, okay, things didn’t seem like they were going well at all), South Asia begins stumbling back in to the morass of totalitarianism and violence.

First, Pakistan; always  a good source of exciting journalism, doesn’t make it a great place to live.

Says Dawn,  one of the few examples of good journalism in the region,

ANOTHER dubious judgment has been added to the annals of Pakistan’s grim judicial history.

What happened?

Well, the present democratically elected President Asif Ali Zardari’s chief political opponent, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was barred from holding elected office, Wednesday. His brother, Shabhaz Sharif, the governor of the state of Punjab, was also barred, forcing Zardari to impose executive rule in the province.

Dawn (in its editorial) continues,

Defenders of the Supreme Court, the few that there are, will argue on narrow technical and legal grounds in defence of the court’s validation of the Sharif brothers’ disqualification from electoral politics. But this would be thoroughly misleading.

The grounds for the Sharifs’ disqualification were laid by a dictator and no one with an iota of common sense could accept that Pervez Musharraf was trying to uphold the rule of law or some elevated principle of justice by shutting the Sharif brothers out of electoral politics.

So, what happens next? Well, the usual. Protests, more protests, backbiting, violence, and in case you didn’t get the idea , more protests.

To use Seinfeld’s words, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, there’s little else the populace can do; facing mostly corrupt and inept politicians, the only thing to do is get out in the streets and force some sense into them.

The problem really is, who will lead them out of this mess? Zardari (or really the late Benazir Bhutto) was supposed to fix the country, despite being a corrupt money-lauderer. He and Nawaz Sharif actually worked together to get rid of the military dictator and later elected president, Pervez Musharraf.

The sheer danger of the job, coupled with the fact that you have to know someone to know someone, means fresh, new, idealistic youngsters are unlikely to attempt to be a politician, and anyone that does break through is probably already a member of ‘the family’ and will only continue the cycle of corruption and nepotism.

And the people of Pakistan will continue to suffer everything from inept and often downright irresponsible journalism to extremist terrorism and all the problems that come with these.

At the time of last year’s election three main issues threatened to engulf the state: militancy; a severe economic downturn; and a crisis of governance headlined by constitutional imbalances and judicial turmoil. A year later, few would argue that the politicians have acted responsibly in tackling those crises.

Yet, if Pakistan is ever to escape the morass of a dysfunctional polity, those issues must be resolved in the political realm. The judiciary has done a disservice to the people by injecting itself into a patently political issue in a way that will only worsen short-term instability and do nothing for long-term betterment.

Next time, Bangladesh and the country caught in between.


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