The election fallacy


    Comment by S.R.H. Hashmi

    The writer has basically concentrated on the elections and why they have failed in Pakistan in making available to the nation and the country law-makers at local, provincial and national level who could serve the country well in their capacity as a part of a well-functioning government as well as an effective opposition.

    And he considers the underlying causes for it to be first of all, the level of education which is why the city dwellers enjoying superior educational facilities produce relatively better results at elections.

    And the rural areas, where majority of population lives is, in addition to the lack or even complete absence of educational facilities, also hit by what he calls ‘dharra bandi, langaar bazi and thana-kutchery (DLT)’ and produces worst election results, and larger strength of rural population also has adverse affects on the overall election results.

    However, he seems to have ignored some other relevant factors which account for the state that we are in. And these are our overall attitude, our prejudices as also our inability to develop into a nation.

    Like I note that the writer has chosen to start his article with the assertion “I want to choose who rules me.” He has also used the term ‘rulers’ throughout the article for the group of officials who, in developed societies, are referred to not as rulers but as public servants and at the most, as leaders. The term ‘ruler’ somehow indicates our unqualified acceptance of them being a far superior breed, with a natural inclination to obey them. I still remember reading, in early days of Pakistan, in High School history book in Lahore that whereas in 1857, the whole India stood up in revolt, the army in Punjab – having mostly locals at the junior levels – remained loyal to British Raj, which also depicted a tendency to ‘respect and obey the rulers’. Even at that early age, I had considered it an inappropriate statement for an Indian to make, which we all were back then (1857).

    We also have to remember that even if we were to get rid of off negative sentiments and traditions like DLT, and elections were held in a completely impartial and transparent manner, these will hold victorious only the best from amongst a bad lot, which would be no good at all. So, along with other reforms, there is also a need to institute measures for thorough vetting of the candidates so that those with tainted record are kept out of the system.

    There are also our ethnic feelings and our prejudices. While discussing the separation of our former Eastern wing on 16th December, a senior anchor person from Punjab dismissed the whole issue by simply claiming the people of the two wings were just too different and could not possibly keep together. And among the one point of difference that he openly quoted was that (all) the people in former East Pakistan used to eat their meals on banana leaves, implying perhaps that everyone in Punjab was part of aristocracy. Come to think of it, I have seen in Punjab that while giving food to beggars or other poor people, the person distributing food will initially give them just bread which the recipient would turn into the shape of a cup and then they would pour some curry into it. And the poor chaps would not even have the luxury of banana leaves to eat their meals on. Due to huge disparity in incomes in our region, there is wide disparity in the living standards of people. However, to assume that all Bengalese had just sort of come down from trees while those in West Pakistan were simply aristocrats was just too much. It simply added insult to injury by glossing over all the injustice that was done to the people in our former eastern wing, including the use of their export income for golden fibre (jute), used to develop West Pakistan. Someone quoted an incident where government officials were working out the distribution of some goods received as international aid, which included sanitary equipment. A Bengali official among the group requested that some of it should also be given to East Pakistan as well However, he was told off suggesting that since Bengalese relieve themselves behind the bushes, they would have no use for such products. This could even be a made up story. However, having heard myself a West Pakistani anchor person claiming that Bengalese ate their food on banana leaves, I feel quite inclined to believe it as true.

    While there indeed were also kind and considerate people in Punjab, but right after partition, the people landing in Lahore other than those who were Punjabi-speaking were treated much like Bengalese were, and they were given all sorts of names which I would not like to repeat here.

    However, a few years later when restrictions at Wagah border were relaxed temporarily to allow Hindus and Sikhs to visit Lahore to watch cricket matches between Indian and Pakistan cricket teams, the Lahorites gave them a wonderful welcome and entertained them at special camps set up for the purpose. I would not have liked to bring up this old issue now but the feeling still persists and proves that this sentiment towards Urdu-speaking people is not due to the emergence of MQM which did not come into being until nearly four decades after the creation of Pakistan. Needles to say, the feeling is reciprocated by non-Punjabis as well with the extreme case of Balochistan where on occasions innocent Punjabis have been massacred just for being Punjabis.

    Unfortunately, the numerical strength of Punjabis and their naturally greater presence in all civilian, military and para-military forces and Police, with some biased people among them, has resulted in a certain degree of resentment towards Punjabis which is most pronounced in Balochistan though also prevalent in other provinces. This factor has proved to be the greatest hindrance to Pakistanis developing into one nation.

    This display of ethnic feelings is particularly visible in the present treatment of MQM and Peoples Party Leaders in Sindh who are being chased like hell, in the name of corruption and other ills which are present in other provinces as well. Isn’t it strange that the Sharif dynasty which has been influential in Pakistan for decades and scandals about them are a popular topics at the television talk-shows, are forgiven all their corruption and other ills. And finally, now that some corruption cases have been taken up in Punjab, these are relatively of minor nature, and are more of an eyewash.

    With the population of the region now forming Pakistan being over six times of what it was in 1947, there is a definite need for more provinces which could also somewhat reduce this great disparity between the provinces. Unfortunately, the PML-N government which is now in power both at the centre and in Punjab seems to be least interested in it, despite passing resolutions at the Punjab Assembly for the creation of South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces, which resolutions seem to have been buried deep by the Punjab Assembly and forgotten also by others.

    I am sorry for bringing up these bitter issues but I

    realize that we can’t set our course right unless we know where we went wrong. And having lost half of our country, we simply can not afford to lose any more. And we have to keep in mind that even Soviet Union disintegrated despite being a huge military power with massive nuclear arsenal.

    Once a leader from Punjab made a remark that no constituent unit of (present-day) Pakistan could separate on its own; meaning perhaps that Punjab will beat it into submission. However, while the statement is factually correct, people need to keep in mind that some countries within the region and beyond, unhappy with our military power and nuclear arsenal, may only be too pleased to lend a helping hand to any disgruntled province. So, it would be better for the powerful sectors not to get power-drunk and take things too far, as they seem to be doing at present.