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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Army Vs Liberals

This is an uncensored version of the article by Zafar Hilalay  

As a nation we like democracy, it suits our psyche. We like variety because we get bored easily; we love yapping and the opportunity democracy provides is endless and we excel in criticism which is also what democracy jealousy guards.

However, there are attributes of democracy that do not gibe with our outlook. For example, there is the notion in democracy that all men are created equal, which is manifestly untrue. Take a look around any room and you will see that it is not so, and attempts to fly in the face of this fact has led to all sorts of absurdities. And, anyway, even if they are born equal quite a few eventually get over it.

Then again, in a democracy the people are supposed to be the repository of wisdom. In the last century literate electorates have chosen the biggest mass murderer in modern history, Adolf Hitler, to lead them and so too the founder of fascism, Mussolini. Indeed, had Stalin stood for re election in 1945, one is confident that he too would have been returned to office, by a worshipful electorate, notwithstanding his genocidal antics. Even Churchill, who presided over the British Empire during the great Bengal famine of 1942, and was responsible for  several million Bengalis starving to death on account of neglect, was re elected in 1951.

Pakistan too is reverberating from the consequences of the people’s choice of leaders. Proponents of democracy today were rewarded for the faith reposed in the wisdom of the people by their selection of Mr Zardari and, lest some feel that that was a one off aberration and won’t be repeated, the people ensured that the Sharif and Chaudhry brothers gave him a close run for his money, thereby, suggesting that when it comes to a choice between the jackass and the jackals, it is a toss up. Of course, that is not to say that the dictators were any better but at least no proponent of dictatorship has ever claimed that it is the best system of government, barring none.

Some feel that we must give democracy a chance and that a few more elections will wash away the slime and thereafter democracy will emerge in its full lustre. They, therefore, counsel patience and hope. They say hope is a good thing and that it “springs eternal.” But Benjamin Franklin, picking up the metaphor from Pope two centuries later, felt the opposite saying that ‘he that lives on hope will die fasting’. For in the end hope must be satisfied otherwise hope is worthless. ‘In fact, it already is,’ said a friend the other day, announcing for all to hear, ‘since I gave up hope I feel much better.’

What the people want of any system, democracy, autocracy, or what have you, is that it should ‘deliver’. And delivery is basically a question of management. It is a skill that can be found in an unexpected source and in an elected as much as an unelected leader; nor does one need to be a boffin. Lenin, for example felt that ‘Any cook should be able to run the country.’ Presumably the cook Lenin had in mind had a lot of practical abilities that he could bring to bear on the business of government. Politicians on the other hand are less versed in the practical skills of management and administration; drama and dramatics are their forte, hence they prefer masquerading as over promoted managers with a delusional view of their own effectiveness. Instead of motivating people one of them, often pictured in water which never magically exceeds the top of his ‘wellingtons,’ makes it difficult for them to work.

Bureaucrats are no better. Mostly products of an abysmal public educational system their purpose in office is to find a problem for every solution. Their talent for creativity and innovation is confined to evolving measures to enrich themselves. They can count schools which do not exist and claim maintenance costs for bridges that were never built. They keep ‘minutes’ and waste hours; ‘defend the status quo long past the time that the status quo has lost its status’; write memos not of what was said but what should have been said and generally are excellent in communicating how NOT to do things. Of course, democracy is not responsible for their malfeasance, not by any means, but that they flourish in democracy understandably gives democracy a bad name.

So glaringly obvious has been the lack of delivery of a democratic government in almost every sphere of life that we have reached a pass today that the public will willingly forego all their democratic rights in return for someone, anyone and any system that will deliver.

One had thought that the Flood would be the game changer, given the enormity of the challenge and, what will certainly be, the matching inability of the government to meet it. Alas, that does not seem likely anymore and the reason is not that the anticipated failure of the government does not warrant a convulsive change of the system and the way things are done but because those mostly affected happen to be the poorest of the poor.

One can see it on the screens, millions of the hitherto invisible and unwashed emerging from the waters bedraggled, bereft and lost. It is that segment of the population, referred to as our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in the speeches of politicians, who are rarely seen, seldom heard and who never count. These millions of unwanted exist only in statistics. Moreover, to be poor and influential in Pakistan is impossible; to be simple and politically savvy even more so, hence, their pitiable condition won’t be addressed. They will return, in due course, to their hovels, still unwanted, still unheard, a confused, miscellaneous rabble still clutching little more than their soiled vestments and half worthless notes given by the State, if they are lucky. Their crime is to be poor.

CUSINS: Do you call poverty a crime?

UNDERSHAFT: The worst of all crimes. All the other crimes are virtues behind it. (Shaw: Major Barbara)

Without equality of opportunity, an acceptable standard of living and work for those who can and, above all, a modicum of security and justice-- all missing in today’s Pakistan--- no system is safe, democracy most of all.

(The writor is former Ambassador of Pakistan)


  1. I received a brief communication from Rehman:
    No-one is against the army as an institution.


  2. Dear Zafar Hilaly
    May I share here link to YAAs article published by Pakistan Observer & many blogs, an article to the same effect:

  3. It is a fact of history that democracy has failed in Pakistan because its foundations were not laid with democratic mortar. The history of Pakistan dates back to 1937 when the first elections under the government of India Act of 1935 were held in all the provinces of India.The greatest achievement of Quaid-e-Azam was to weld the Musalmans of different provinces of India with different languages and culture, eating habits and even the dress into one nation. This unity was based on Pakistan Ka Matlab Kiya, La Illahah Illalalah. Nation needs a state, after the nation has been formed and the state was Pakistan. By a natural corollary the state needs a nation. Pakistan needs a nation of Pakistanis. Soon after the creation of the state of Pakistan on 14th August 1947 Quad-e-Azam died on 11th September 1948. He did not get time to provide the state with a united nation of Pakistanis. Muslim nations of India who have to their credit the state of Pakistan are again divided into different ethnic and linguistic nationalities, they are again Baluchis, Sindhis, Pathans, Punjabis and another segment has entered into the body politics of Pakistan by the name of Muhajirs.Now when Pakistan has been achieved it has no programme and policy. Leaders who are supposed to have achieved it from the minority provinces were busy in resettling themselves through just and unjust claims of lands, houses, and factories and in some cases factories which they did not posses. Instead of establishing the roots of democracy our leaders have been busy in establishing themselves.

  4. The greatest beneficiaries of partition have not been the Musalmans of undivided India, but civil and military bureaucracy and the corrupt members of the society. Corruption is rampant which goes deep down into the blood vessels of our countrymen and democracy can never thrive under a corrupt atmosphere and that is why democracy has failed in Pakistan. It has never been given a try even, every ruler harped on democracy and every ruler even elected by the so called democratic institution has acted and ruled like a despot in right royal moghal style. The death of Liaquat Ali Khan, which was a result of palace intrigue, gave rise to more intrigues and under an ambitious General Iskender Mirza, Ministries were falling like nine pins. When he could not hold the scepter singly, he shared it with Commander-in-Chief of the Army General Mohammed Ayub Khan. Kingship knows no kinship and General Ayub Khan overthrew General Iskender Mirza in twenty-one days, this was the first blow to the infant democracy of an infant country.

  5. he democratic death of democracy was perpetrated by the President of Pakistan Muslim League Mian Nawaz Sharif when he inserted 13th amendment in the constitution, where the members of Parliament lost their freedom of thought and freedom of speech. History of Pakistan is a sad history of failure of democracy because of Pakistanis themselves and because foundation of Pakistan has been laid negatively on hatred and not positively on progress, reforms and solidarity of the country.

    Democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people at the same time it should also have confidence of the people and then and only then democracy can thrive. Pakistan never had any democratic blood in its veins.
    Do we follow the principle?
    Elections per se is not an exchange word for democracy!
    So what's next?

  6. I share a mail received by one Pervez Said on this article:

    Thank you Yasmeen for the article below and many others that you have sent my way. I am sure we don’t know each other and have never met and that is the way it probably will be. However I wanted to thank you very much for sending me the articles that you do. Some of us, in fact , most of us are so bogged down in our daily crap aka work that life just passes us by. Your emails are at least one window to what is passing by.
    Thanks once again. I hope I continue to be on your mailing list.

  7. A good article. Down to earth, rest are living in an ideal world which they may never get.

  8. Dear Sir Mr. Zafer Hilaly, I am totally dissappointed the way you have met you responsibility and the way you have applied your intellect and acuman as a responsible and as one of the few credible citizen of this country. With due share of respects to your personal high stature and your highly acedamic opinions that you have reflected in this artical, I am afraid you are equally as confused and frustrated as like all of us in this country are. From our so called educated calss everyone like you and me in self pride of our own academic acumen this is how and what the value of our education and knowledge we are returning to this soceity and our people. By our education and knowledge everyday we are adding more and more confusion, frustration, stress, disappointment and distrust to the miseries of poor people of Pakistan already trying to survive under deep waters alongwith all kind of shit. In self pride of yourself sitting comparitively at highest padestal of society this is how so scornfully you have attempted to undermine and devalue the value of HOPE by telling them that Hope is nothing but a Curse. In this crucial test of time this is how so unkindly and ruthlessly you have tried to snach even that last asset a Ray of Hope from the drowning people of this Country a Country that you and a lot of highly fashionable societals like you do not acknowledge has a nation.
    Mr. Hillaly, honestly speaking that so called and so known educated class of this country is equally responsible in bringing about all ills that we are witnessing every now and than on streets and cross roads of our society. Whatever damage so far has been done to our country and society and system has been predominantly done by this class of so called locally and internationally educated and qualified. For their own personal interests of mainly high quality of their own lives and living, more or less they all have actually killed and have brutally murdered their own self-conscious and their own personal moral character when they have really ditched their own people. Wearing superficial masks on their own lust and greed of their perks and ill gotten wealth and prerogatives every now and than they quite fashionably crib and criticize their own country and society as if they all in person are like living angels on this earth. While sitting in our fancy cool and comfortable cozy lounges we start viewing and evaluating things about our own people and country at our finger tips on our fancy and colorful touch screens. But honestly speaking most of our considerably so highly educated people in and now outside this country have applied their education, knowledge and skills as evil geniuses. Dilemma of our educated class is that we have just capitalised our ownselves on our education and knowledge. Whereas merely capitalizing your own selves on your Educational credentials is not at all the real application of our Education knowledge and awareness that we actually owe to our own society, to our country, to our people and environment. If This is what the outcome, real value and end result of our education and knowledge is that we are now telling our drowning people that HOPE is nothing but a Curse. Than i am afraid Mr. Hilaly that we earnestly need to re-educate ourselves from the institutions that tell us "Mayoosee Kufr hai".

  9. Thank you Tanvir Siddiqui Saheb for writing exactly what I wanted to write as a starter. Indeed, Mayoosee is kufr". We must never give up on Allah. He provides from unknown sources and at unknown times and ways. All we need to do is be steadfast and try to remove injustice in the best way we can. It is a nation that does not try to improve itself that is doomed. If we continue downhill, Allah will then replace us with better people, as He has mentioned in the Qur'an.

    I also wish to comment on two opinions expressed above. The sacrifice of the Mohajirs cannot be reduced by people who have bias blurring their vision. My ancestors left a lot, and hardly got anything, so the assertion that "Leaders who are supposed to have achieved it from the minority provinces were busy in resettling themselves through just and unjust claims of lands, houses, and factories and in some cases factories which they did not posses. Instead of establishing the roots of democracy our leaders have been busy in establishing themselves." is as far from the truth as can be. It was the ICS Officers who set up the government machinery, it was the businessmen from Bombay who brought their capital and set up banks, factories, and businesses. If these two had not done what they did, where would we be in the early stages of building the nation?

    The reason we have gone southwards in our journey is that the landed gentry in the rural areas have taken over the reins of the country. They have gradually come into the Parliament and taken a stranglehold on the country. They pay no taxes and even evade taxes on income that is taxable. They use lateral entry to bring unqualified people into government, then use them against the common man. They are vested with the power to make laws, when a sizable number have fake degrees. If greedy, illiterate and selfish people are our leaders, what can we expect.

    What we need to do is educate the common man that his vote is an amanat. Casting it in favour of a person who does not deserve it, is khyanat.

  10. Mail From Inam Khan:
    Dear Friends,
    Neither democracy nor dictatorship or presidential type of government is good unless there is a good governance.I do not see that happening in Pakistan for the time being nor in near seeable future.The people crying for true democracy or good governance are too few to matter.We have landed ourselves in deep morass because 99% people are dishonest.With that large a number of dishonest populace how can one expect fair dealing and clean governance.I am sorry to state that we are in dire straits;the situation is really hopeless.It will be a miracle if we can survive .It is only hoping against hope.If we believe that Pakistan is God given State,then let us leave it to Him and in the meantime keep crying for His deliverance.
    Sincerely,Inam Khan

  11. I appreciate the sentiments of Inam Khan Saheb. But Allah does not help those who do not help themselves. What are we doing to improve our lot - nothing really.

    I agree that the number of people who can change and are honest is like 'salt in floor' to use our own idiom. We need to make people realise what their obligations are, only then can we improve our people and get them to stand up for what is right.

  12. What exactly is Mr Hilaly trying to say?

    That Liberals support democracy, but it has failed miserably? That, therefore, the Army should take over? That he had hoped the floods would provoke such a takeover, but it did not unfortunately happen? That the reason the Army didn't do what Mr Hilaly expected was because the floods affected only the poor?

    Advocating a military takeover is a perfectly legitimate argument - provided you can explain away the failures of previous military regimes. I doubt if Mr Hilaly can do that.

    In an earlier post here I had suggested that Gen Kayani could stop some of the more glaring types of failures of the present regime without taking over. That would be far better than what Mr Hilaly seems to be suggesting.

  13. If I remember correctly, Mr Hilaly was involved deeply with PPP too at one time.AND was Ambassador too. Therefore he is part of this mess we face & he writes disparagingly about.
    Like all writers, he fails to offer any cogent solutions.
    In my opinion, we need Army to set up a TECHNOCRAT GOVT,ban elections for 10 years.

  14. Mail received by Rafiq Mian:
    "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute talk with the average voter."? - Winston Churchill.
    I myself wish to add - he couldn’t be any righter. And, then we wish to take OUR common day voter to determine our democracy.

    Let us get down to the drawing board and define democracy for ourselves. I think we don’t have to go too far, the adage “by the people, from the people, of the people” comes decently close. Let us now ask ourselves; are these three corner ingredients of democracy likely to be met in our papa land, now or even in the next say 50 years.

    First: “by the people”? - A measly zilch. I remember many years ago they had Mumtaz Bhutto being interviewed on BBC. After giving the interviewer a tour of the miles and miles of his lands, the interviewer asked, “… and who do they vote for?”. The response, “of course, me”. There was not even bashfulness in the response. These Khans, Qureshis, Gilanis, Chaudhris and Hotis are anything but not “by the people”. If it is not their sajada, money makes up for the difference.

    Second: “from the people”?. Another, nada. Come on, spare my intelligence. Are they from those stricken 170 million minus say 50 to 100 families? They even tag their women along.

    Third: “of the people”? Let us add another zip to the total. Not that I can find it easy that one can convince me on this note by long shot even. But daylight robbery of ballots, nepotism and “aqraba parwary”, driven by thugs and gangs to ballot boxes, sold unto by money and promises; the list does not stop. I think Edhi and Imran Khan are of the people. How is it that people would give them donations but not their vote. Ironic is it not?

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum

    Democracy has a lot of the times meaningfully failed even in the West. Re-election of Bush was a failure along the lines of what Churchil outlined.

    Happy Eid – My dear All !!!!

    Dear YAA, herewith my response to Ibrahim.

    Mr Ibrahim has said that at one time I was "deeply involved with the PPP AND was Ambassador. Therefore he is part of the mess and he writes disparingly about it."

    Could he kindly enlighten your leaders precisely what was my "deep involvment' with the PPP. Which decision, which meeting, which vote and what policy did I have the the barest of participation, actually any at all.

    As for being 'part of the mess' precisely how have I had anything to do with the 'mess'. I have not met a single PPP minister or notable for nearly 10 years(except Zardari to condole) let alone contributed anything to any policy. Actually, as my columns will vouch, I have criticised PPP policies and yes written very disparagingly about them since 2008.

    As for being an Ambassador I was one before the PPP came to power in 1988 and remained one after it was ousted. Actually, and pardon me for blowing my own trumpet, I was probably unique in having been promoted to the same grade(22) twice, once by BB and again by Musharaf. So much for my deep involvment with the PPP.

    The trouble with people like Ibrahim is that they judge people by their own standards, which include peddling slander slur and innuendo. But then he like some others I know should not lose heart there is nothing wrong with them that a miracle can't fix.