Our statesmen in Pakistan

I am not an expert on public policy or governance. Nor am I the epitome of virtue. However, the recent scuffle between two parliamentarians (and similar instances in the recent past) have made me think.  As someone who has his, and his descendants’, futures married to that of this country, this was painful. This use of force shows how our leaders deal with dissent. It really baffles me how those who cannot govern their tempers in the highest public political forum, knowing that events in this forum are captured permanently by the mass media, can expect to be able to govern cities, ministries, provinces or our country (which is already at a crossroads). Such behavior evoked certain thoughts.

Ask yourself, would you want people who use their arms and tongues freely in an arbitrary direction, to be a guardian of our children and be responsible for their upbringing? I don’t think any parent would want people exhibiting such behavior to guide their children, given the kind of negative influence they may have on them.

Let’s assume you own a business or manage a certain department. Would you give such people responsibility to run your business or your department? Running the affairs of a business involves situations in which your temper is tested almost on a daily basis. Would such behavior make a business profitable? Would it not affect the performance and morale of employees? How would this behavior impact a business when it’s already in trouble?

Moreover, would you like to learn an art or a sensitive craft from someone with a similar temper? Would you like to get yourself treated by a doctor, for a life threatening disease, who is trained by someone with such a temper? Similarly, would you like to be treated by a doctor with such a temper? I think the answer is “no”.

Ask yourself, would you really want someone with such a temper to be a mediator in a large and important dispute? Do you think he would be able to judiciously solve matters related to life, death and general social welfare? Would you confidently think that such a mediator would be able to impart justice to society at large?

Furthermore, can such a person truly offer his services to provide reasoned resistance against tyranny? Isn’t it doubtful that people would actually oblige his calls at the hour of need for an honest and just cause? The need for leaders who can act and unite us against tyranny has never been greater.

I believe, therefore, that if a person of such temperament cannot be very confidently assigned such jobs, we cannot confidently assign him the sensitive and arduous job of running a state, which involves dealing with all such affairs.

It is doubtful that  such people can craft policies and make regulations needed to turn around a troubled country. Dissent and discourse are inevitable in matters of monumental scale. Incisive insights are usually a result of discourse and dissent conducted with civility. When tongues, arms and legs move freely and forcefully to take each other down, it makes one wonder if our policies and regulations are well thought out.

Is it because of inherent patronage and clientelism that people with good morals and virtue don’t because part of the political machine? Political entrepreneurs take advantage of misplaced incentives; they who know how to exploit this political machine, by doling out favors and economic resources in exchange for votes, are given priority by those in power. The fact that political parties’ leadership doesn’t strongly condemn this behavior of their colleagues reinforces the importance of such political entrepreneurs.

This political machine is also an indication of how our politicians have been successful in making policies that have kept the majority poor and uneducated. According to American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, having a poor and uneducated majority enables patronage and clientelism. The most acute problem with patronage and clientelism is that both politicians and citizens sacrifice their long-term well-being for short-term gains. That is likely the reason that the majority of our population still doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, fair justice, quality health care and proper education.


This opinion was published in The News on 21st of March, 2017.