Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s inexhaustible modern-day reformer, is into doing big things. Some of these are so extraordinary that he calls them ‘crazy projects’: a giant airport, two massive bridges, an under-water canal, and another to link the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara to pacify a roaring Bosphorus and a few more. He highlights these crazy projects to mark the greatness of his vision and to prove the point that he is a ruler like no other in Turkish history.
While these projects are impressive and somewhat crazy, they are nothing compared to the craziness of the projects that we are trying to implement in our beloved land. What are these? Hold your breath and read the following. Mind you, our projects have nothing to do with infrastructure and brick and mortar. They are all in the realm of politics, economy, society and the law. Our engineering genius is employed to take craziness in these fields to a level that will drop the jaws of even the likes of Erdogan.
First, politics. The aim of our project is to create national unity by introducing new-generation leaders who are not tainted, are totally loyal to the soil and can be trusted with national money and national secrets. We want to tell the world that this country has the potential to become an Asian Tiger, and that it can scale new heights in generating wealth and spreading prosperity. We want to have political
stability so that the long-term goals of the nation can be achieved and then shared with the masses whose sweat and toil have always remained unanswered and unrequited.
You might ask here: where is the craziness in this? Well the craziness is the manner in which we are trying to achieve all these goals and the methods that are used to take the country to this political nirvana. In the name of national unity, we have pursued a most divisive and fragmentary political strategy that has atomised whatever remained of the national consensus on key issues, and it has torn the people apart on sectarian, religious, economic, ethnic and clan lines. Hate has been injected in every facet of our national political life and rules and procedures have been bent and broken so much that it is impossible to escape the conclusion that only thugs can survive in the system.
Political parties that once were umbrellas holding disparate groups together on different planks have become rubber dolls that are stretched and squeezed and whose parts are taken off or adjoined through an unnatural and synthetic process of selection. New groups have been launched to further muddy the waters of unity as each neighbourhood now has a dozen political fault-lines. Intolerance has been promoted to the extent that it has become a national habit to promote killing and lynching on social and national media. Political opponents getting attacked and their families getting mobbed is the standard method that is used to score a win in a losing political battle. The electoral environment that has been created is one where the concept of victory and defeat has been turned into a matter of life and death.
This is totally crazy. You don’t build national unity on a foundation of hatred for opponents. You do not make a new beginning by lighting the fire of intolerance. Nor do you bring people together by forcing them to extreme positions from where they can only pull and tear away at the centre. National unity is based on national consensus that has to be the outcome of everyone’s stake in the system. This is common sense and has been the lesson most successful nations have learnt since the Common Era. However, we are attempting the opposite. We want to fragment to unite. We want to promote hate to achieve national tolerance. We want to destabilise the whole system to achieve political stability. We want to uproot every political institution – but still hope that institutionalised politics can thrive and grow. This is super crazy.
Tied to this is the craziness of the national economic project. We want to somehow have steady economic growth and its immediate trickledown effect reaching the people by creating a top-down system dominated by the elite. The Punjab caretaker government’s caretaker cabinet or the selection of the Balochistan caretaker chief minister is just one standard of this craziness to go by. Here the choice did not have to be influenced by the usual political considerations but look at the type of people who have been handpicked. All vested interests connected with an elite that is neither famous for serving the country nor known for being ideal citizens.
The other example is the Senate election that was based purely on big money changing hands and pockets. The national elections coming up next month have also become such a heated competition that billions are being invested to achieve a result of choice. So from elected politics to selected and rigged procedures, money dominates the system. How do you break the stranglehold of the rapacious elite on this system when you are just changing one type of elite with another type of elite? How do you make people-centred policies the basis of economic planning when you are introducing Lying Kings as Lion Kings to the jungle of a politics already infested with fraudsters?
Moreover, elite privilege is intact. Elite exemption is intact. Elite capture and monopoly of state resources is intact – nay, has become stronger. You have compromised and blemished men holding the sword of accountability in their hands. You have valueless mouths spouting philosophies of morality, buffoons acting as Bertrand Russells, poodles deployed as watchdogs, voodoo-magic believing characters being paraded as vanguards of the Quaid’s Pakistan and the most obnoxious and toxic beings lecturing on matters of faith and patriotism. This is the material that is being used to create a new social contract that is to also serve as the basis of a new economic outlook for this country. This is super, super crazy–- the more so since this is also being done in the midst of a fabricated political disorder.
On the legal side of the project, the craziness peaks even higher. The fundamental principles of institutional separation of power and the sublimity of people’s choices have been so badly trampled upon that it is hard to resurrect them in their original form. From decision-making to policy implementation, the entire edifice is now so totally hijacked that no matter who wins the next election this structural flaw will continue to tilt the ship of law only in one direction – downwards.
Populism of the cheapest variety is now the only thing that matters to the reality of exercise of power. Your mandate is directly related to your propaganda. The bigger the trumpet, the more the power. Pakistan is not a legal society. It has been reduced to a game-show of perpetual excitement generated by mindless experiments that all bend the break the law. Legal limits on institutional behaviour is a thing of the past. Those arguing legal reason are slimed and slammed; like Justice Qazi Faez Isa, they are cornered and blacked out.
But from these illegalities we expect a great legal structure to be born where rules rule supreme and where everyone will stand before the law as equal. Not only that, we expect this impossibility to actually happen; we want everyone to believe and say that this has started to happen – that we are, intellectually, on our way to becoming a great nation where ideas and thoughts matter. This goes beyond crazy: this is non compos mentis. Even the world’s most adventurist leaders have not attempted half of what we are trying to achieve in one go. Against the backdrop of our projects, Erdogan’s projects look very sane and perfectly implantable. We win hands down. The shield of crazy projects is ours and ours alone.
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