The writer is of the view that the UNDP’s diagnosis of economic inequality is correct. It is the “privileged classes” that are fetters to equality of power and opportunity in Pakistan. The way out to bring about “equality” is to bulldoze “privileged classes” to pave the way for the foundation of an egalitarian society. The author thinks it is well nigh impossible for two reasons. One, there is no leader in Pakistan to steer a “social movement” powered by an ideology. Two, the Pakistani voter is apathetic to contribute his moitié to a change-oriented movement.
The United Nations’ Development Programme has just launched its third National Human Development Report, 2020. This report is titled “The three Ps of inequality: Power, People and Policy” The first report (2003) was about “Poverty, growth and governance”, and the second (2017) was about the topic of “Unleashing the potential of a young Pakistan”. All the reports aptly identified Pakistan’s problems. But, it remains questionable whether the UNDP’s freebie wisdom was adequately availed of.
The third magnum opus report
It makes galling, tough down-to-earth observations about the status and sources of economic inequality in Pakistan. It bluntly states, ‘Pakistan’s rich and poor live completely different lives’. The gulf between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor is obvious from their per capita income, schooling and other indicators. The feudal aristocracy and industrial robber barons together enjoyed privileges of whopping Rs. 1094 billion. The feudal enjoyed Rs. 370 billion while the business tycoons enjoyed Rs. 724 billion. Being perched in Pakistan’s parliament they ensure that Pakistan’s taxation system remains regressive. The feudal elite of only 1.1 per cent of the population own 22 percent of the country’s farm area. On the Human Development Index, Pakistan ranks, undeniably, 154th out of 189 countries and territories surveyed.
Sources of inequality
According to the UNDP, multifarious “inequality” in Pakistan is the cumulative upshot of three factors: “power, people ad policy”. The UNDP defines power as “privileged groups that make use of loopholes, networks and policies for their benefit”. In common parlance in Pakistan, they are called “mafias”. For instance, “sugar baron” Jehangir Khan Tarin, the estranged PTI stalwart, is being pilloried in the media as an avaricious shark. But, in actual fact, his only offence, yet to be established, is merely that he used his influence to extract financial benefit, It is eerie that that both Pakistan’s prime minister and the chief minister of the Punjab province had approved the departmental summaries benefitting sugar barons in billions. During the Ayub era, a network of 22 nouveau rich families came into being via favours received from the Ayub government (Lawrence J. White, Industrial concentration and Economic Power in Pakistan; Shabbar Zaidi, Rich People, Poor Country).
The UNDP perceives people in a wider context. It defines them as “the deeply-embedded belief system that encourages bias against social identities like raw gender, religion, or caste among others”. “Policy” refers to “the systems and strategies that are either ineffective or at odds with the principles of social justice”. Within framework of the three Ps defined, the report focuses “not only inequality of income but also inequality of opportunity”.
UNDP”s panacea: “Social Movement”
Only a “social movement can be the primum mobile to change the status quo”. The sine qua non of a social movement (like Arab Spring) is: (a) A campaign or a public effort making claims on an authority. (b) Means of political action. (c) A public representation of cause’s worthiness, unity, members and c commitment (Charles Tilly, 2004).
Limitations of a “social movement” in Pakistan
It is unlikely that any “social movement” could turn the existing oppressive status quo topsy-turvy, unless it is violent. That pushes the movement into the domain of a revolt or revolution. Though Gandhi was a mediocre student and a failed lawyer, he astutely perceived the revolution-averse psyche of the Indian people, including those now in Pakistan. He reasoned (a la Tolstoy’s A Letter to a Hindu) that Indians themselves allowed themselves to be colonized for their own material interests. Otherwise there was no way 30,000 `rather weak and ill-looking Britons could enslave 200 million `vigorous, clever, strong, and freedom loving people (Stegler, 2000). Gandhi exhorted people to purify the soul of India of Western materialism through non-cooperation with Britishgovernment. He scoffed at Indians for `nurturing selfish thought of personal material gains generated by the perverse ethos of modern civilization. He lamented that Indians handed over control of their nation to the foreign exponents of materialist lifestyle. They had become `sly sycophants and willing servants of the Empire thereby proving to the world that they were morally unfit to serve the country.
No social movement sans leadership
A leader is to people what a fuse is to a pack of dynamite. The crux of the leadership crisis in Pakistan is that post –Partition `leadership’ fell like windfall fruit into laps of dynasties or elites.
According to some accounts Quaid-e-Azam was extremely disappointed to see post-Partition leaders at helm of government in Pakistan. During the last few years of his life, he kept telling his visitors, including Liaquat Ali Khan, at his sick-bed at Ziarat (Quetta)”Pakistan was the biggest blunder of my life” (Jinnah bashing, the Print December 26, 2019).
The Quaid thought that the Muslim League leaders around him were `base coins’ (khotey sikkey) and the `legal tender’ was in pockets of his adversaries (Shorish Kaashmiri. Boo-e-Gul, Naala-e-dl, dood-e-chiragh-e-mehfil, pp.317, 419-420). Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas corroborated this view. He ` remembered that once Quaid-i-Azam had said “What is Muslim League? It essentially comprises three of us; me, my sister and typewriter.”
Historian Mubarik Also confirmed this view. `In one of his articles, Dr Mubarak Ali mentioned in passing that Mr. Jinnah used to claim that he had founded Pakistan with the help of his typewriter and stenographer’.
Pakistani sand-dune leaders
Today, Pakistan has no leader, like Quaid-e-Azam, with a `world view’, no `story line’ of sustained committed struggle to an ideology.
M.J .Akber rightly observes `The [Pakistani] political leaders act like sand dunes. They move in the direction the wind blows’ (MJ Akber, In Pakistan Today, Mittal Publications, New Delhi, p. 216). John R. Schmidt agrees, ` The mainstream political parties in Pakistan can best be viewed as patronage networks, whose primary goal is seeking political offices to gain access to state resources, which can then be used to distribute patronage among their members’ (Schmidt, The Unravelling, Pakistan in the Age of jihad, pages 36-37). Why it is so? Stanley A. Kochanek unpuzzles the conundrum by pointing out `Parties in Pakistan are built from the top-down and are identified with their founders. The officeholders are appointed by the leader. Membership rolls are largely bogus and organizational structure exists only on paper’ (Interest groups and Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1983, p.64). `Most political parties are non-democratic in their structure, character and outlook. The process for leadership selection is not by election, but by nomination. Political parties have no links with policy process as personalities rather than issues matter’ (Saeed Shafqat, Contemporary Issues in Pakistan Studies, pp. 247-256).
The opposition delights at the incapacity of rulers to deliver the goods. While criticising rulers, the opposition presents no alternative proposals. Parties without alternative proposals are minds without ideas
There is no tradition of political parties having shadow cabinets with a bagful of alternative policies in Pakistan. The political empty-mindedness is obvious from the successive vision-less federal budgets. These stereotyped budgets are regressively heavily loaded with taxes, sparing the mafias. The budgets dish out to the people whatever is cooked up by ministerial babus (bureaucrats).
In their hearts, the so-called leaders, on the both sides of the aisle, know that the voters have little choice. They would vote either for the one pseudo-party or the other.
Feudal aristocracy and industrial robber barons
It is only the UNDP that dared pinpoint the mafia cannibals in Pakistan. However it fell short of probing the origin of the feudal lords and the industrial robber barons. The bitter truth is that the scions of the British-raj created a class of “chiefs” in the post-’mutiny’ period and during the Second World War still ruled Pakistan (Zahid Hussain, `House of feudals’, April 1985 Herald). The mafias in legislatures would never allow abolition of their privileges, or undertake progressive taxation.
The UNDP’s diagnosis of Pakistan’s economic malaise and suggested panacea of “social movement” is correct. But, there are no leaders to steer a movement in Pakistan. The voter is apathetic. He remains a silent spectator to the overthrow of his”elected” governments? So it is, as the autocratic governments do nothing by way of welfare of the common man. The whole world is fighting the pandemic with vaccines, testing and treatment. But Pakistan is on autopilot.
The Taliban Finally Granted Permission to the Former President Karzai to leave Afghanistan
Based on the information, the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was permitted to leave the country. At a time, when online meetings between Sohail Shaheen and American representatives are going on in connection with the start of intra-Afghan talks in Doha, The former president of the country, Hamid Karzai, was allowed to exit the country for the first time after August 15, 2021, when the Taliban took over. Nevertheless, it is not yet known when he will start his overseas trip, but his only purpose is to get preparation for the start of Intra-Afghan talks in Doha and to meet with American officials and foreign Afghan politicians. Since the end of October and the beginning of November, there are reports narrating that telephone calls are being made between President Hamid Karzai, and the US special representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West.
Besides, the persons are preparing for future negotiations, the re-established relationship between the former president Karzai and the CIA took place, when a CIA undercover intelligence officer met Karzai sometimes back, when he represented himself as an International media reporter. Sources suspect that the undercover agent interviewed the president under the auspices of a well-known German based Der Spiegel Magazine.
According to the information, former President Hamid Karzai will fly to Germany, while meeting with the CIA officials at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Meantime, the former President Hamid Karzai will meet with some high-ranking officials of Germany and then have separate meetings with Western politicians and intelligence officers. Furthermore, after that, President Hamid Karzai will meet with the American ambassador to lay out the strategy for the potential negotiations.
Currently, there is a lot of confusion in the Mandigak palace in Kandahar province, where Taliban Spiritual leader and the decision making hub located and it is said that there have been serious discrepancies regarding allowing him to go abroad. However, Sheikh Haibatullah’s position is still neutral about his exit, while negotiating with his advisors to make a final decision in the upcoming days.
Nonetheless, there are no other specific differences regarding the permission. It is only the low-ranking Taliban fighters, who demand the precise judgement of the Taliban’s leader in this concern; In addition, some Taliban leaders are also unhappy about the whole process, especially the former members of the Quita Council of Taliban.
Now the ball is in the Taliban’s ground, whether they are ready to comply with the demands of the international community, by transferring the power to a transitional government or not, and to get along with the United States and get onboard the international community support. Definitely, it causes further splintering among Taliban groups and ISKP will use it as an opportunity to recruit Taliban fighters, while paving the way for regrouping in Khorasan Province the IS so-called territory.
The ISKP long before blamed Taliban for being ‘’ Rafeda’’, while simultaneously cooperating with the US, Russia, China and Iran for their political ambitions. To conclude, the Afghan people will not accomplish a lasting peace and sustainable economic developments, since the country will turn into a new battle filed among countries, which have stake in Afghanistan.
The Charisma and Chaos of Imran Khan
The chances of Imran Khan winning the elections of 2018 were quite murky. Despite his unparalleled fan base and populist rhetoric appeals to the young, and labor class of Pakistan, the legitimacy of his government is marred with allegations of fraud, rigging, and exploitation.
Some argue that his candidacy was a marketing tactic used by the ‘Establishment’ in Pakistan to form a government that is rather weak and dependent so that the ‘Establishment’ can continue its control over domestic security issues including the Nuclear escalation and relations with India.
But by and large, Khan won the elections.
Maybe it was the stardom attached to the name ‘Imran Khan’ and Pakistanis not wanting to confide in the same faces ruling them for centuries.
Maybe it was the mismanagement and violence that marred election day with unfathomable delays in result declaration in metropolis cities, coupled with post-poll manipulation.
Maybe it was the judicial-military nexus, that placed all the votes in the right places by not allowing voters to use their will during elections.
Maybe it was the 7 years-old narcotics case hearing moving forward against the stalwart of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Hanif Abbasi, giving him a life sentence in a rare late-night session of court, four days ahead of the elections that effectively knocked PML-N out of the race.
But the deal was done and can’t be undone and Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, for better or worse.
Khan the Celebrity
Pakistani nationals were victims of the financial crisis, unemployed people, those who lost their homes, and who were in debt; these people felt like the two parties ruling Pakistan for centuries had destroyed their country’s economy.
Imran Khan, with his humongous stardom as an athlete and philanthropist, seemed like the only ‘Messiah’ that could save them from all the atrocities they were facing.
Though, a significant number of votes were cast in favor of PML-N but not in the places that would have locked the win. So Imran Khan, persuaded the angry Pakistanis, the youth, and the labor class who were fed up with being handed over in trade deals with other nations.
Khan, a socialite that he was, knew how to connect with these agitated masses. Their grievances were clear as a day and so he gave them pretty promises wrapped up in his vibrant rallies filled with catchy songs. His huge social media presence along with the ‘Naya Pakistan’ slogan further amplified his staunch.
But there lies a challenge as to why Khan became the top highlight of this era. To many who were tired of politicians filling their own pockets, and amid the corruption charges on Nawaz Sharif, Khan’s celebrity status, his colorful personality, his promise of a corruption-free Pakistan, and his unconventional ‘Don’t Panic’ attitude – all of this made Khan seem like the only option who would deliver a better life and nation and, if not that, then at least would be the eradicator of what Pakistan had become.
Khan the Totalitarian
The other side of the coin sees Imran Khan as a narcissist, self-centered, and power-hungry mogul. After achieving his eternal craving of becoming the Prime Minister, he hardly showed any respect for the institutions of the country. More often than not he refused to attend the sessions of Parliament, with his excuse being the presence of members of the opposition party whom he referred to as ‘Crooks’ and ‘Chors’ (thieves).
This resulted in laws, instead of passing through an ordinary law-making process, being passed through presidential ordinances, with very limited power. We can clearly say that these laws were passed without debate, consensus, and thorough examination, negating the very foundation of constitutional requirements.
Additionally, Khan likes to fabricate stories in his speeches, a lot. In this vein, he brings down any democratic provision that proves him wrong, including targeting political parties on concocted charges of corruption; sustained attacks on the media; undermining law authorities, even the Supreme Court is not exempted from his allegations.
Through the abrogation of rule of law, irresponsible remarks about institutions, and disdain toward democracy, Khan himself created a fragile parliamentary system, which then collapsed on him. Not only this, but he has fractured the already dwindling democracy of Pakistan into a whole new level.
Khan the Leader
Khan came onto the political scene when Pakistan was facing a volatile situation both at home and abroad, coupled with the tensions going on with the Americas, and the rampant inflation, he was still able to take some impressive measures. His work related to health, relief programs, house loans, the environment, entrepreneurship, and the COVID response is admirable.
In addition, his billion tree tsunami and the building of several small dams initiated an environment-friendly drive in the climate change-affected country. But was he able to deliver on the ‘Promises’ made to the nation? Absolutely Not.
Perhaps he should have paid more attention to the cabinet as the abrupt changes in the system dwindled the confidence of investors in Pakistan’s economic machinery. His careless handling of some important economic programs including the CPEC decelerated the capital influx that caused the GDP to drop considerably.
To top it all off, Pakistan, in 2021 dropped from 124th place to 140th place according to Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), leaving an ugly mark on Khan’s corruption eradication promises on which he has led the foundation of his political career. Maybe he should have abided by the agenda of progression in order to gear up his performance instead of getting involved in blame and shame politics.
Khan the funambulist
The important reason why Khan has a cult following in Pakistan is his unfiltered and raw opinions about topics like the Americas, and Afghanistan which he keeps casting in his speeches. And, the audience, mostly the social media-induced young generation eats it all up like a sweet concoction, without paying heed to the implications it will bring to the foreign policy of Pakistan.
Khan’s decision to appoint Usman Buzdar, an underqualified and inexperienced newcomer to a vital position in the key city of Punjab pretty much sums up his political foresight. Perhaps, the most interesting yet debatable contrivance of his regime is his relentless attitude toward the United States, no previous Prime Minister of Pakistan was able to say ‘Absolutely No’ to the US as it had many allies in the domestic political platform of Pakistan. This stance of Khan was admired a lot in the country, with the phrase being trending in Pakistan. But the remarks came with ramifications for Pakistan on the international forum. This whole scenario further makes people question his political sanity.
Imran Khan possesses all the characteristics of a populist leader and in Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Cas Mudde says: “Populists are dividers, not uniters” they split society into “two homogenous and antagonistic groups: the pure people on the one end and the corrupt elite on the other.” True to this narration, Khan has divided the nation into two groups of ‘Evil and Good’ people, and the consequences are detrimental to the stability of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
To sum it all up, Imran Khan, despite his misgivings, his warts, his narcissism, and his unhinged political views, is still able to reach a class of people that have seen Pakistan erode for centuries and consider him the last hope for the country. But he certainly is not the best choice for democracy as his political understanding is ruined by his self-righteous approach. In this manner, he is no better than former US President Trump who incited his supporters to pass on the U.S. Capitol to forestall the peaceful transition of power after his electoral defeat. It is precise to say that Pakistan has fallen into a deep cauldron and only a Magic Wand can heal it at this point. Though Khan has not singularly created this cauldron, he most definitely is exploiting and feeding on it.
Chattisgarh Elections 2023: Future of United Progressive Alliance and BJP
Chattisgarh, the 9th largest state of India by area and 17th most populous state with population of 30 Million will go to votes in upcoming elections in 2023. Chattisgarh saw an electoral shift in 2018 when voters chose INC lead United Progressive Alliance over BJP which was into the power since 2003. The legislative assembly comprises of 90 constituencies and population demography favors the Hindu’s with 93.05%, Muslims are major minority with 2.02% and Christians make up 1.92% of the population of Chattisgarh. The major contenders in the elections are United Progressive Alliance, which came into power in 2018. The major parties in the Alliance are Indian National Congress (INC), Dravida Munnetra Kazghagam, Janta Dal (United), Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party. This alliance faces BJP as major gladiator of the Elections.
INC lead United Progressive Alliance Government
In 2018 elections, United Progressive Alliance defeated BJP in the state to form the government. Previously BJP enjoyed three successive tenures in power. The Alliance proved to be vital in defeating the ex-ruling party and Bhupesh Baghel of INC was sworn in as new CM of Chattisgarh. The newly elected government opted for the developmental model in the state with their activities ranging from sports to health and good governance. The CM gave the vision of ‘Employment Mission’ which aimed at providing 15 lac jobs to people of Chattisgarh. The government provided the masses with the vision of ‘trust, development and security’ in order to remain popular and hence their projects based upon wellness of the general public. The CM started ‘Khelbo-Jeetbo-Gadhbo Nova Chattisgarh’ scheme in order to enhance sports infrastructure and facilities for youth of Chattisgarh. The scheme covered major as well as local games. The government also launched ‘ Makhyamantri Haat Bazar Clinics’ scheme in order to provide and ensure health services in rural and remote areas of the state. This scheme received a lot of praises from the masses during pandemic period. Government also enhanced education sector by setting up more than 600 Hindi and English medium schools. CM launched ‘Swami Atmanand English Medium Education System’ in all districts of the state. The scheme aimed at setting up of the English medium colleges for the students. The government under CM Baghel, also faced severe opposition in form BJP. The BJP criticized government of corruption, farm loans and internal rift among government officials. The CM also survived ‘No Confidence Motion’ tabled by BJP in the legislative assembly in July 2022.
BJP and Caste votes
Caste permutation and combinations have always played a role of dominating factor in the state of Chattisgarh. The state is amalgamation of upper castes, schedule castes (SC), Schedule tribes (ST) and Other Backward Castes (OBCs). The Kurmi’s and Sahu’s dominate upper castes in the state. One third of the population is composed of Scheduled tribes (ST), while Schedule castes (SC) make up 12% of the population and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) are 41% of the population. Upper castes and OBCs have traditionally tilted in the favor of BJP. SC votes have been divided among BJP, INC and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In 2013 however, BJP swept through 9 out of 10 constituencies of SC reserved seats. Dalit vote bank also has an influential role in elections. There exists around 12% of Dalit vote splitting between BJP and BSP. This vote bank influences 40 constituencies of the state. BJP is also counting upon Sahu’s votes in order to gain power back in upcoming Chattisgarh elections.
Chattisgarh as home ground of Hindutva
Chattisgarh has seen a violent shift when it comes to application of agenda of Hindutva. RSS and its political affiliate BJP have targeted Chattisgarh for Hindutva onslaught. The norms of Hindu identity have gone deep down into the roots of the society. ‘Ghar Wapsi’ scheme is gaining influence in Chandigarh. In March 2022, a ceremony was held and 1250 people returned to Hindu dharma. In states like Odisha, Chattisgarh and Jharkand more than 10,000 people have returned to Hindu dharma. BJP has developed a narrative of targeting Congress for miseries of Hindu’s all around India. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) an affiliate of RSS has been provided with security umbrella of BJP and it has forced Churches in Chattisgarh to use name of ‘Acharya’ and ‘Up-Acharya’ instead of ‘Father’. VHP has also forced churches to display images and painting of Hindu goddess ‘Saraswati’ in churches. The organization has also forces churches to distribute ‘Prasad’ instead of sweets at the eve of Christmas, thereby attacking the root identities of Christianity in the state. Around the time when BJP formed the government in center in 2014, 5 villages in Bastar district of Chattisgarh were banned for non-Hindu practices. Hindu leaders in Chattisgarh are calling for killing of any individual who tries to convert Hindus into any other religion. The Equation between the minorities and Hindus started changing since 2003, when BJP was installed into power in Chattisgarh. The change has intensified now when BJP is also present in Center.
Bet on Youth’s vote
The youth vote bank in Chattisgarh can be the turning point in the upcoming elections. The major gladiators BJP and United Progressive Alliance are eyeing the vote share of youth in the state. The initiatives started by the CM Baghel, progressively targets the youth and their development. However, BJP accuses the current INC lead state government of unemployment among the youth. The tussle between the major contenders in the state is pivoted for Youth vote. The saffron party has also targeted youth with the identity confrontation within the framework of Hindutva. However, the INC lead coalition government is centered on the agenda of developmental and governance model for the youth rather than targeting and convincing youth on identity based vote bank. The youth from minority section of the population may opt for INC and United Progressive alliance for the power in state but saffron influenced youth and upper castes are likely to put their weight in BJP’s favor.
Chattisgarh elections 2023 will play a major role in determining the BJPs future in center as well. Chattisgarh has been the power bank for BJP since 2003 but shift in 2018 has taken BJP by shock and surprise. However, upcoming elections can also prove to be referendum of policies applied by BJP at national level. INC will also have to investigate its depth in masses as well. The future of alliance mostly depends upon the INC performance in the state elections. The General Elections can also be strategically targeted by INC in form of alliance and coalition seat shares in order to give tough time BJP which is by far thriving among the masses at national level.
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