Disqualified, deterred, and downgraded- the Supreme Court’s decision to oust Nawaz Sharif as prime minister for lying about his allegedly ill-gotten wealth has put Pakistan in a precarious political position: a disqualified prime minister, his deterred political vision, and a downgraded image of not only his family but also his party.
Pakistan faces a different kind of democratic situation now; while the court’s decision is a positive step towards improved transparency as well as accountability, the country’s internal political balance has also experienced a shock, fast turning into a setback. And prior to its next general elections, this shock has created a vacuum in the power structures giving way to internal bickering, institutional maneuvering, and more importantly, political mudslinging.
Following the lengthy and controversial Panama papers case that has become a precursor to the ongoing situation of the country, politics in Pakistan have not only suffered but have also taken an ugly turn. Politicians are now orchestrating stories, forging proof, manipulating state machinery, utilizing media air time, influencing public opinion, maligning institutions, and threatening judges, civil officers, and their families, or worse yet, swindling the nation’s money to build up their own coffers. The lines between political advantage and public morality have blurred. Where the Supreme Court’s decision has set a precedent for future cases of financial corruption, the current political landscape is fast setting an unwanted and dangerous precedence for accepted political and social behavior of leading political parties.
To start with, politics of abuse, agitation, and mudslinging has created an environment in the country where those in places of power have an unfair advantage to create seemingly two opposing sides; anyone beyond these definitions is termed as conspirers with the outside agenda of ‘destroying’ the democratic fabric of Pakistan. On one side of the fence, the opposition points fingers at the current government’s dynastic politics, its lack of accountability, its tyrannical authority, and its Punjab centric partisanship. On the other hand, the government’s ability to control information, influence public opinion, an control the seat of power while using these benefits to further its own claim rather than aligning with the country’s democratic progression has put a dent on its rationality. The ruling party has been using its position to first manipulate the Panama Papers case, then threaten the investigation officers, and finally to question institutional ability to point out discrepancies in the Sharif family’s wealth. Since its inception, the Panama Papers case was bound to transform Pakistani politics. While it has enabled accountability and transparency, it has also provided political parties the chance and moral opportunity to rally their causes within the shadow of the controversial case. Unfortunately, that has meant that everything has become fair in love, war, and Pakistani politics.
Prior to the next general elections- a marker that is supposed to be historical as a second government either hands power over or retains it through the electoral vote- no political party seems to be talking about issues of health, education, security, and national development. Instead, the political arena has become a space where political parties, public institutions, and government policies are questioned, attacked, maligned, and disregarded in the eyes of the public. With less than a year left, democratic electioneering is non-existence replaced with a power struggle between who is ‘morally right’ and who has been publically termed as ‘morally wrong’.
Morality has become a catchword, without fully defining its function in the country. Now, chaos has replaced order. Political mudslinging has become a norm where the disqualification decision is been likened to the French guillotine, and politics has become all about personal vilification rather than about democracy, society, and development.
However, the question is if EVERYONE is out to damage each other, who then becomes responsible for the survival of our democracy? The answer still is- EVERYONE. While political mudslinging is taking the country back to a primitive way of dealing with each other, it is high time our institutions, politicians, law enforcers, and political workers take the side of Pakistan rather than blindly following their own personal schemas. That can only be done if political maturity is inculcated in our political behavior. Prime ministers come and go, but democracy and the rule of law should prevail forever.