Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Kerry Lugar Crazies Pt 2

The unabated storm over the Kerry Lugar Bill confirms two trends that do not augur well for our democratic experiment. First, that the military establishment, despite its apparent complaisance, is actually loathe to relinquish power. That the army has expressed its disapproval so strongly, directly and indirectly (for let's face it, at least some of the shrieking in the media is at the army's behest), bodes ill for the future of democracy. Then again, I am not entirely closed to the possibility that the army just feels backed into a corner, dealing with a formidable insurgency, India and a hostile public and then suddenly finding its stream of cash dammed. Perhaps, its a case of asking too much too soon. But its much more likely that the army doesn't want to hand over real control to the civilian administration at all.

The second issue that Kerry Lugar has brought to the fore is the complete immaturity of the media and politicians. In 2008, it seemed like the media would be the strongest pillar of democracy but channels like Geo have sacrificed the country's interests for sensationalism. It is after all so much easier and more profitable to sell shrill anti-Americanism than responsible tempered reportage.

The opposition too has decided to cash in on the anti-American current in Pakistani opinion at a very real risk of destabilizing the current government and forsaking the very real benefits to our economy and to the lives of Pakistanis. It was a truly cringeworthy moment when a series of MNAs were interviewed on Geo, all of them admitting to having opposed Kerry Lugar in the assembly without actually having read the bill. I had thought that the opposition, especially PMLN, had been aware that if they rocked the boat too much they would all end up overboard, but that willingness to preserve the democratic order over party interests seems to have disappeared.

The government's weaknesses have been exposed in this furor too. They have been unable to effectively project their point of view in the media. The best of them have come off sounding like sheepish apologists for nefarious American interests. They should have cast themselves as defenders of democracy and the average Pakistani.

No comments: