Feb 10, 2009

Is Pakistan a banana republic?

TO ANSWER the question if Pakistan is indeed a banana republic we need to know the basic characteristics of a banana republic. This term is used to describe a country that is governed by a wealthy elite, suffers from severe economic disparities, is marred by perennial political instability and is prone to military coups.The small Central American nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador once embodied these characteristics and were known as banana republics. For the past several decades, Pakistan, too, has been prone to demonstrating these characteristics and seems to be on the way to qualifying as a banana republic.As people observe the unending saga of social, political, and economic turmoil in the country, it appears that Pakistan’s political leaders, most of whom are extremely affluent, consider politics as a sport. Whereas the majority of the people of Pakistan struggle everyday to make both ends meet and have no access to quality education, decent healthcare or employment, their political leaders are the richest individuals who do not have a clue about how people earn their daily wages. Such things happen only in a banana republic.The political leaders of Pakistan indulge in politics for personal aggrandizement and nothing else. Most of them do not have any vision for Pakistan. They appear on television discussion panels for the sole purpose of mud-slinging and double-talk. They hardly discuss the serious issues and challenges that the people of Pakistan face. They do not hesitate to use Islam for petty gains. They are extremely skilful in the art of obfuscation.The top leaders of major political parties live abroad like royalty. Their lifestyle in London and Dubai is no less than that of any prince of an oil-rich sheikhdom. No one dare ask them how they accumulated such enormous wealth and how they could afford such large estates and a massive entourage on foreign soil where they never worked for a day. They convene party meetings in London to discuss democracy. One wonders why these meetings are not held in their own country. We do not hear of political parties of other countries, for instance Britain’s Conservative Party, holding conventions in foreign countries. Why do Pakistani political parties hold meetings in London? No one asks this question as it is presumed that because the top leader is in exile, the party must assemble there as no other leader can be trusted to lead the party. Since funds are no problem, party members must travel to London to attend those meetings. Such escapades by the elite are possible only in a banana republic.Again, the freedom foreign powers have to dabble in the politics of a banana republic is also well known. Recently, something strange surfaced in the media. It was reported that a “great personality” of a friendly Muslim country had signed an agreement with Nawaz Sharif seven years ago to facilitate his release from prison. President Musharraf and his ministers did not want to reveal the name of that personality, though everyone knew who it was. Now we had the son of another foreign leader visit Islamabad to talk politics. This is quite acceptable — in fact expected — in a banana republic.The governing coalition, led by the Muslim League-Q, promotes a unique concept of democracy. A military dictator is handed over a carte blanche to govern as he deems fit. They are pleased to assume the role of junior partners in government as long as they are able to exclude their opponents from power.President Musharraf, a military dictator, is a law unto himself. He claims to have a monopoly over wisdom and expects everyone to obey his orders. He alone knows what is good for the country. Ironically, there are many in Pakistan who concur with the general. This is typical of a banana republic.

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