Mar 4, 2009

School of Political Nonsense

Traditionally, students of politics are taught courses such as political theory, international relations, comparative politics, constitutional law, national politics, institutionalism and diplomacy among others. But in Pakistan’s case, most of these courses would be outmoded. Here, in this great country of ours, constitution and law is more of a joke. There is no rhyme, reason or theory to the politics on display and the less said about institutionalism, the better.
As a sophomore student, I remember studying courses on political ethics and the art of diplomacy, but in the current Pakistani political scenario, those courses are not only redundant, but the universities may be accused of imparting foreign influences to our students. If a university starts running a politics program to teach politics – Pakistan style – modern and newly-devised courses such as Political Opportunism and Political Anarchy would be more appropriate and students will have plenty of live examples to research and document. If a university takes this plunge and redesigns its curriculum, there are certain courses that would definitely make the final cut.
Instead of institutionalism, universities here should start teaching a course on Political Dynasties which could be popular in neighboring countries as well. Bhuttos of PPP are the most famous example although Khans of ANP are not far behind. The party has been passed on, from father to son, for three generations (from Ghaffar Khan to his son Wali Khan and now over to his son Asfandyar Wali Khan). Though these parties may be the pioneers taught about in Political Dynasties 101, PML-N and JUI - F takes the cake as the parties that are formed around the names of their leaders. It is open to wonder what will happen to these fine political institutions if there is no Nawaz Sharif or Maulana Fazlur Rehman around to ably guide and lead them.
Another popular course suitable for politics in Pakistan would be Political Suicide 101. We have all witnessed how former president of the country, Pervez Musharraf, was responsible for his own ouster. The civilian politicians couldn’t harm him much in the first eight years of his rule, but as soon as he overestimated his grandiosity and dismissed the CJ in an unceremonious manner, he brought about his own demise. Z.A. Bhutto is another fine example of political failure about whom, a certain Mr. Rushdie in his book Shame wrote: ‘Some men are so great that they can be unmade only by themselves.’ The current president, it appears, has not learned from the history and is hell-bent on making the same mistakes. Although he is not half as great as Bhutto and not as powerful as President Musharraf was in his heyday, it looks more likely that he too will be undone by himself.
Political Anarchy would be another appropriate course for students of politics in Pakistan. Currently, the biggest proponent for the school of Political Anarchy is Mr. Nawaz Sharif, who openly calls for civil disobedience among the civil servants and is aiming to push the country into further chaos. His reasons for doing so are, of course, purely personal and can only benefit him and his party. The rest of the country can go to the dogs. Meanwhile, Jamaat-i-Islami, with its history of long marches, remains the traditional flag-bearer of Political Anarchy.
The course on Political Authoritarianism has many contenders in Pakistan. The latest in line is the recently-deposed chief minister of Punjab, who, after assuming office, demolished the democratic local government set up and brought back Babu Raj to run a highly centralized government in Punjab. Previously, just about every leader who assumed power tried his/her hands at Political Authoritarianism; one such leader also wished to be called Amir-ul-Momineen before he was unceremoniously removed and relieved of his ‘Heavy mandate’.
The undisputed pioneer in the field of Political Communication has got to be MQM supremo Altaf Hussain. Hussain has been commanding his party in absentia since the early 90s, when he moved to the UK to live in self-imposed exile. Mr. Hussain has been taught as a case study in communication in modern politics in a few British universities and could be a good source on all methods of political communications. After all, he is the man who is said to be in control of a city as huge and chaotic as Karachi sitting in his office in London.
The other courses which can be taught as electives are courses on Political Inactivity, Political Nuisance and last but not the least, a course on Political Nonsense. After all, adherents of schools of Political Nonsense abound in just about every political party, big or small, in Pakistan.
Tazeen Javed has lived most of her life in Karachi; so far no one has asked her to leave. She has worked as a journalist, teacher, salesperson, activist, tour guide, election observer, fruit vendor, copy writer and television producer in the past. She has wizened up since then and now only works for a living. She blogs at

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