National consensus in national interest | By Majyd Aziz

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National consensus in national interest


A short animated clip is viral on the social media. It depicts a person strenuously pulling an over-filled cart. Soon, one by one, others join him in pushing the cart.

All of a sudden, another character drops in and forcefully tries to pull back the movement of the cart.

The person who led the cart stops pulling and goes at the back and vociferously berates the aggressor who comprehends the situation and flees.

The rest then comfortably push and pull the cart towards its destination. This short clip very vividly reflects the ground realities in Pakistan.

The dynamics of the political environment in Pakistan have over the past many decades, and more so in recent times, developed a growing disconnect and distrust among the political parties.

There is a litany of allegations and accusations on a daily basis that propels governmental spin doctors to respond even when a response is not prudent.

One style of bashing is to regurgitate the same dialogue spiced up with past issues or sprinkled with expired and unsubstantiated or out-of-context statistics and figures.

Why is there no unanimity of views across the political spectrum on national issues or national interests? The answer is simple.

The convoluted, fixed and traditional mindset of the Opposition is to engage in polemics, in acrimony, and in hullabaloo as a matter of routine. Today’s ruling party is the Opposition of tomorrow and vice versa.

The opera continues on a daily basis while the end result is a zero sum game for both. The recent National Assembly rowdiness during the budget session is a case in point.

Each and every Budget Session starts off with slogan raising, placards waving and shouting uncivil insults and brickbats.

This time the Treasury paid back with the same coin and vociferously disrupted the speech of the Opposition Leader.

In both cases, buffoonery and misbehaviour by elected representatives of the people reflected the worst forms of a democratic order.

The private sector is all ears when it comes to listening to the Finance Minister present the budget.

They casually listen to the preamble and eagerly await the salient points. Usually, the Opposition creates a racket for about ten or fifteen minutes and then walks out.

This 11th June session was somewhat different. It was difficult to comprehend what the Finance Minister was saying.

The Opposition continued their loud protests, but ironically and unfortunately, even the Treasury members did not care to listen to the Finance Minister and made sarcastic remarks, talked among themselves, and only at the end of the speech thumped the desks.

Thus both the Treasury and the Opposition made a shameless mockery of their democratic privilege.

Politicos and government Ministers sermonize about a social revolution for the welfare of the poor while living in a state of opulence themselves.

They lecture about development of the country but when their policies get implemented, the end result is that more people dive under the poverty line.

They talk about the national interest but one senses that what they really refer to is their personal interest or the interest of their kith and kin

The sad fact of life is that the citizens probably know and realize that they are being taken on a ride to Fantasyland and that there would be no manna falling down from the Heaven, yet they seem to not only believe the rhetoric but continue to maintain their faith in these political parties and their leaders.

The latter, of course, know it is nothing but amusement for them, and hence they carry on with this façade ad nauseum.

In times of crisis, the onus to take all interests on board and create a consensus lies squarely and incontrovertibly with the top leadership of the country.

It is for them to accommodate views of all opposition parties and devise a plan of action that would be pushed in a well defined direction. Those who create blocks to derail the plan should be exposed and put in their place.

The government set up the National Command Operation Center as a central authority to coordinate and implement the COVID policy and efforts of all those involved in this process.

Since COVID is a national issue and not a provincial or political issue, shouldn’t the Opposition parties nominate a couple of senior leaders to be part of NCOC and place on record that the COVID policy has the approval of all political parties?.

In recent times, a concerted strategy has been conjured up that has significantly upset the citizens and the silent majority and has impacted dangerously on the country’s security.

An open season has been declared by inimical elements against the much-revered armed forces and this could have serious repercussions on the performance of the armed forces in the future.

One hopes that should a situation arise, there would be an enthusiastic positive response by the denizens of this motherland for the defence forces. Pakistanis are a peace loving nation and hold the armed forces in high esteem.

It seems there is a planned conspiracy to create a chasm that, at any cost, must not be allowed to become dark and deep. The abyss must be filled up for the sake of the country.

At present, some allegations of possible corruption and political interference have gained momentum and these must be addressed on an imperative basis by all concerned as this is actually in the national interest too. National security is paramount and there should be a national consensus.

The government propaganda machinery as a rule ensures that the media is kept under immense pressure as much as possible. Private TV channels are frequent hostage to the cable companies or the dictates of PEMRA.

This governmental attitude is described as in “the larger national interest” but this should not be the basis because conflicting opinions and views should be encouraged and tolerated. But then, there is no national consensus here too.

In the immortal words of Allama Iqbal, “Nations are born in the hearts of poet; they prosper and die in the hands of politicians”.

—The writer is former President Employers Federation of Pakistan.

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