Thursday, 2 October 2014

Failing state and failing governments, Dr Farzana Bari

Failing state and failing governments, Dr Farzana Bari    October 03, 2014
The elected governments often come into power with the support of the establishment and are compelled to carry on the vital policies (in particular foreign and economic policies) determined and defined by the military establishment

The power struggle within the factions of the ruling class has embroiled the country in its worst political crisis. While the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) are all three pro-status quo, pro-establishment parties, they do represent the interests of different sections of the ruling elite. The PML-N represents certain factions of big business whereas the PAT and PTI represent the middle class and sections of the elite. Unbridled squandering of national resources, rampant corruption, patronage, bribery, absence of merit and breakdown of the rule of law in the country have attracted urban youth to the rhetoric of good governance put forward by the PAT and PTI. Establishing the rule of law and meritocracy is the genuine need and concern of the middle class. They feel that they cannot compete with rich business and the capitalist and feudal class within the system that is based on corruption and bribery. 

However, the middle class youth is unable to understand that the difference in political rhetoric and the slogans of a self-serving political leadership of warring political parties with the same economic programme will make no difference to their lives. The lopsided publicity of misdeeds by the Nawaz government while maintaining a deafening silence on corruption, human rights violations and the abuse of power by the real power holders in khaki expose the pro-establishment nature of the ‘container’ leaders. The urban youth, inspired by the fiery rhetoric of Imran and Qadri, is not politicised enough to understand or question them in their rage on the failure of the state itself beyond the failure of the government. 

In theory, the state and government should work in tandem. In Pakistan, the state and the elected governments seem to be competing and contesting for maximum power and control over the politics of the country. Hamza Alavi (a world renowned state theoretician) wrote in 1972 that the postcolonial state of Pakistan manages in competing but not contradicting the interests of three propertied exploiting classes, the indigenous bourgeoisie, the Metropolitan neo-colonialist bourgeoisie and the landed classes. He argued that, under Metropolitan patronage, the bureaucratic-military oligarchy is allowed to mediate amongst these competing interests. There is no classical bourgeoisie in Pakistan. The ruling elite is an evil nexus of the military hierarchy, the feudal aristocracy and obscurantist capitalists. This lays bare the reactionary nature of the present ruling classes. The elected governments often come into power with the support of the establishment and are compelled to carry on the vital policies (in particular foreign and economic policies) determined and defined by the military establishment. The present political chaos in the country is the result of an internal contradiction and power struggle of the ruling elite belonging to the military, feudal and capitalist class. 

The misplaced priorities of the security state, lack of investment in human capital, state patronage of religious, fundamentalist and sectarian outfits, terrorism and the economic collapse have all created a legitimacy crisis for both the state and governments. In our resource-rich country, more than 60 percent people are living below the poverty line, 40 million have no access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, 25 million children are out of school and 260 women die per 10,000 live births, the highest maternal mortality rate in the region. Our country is at the top of the list where gender-based violence is most prevalent and more than 20 million people are internally displaced due to terrorism and military operations. Crushing poverty, unemployment, ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts and malfunctioning institutions have created a legitimacy crisis for the government.

The failure of the present government to deliver on public services is being fully exploited by Qadri and Imran Khan. However, both leaders tell half the story of governance failure to the people at large. They openly criticise the government for accountability and functionality failure but they are unwilling to hold the military establishment responsible for transcending its constitutional role and claiming a share in political power. This need of political indulgence on the part of the military aristocracy stems from its economic intervention whereby, in the last few decades, it has become the largest entrepreneur in industry, agriculture and the services sectors, not to say anything about its role in the informal sector or the black economy. 

Without challenging the status quo and the establishment, no political party can solve the myriad problems faced by the oppressed masses. The empty slogan of parliamentary democracy will not result in social justice within the social context of class exploitation and gender oppression. People must understand that democracy in the context of inequalities is no more than merely a technical, expensive electoral exercise that further strengthens the existing power hierarchies in society. It is not just the government that is teetering at the brink; it is the whole system and the state that is in the throes of terminal decay and drenched in violent crisis. The working classes need an alternative party and a programme to replace this corrupt and inept political spectrum and the rotten state where they can be candidly represented and be in control of the policies through a genuine democracy. Such a democracy is only possible where the role of finance and monopoly capital is abolished.

The writer is a human rights activist and university professor and can be reached at and on Twitter @drfarzanabari

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