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Welcome to the kakistocracy

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Pakistan is currently a democratic kakistocracy. A kakistocracy is government by the least competent and / or amoral citizens of the state. In short, a government by the worst people.

Not only pointing the finger at the current PTI-led government, but past governments – two of which are now part of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – have also been kakistocracies. What these kakistocracies have in common is the people responsible for governing only the brand name (currently: Imran Khan) or membership of a party that has changed.

For people tired of a system dominated by PML-N and PPP, the PTI offered new hope. However, the party quickly dashed people’s hopes by adopting proven political heavyweights. Thus making sure that there was no hope of ending the Pakistani kakistocracy. Now, with each passing day, it seems that we the people are stuck in a nightmarish merry-go-round in which inflated egos, protection of interests and elite class solidarity reign supreme.

In addition, we are also a politically polarized kakistocracy. The space for speech about our issues is shrinking and arousing hateful feelings. Politicians are increasingly engaging in an “us versus them” approach. The hateful sentiment is further triggered by the mutual labeling of friends of Israel and / or India. This political polarization has resulted in a politics of indecency and a culture of hatred of politicians with opposing views. This in turn leads to a constant tirade of abuse and name calling. To imagine polarized politicians in a dialogue – even though discussions about a grand national have toned down in recent weeks – about the well-being of the common man seems absurd.

It is difficult to determine whether this is real or perceived political polarization. If this is not a sham, this political polarization leads to a lack of bipartisan support for a law or a bill. For example, both the current government and the common opposition want Senate reforms and an end to bargaining. However, they will not sit together and make a constitutional amendment to end the Senate vote by secret ballot. Both sides have a problem with the rich supporters (also known as ATMs) of political candidates. Why is there no bipartisan support for working on the implementation of election finance laws?

It just goes to show that all of these different issues are seen as mere political points whenever it suits their agenda. Therefore, a grand national dialogue is only a facade for the “you are tag” game that political parties are playing. You are – your turn to try your hand at governance, take the same crop of ministers and try to accomplish something new; your turn to cost the Treasury billions of rupees through incompetence. The only speech will be about the personal interests of political heavyweights and why they should be in power. There will be no policy offer backed by significant research – further down the kakistocracy den we go.

Those in charge of the current kakistocracy are aware of the challenges that ordinary man faces. So are those who seek to form a new kakistocracy for the umpteenth time. The problem is the lack of constructive or practical solutions for people in difficulty. How do you break the cartelization? How to revive a struggling economy? How do you relieve students and young professionals looking for a job? How to make public enterprises profitable? How to end the vicious circle of circular debt?

The only solution offered is a team waiting to be in power and with a wave of the wand will solve all these problems. We the folks are invited to trust this team of familiar faces. Failure to live up to the confidence will result in “lack of time to prepare”. It’s the same old guard, under different ministries, under new leadership, with the same crumbling bureaucracy.

After the formation of a new kakistocracy, the precedent is to discredit the mandate of this democratic kakistocracy. Thus begins a long-march political movement to overthrow one narcissist by another.

Where are we, the people, in all of this? A country of 220 million people glued to our TV screens or to gatherings watching the same few people rule us. We see the slogans “people first” and “constitutional supremacy” giving way to personal interests.

We the people also have a huge role to play in fostering this politically polarized kakistocracy. We swoon in front of the representatives on our side and only want the opposition to account. We agree with this policy of the best insult in this war of words between politicians. We will continue to vote for the same faces instead of giving someone progressive a chance. We prefer false promises to real policies based on research. Therefore, we are resigned to accept our fate of belonging to a democratic but politically polarized kakistocracy. The desperate need for a war of ideas, not words, continues.

Posted in The Express Tribune, February 16, 2021.

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