Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Politicians singled out for blame-game

HUSAIN IMAM

Ever since the state of emergency has been declared in the country and the political parties have been barred from carrying out political activities, a section of our elite class, comprising some retired members from civil and military bureaucracy, bankers, business leaders, journalists, columnists and editors of newspapers seem to have embarked upon a special a mission to tell the public that it is the politics and the politicians of our country who are solely and fully responsible for the political turmoil and in consequence the emergency.

It is still not very clear what they are up to. Speculation is that they want emergence of a third force to take over the helm of affairs of the country through a newly orchestrated political process.
According to them, if I can understand their language, the politicians are all corrupt, selfish, and unpatriotic. They are in politics only to make money.

So, these politicians should no longer be trusted with power to rule the country. The people would better be served by a government of the type similar to one, if not the same, in power now.

The way some of these persons of our so-called civil society talk about our constitution, democracy, politics, and about the politicians, one might easily mistake them for legal experts, constitutional specialists, or political pundits of international repute. When we see a business leader talking about not only our constitution but also that of India and try to suggest that what we have in the name of constitution is nothing but a bogus document worth throwing into the bin, who will believe that he had never been a student of law or political science?

When this business leader says that the politicians as well as the politics in the country are all rotten and filthy, needing complete reform, who will believe that he is one of those fortunate few who have been the principal beneficiaries of what in his language is rotten and filthy. When he points his finger, accusing the politicians of our country of being immoral, he probably does not notice that three of his other fingers are pointing back at him.

When a retired general turned columnist finds all wrong in our politicians and holds them fully responsible for all the miseries that have befallen on the people of this country, he forgets to mention that this country was ruled by the army generals for almost half the period of our independence and it was one of those generals who said he would, and in fact did, make politics difficult for the politicians.

When an editor of a newspaper tells us that despite all the odds, we had some remarkable success in the different sectors of our national life over the last 15 years of our democratic practice, but credit for all these achievements goes to people and the civil society, not the politicians, he is certainly not fair in his judgment about our politicians.

How can we deny the historic role of our politicians in giving us a free and independent country, a flag, a national anthem of our own, an identity for our future generation? How can we deny the immense sacrifice of our politicians in upholding the democratic and other basic rights of our people whenever these rights have been threatened by the usurpers of power?

Today we all say that for a true and meaningful democracy to take root, a free, fair and credible election is a must, and for that so many things need to be done by the caretaker government -- a truly independent and competent election commission, a flawless voter list, if possible voter ID card, transparent ballot box, and reform of electoral laws so that black money and muscle can not influence the electoral process -- before announcing the election schedule.

What did the majority of our political parties, the AL-led grand alliance to be specific, ask for? They also asked for almost the same things and took to the streets with tougher programs like blockade and hartal only when all other mild and peaceful programs failed. And we called them rogues, out there to subvert the electoral process and destabilize the country.

When one party was adamant to go ahead with a farce election as per their blueprint and recapture state power to protect the huge wealth illegally amassed in the past 5 years of their rule, more appropriately misrule, and another party was determined to resist it at any cost, how can we put all of them in the same bracket and brand them as power mongers, out to destroy our democracy?

There is no denying that most of the people we see in politics are corrupt, immoral, and devoid of any political ideology. They are there in politics only to earn money and wield power. But it is unfair to pass a sweeping comment or to say that there are no honest, dedicated, and patriotic people in politics.

The problem is that most of the people we see now in politics are not politicians. They are either businessmen or retired bureaucrats or mastans who have turned politicians overnight by virtue of their muscle, money, or position in the society. It is probably high time that the political leadership took a close look at the matter and redeemed their strategy or else, as per Gresham's law, they might soon see the bad ones driving out the few good ones and take the driving seat. To be frank, the process is already on.

It is heartening to see that the present caretaker government or interim government, by whatever name one may wish to call it, is making an effort to reverse the process. Wishing them all the success, we only hope that whatever they do they do it within the frame work of law -- remaining absolutely neutral and impartial and without being distracted from their actual goal of handing over power to a truly representative elected government in the shortest possible time.

Having said that, the question is, how fair will it be for the civil society or government in power to singularly target the politicians and launch propaganda against them for all that is bad in the country, taking undue advantage of the emergency? The politicians are dishonest but are the other groups in our society all angels? The politicians are power hungry, but who isn't?

Professor Iajuddin Ahmed and Justice MA Aziz were not politicians. As non-political persons, people expected them to play an absolutely neutral and impartial role in ensuring a free, fair and credible election and handing over power to a truly representative elected government. Instead, they played the role of a poodle and made a complete mess of the whole democratic process. Can anybody honestly say that they were less responsible for the situation?

We all want reform of the political parties. The business community seems to be more vocal than anybody else in this respect. But why don't they ask for reform of their own world -- trade, business, loan default, labour relations, tax policy, anti-adulteration law and so on -- so that nobody can easily get away without repaying the bank loan, nobody can adulterate food, produce fake medicine, import animal feed for human consumption, evade tax or siphon money out of the country by under or over-invoicing, or exploit his employees. They won't. Why would they if they can make the politicians the scapegoat?

We see some retired bureaucrats and police personnel also joining hands with others in condemning the politicians indiscriminately and wanting the caretaker government to go for rigorous political reform. Why don't they ask for reform of the administration also? Nobody will say that they are all clean. Not least those who had the misfortune of going to them empty-handed.

We will probably serve the nation better, if we look at our own face in the mirror first before we point fingers at others. #

Husain Imam is a freelance contributor to The Daily Star