Long walk to freedom

Spearhead Opinion – 13.08.2015

By Enum Naseer
Senior Research Analyst,
Spearhead Research


Nearly 7 decades after independence, Pakistan’s political system still seems to be work in progress.  As the PPP and the PML (N) took turns running the country, the political arena was characterized by predictability as far as democratic governments were concerned. Post the lawyers’ movement and the PTI’s emergence on the political scene and the PPP’s downfall, things have taken on a slightly different direction.

This has to be viewed in the context of the media boom in Pakistan as the hitherto apathetic masses began to take an active interest in the politics of the country. As social and electronic media began to gain more importance vis-à-vis reaching out to the electorate and image management, the political atmosphere began to show signs of change. Debating national issues became a routine practice: people from all across the spectrum were participants in these discussions.

Today, while it seems that Pakistan may still have a long way to go in terms of reinforcing plurality and encouraging peaceful coexistence, there is much to be hopeful for.  While there are multiple centers of power in Pakistan, there is the understanding that in wake of a renewed commitment to lessen the country’s vulnerabilities (rooted in multiple security challenges ranging from issues of law and order to food security) all those who are part of the status quo need to do enough to secure the clout that they have. In the current situation, such an arrangement does not pit these centers against each other but rather keeps the ambitions of expansionism in check. It is like walking a tight rope: every step needs to be calculated and the pace needs to be managed carefully.

With the PPP and MQM having to bear the brunt of the operation in Karachi and an even more severe phase of the operation to be launched post Independence Day, the change will become more palpable. The predictability that once allowed political bigwigs to grow overconfident and complacent is vanishing. The past can no longer be relied on to forecast the future course of events. A transition is taking place and in the Darwinian sense, only those who rise to the demands of the new environment will have played their cards right and will live on to tell the tale.

The walk towards freedom has only begun. While the country is still caught up in an endless debate on the issue of a paradigm shift in the way that its ideology is imagined after the Peshawar Attack, the fact that there is some semblance of newness and originality in policy work is encouraging. The fact that feedback from different segments of society from ordinary people to experts is readily available and provides solutions, suggestions and insight is also refreshing. There is a lot to be hopeful for, to look forward towards, even in these testing times. For our hopes to not be backed merely by an attitude that is divorced from reality, we need to keep monitoring the country’s political evolution and adjusting its sails to suit varying environmental factors.