The addition of the suffix “-gate” to any significant negative event or development, real or imagined, instantly transforms it into a national scandal and conspiracy, particularly if so desired by a couple of TV anchors and a lawyer or two.
(Daily Times, 3 April 2013)
Elections are only a few weeks away. And these are not just any elections. They will be the first in the country to follow the constitutional departure of one elected government and be the harbinger of the next. It is about half a century too late but, as they say, better late than never.
It is interesting to look at the names of the contending political parties, although some of them may have more office-bearers than members or followers. It would seem that there is a terrible failure of imagination in the choice of names for parties.
Evidently, there is a tough competition to claim the mantle of the Muslim League (ML), which struggled for and established Pakistan. And this despite the fact that ML became rather dysfunctional, almost self-destructed, following the founding of Pakistan, after playing the role of the midwife who successfully delivered the infant at a very short notice. Given the very complicated nature of the birth which, if you ask historians and political scientists, was many months pre-mature as well, the midwife was so stressed that she first suffered some terrible contortions herself and then virtually collapsed.
Nevertheless, in light of the ML’s brilliant skills and success in safely delivering a rather unusual “child” through an irregular birth, there has been a surfeit of claimants to its legacy. Some of them have withered away, others survive as relics, and only a couple of them remain serious contenders for the people’s votes.
Thus, we have Pakistan ML (PML-Nawaz Sharif), PML (Quaid-i-Azam), PML (Ziaul Haq Shaheed), PML (Fida Mohammad Khan), PML (Jinnah), PML (Convention), PML (Junejo), ML (Qayyum), Council ML, Awami ML Pakistan (Sheikh Rashid Ahmad), All Pakistan ML (Musharraf), Pakistan People’s ML (Unification), Pakistan People’s ML (Functional); Muttahida ML and PML (Like-minded), which has renamed itself as Pakistan People’s ML.
Given the Bhutto charisma, next in terms of popularity is the name People’s Party. We have Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), PPP (Parliamentarians), PPP (Shaheed Bhutto, PPP (Sherpao), PPP (Bhuttoist), and PPP (Ghinwa).
Party manifestos are not worth the paper they are printed on. Neither the parties nor the voters take their own manifestos seriously. In its latest manifesto, for example, PML (N) promises to make “Pakistan emerge as one of the top ten economies of the world in 21st century.” Consider this: Pakistan’s present GNP is $515 billion and ranks 26th in the world. The number one economy, USA, has a GNP of $15,700 billion, followed by China with a GNP of $12,380 billion. Italy, ranked number 10, has a GNP of $1,835 billion. Given that there are over 85 years left in this century and the government is elected for only five years, this promise is a bit clever and very deceptive. It offers no yardstick to measure performance.
The PPP-P’s goal, no less hollow or bombastic, is imprinted on the front cover of its manifesto. It promises “Bread, Clothing and Housing; Education, Health and Jobs for Everyone”.
It is interesting to browse the names of registered political parties in some other democratic countries. The larger and more mainstream political parties in the western countries usually bear names like Democratic, Christian, Conservative, Labour, Liberal, etc. But parties with even the following unusual and, what some might say, ridiculous names have manifestos, hold party elections and some even win seats. They take themselves seriously and, if nothing else, they work as lobby groups on a one-point agenda.
In Australia, there are: Animal Justice Party, Fishing & Lifestyle Party, Sex Party, Stable Population Party, Bank Reform Party, Family First Party, Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party, No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics, Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting), Pirate Party, Rise Up Australia Party, Shooters and Fishers Party.
The United Kingdom has: Respect Party, 9% Growth Party, Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, Alternative Party, Animals Count, Anti party, Anti-Political Political Party, Best of a Bad Bunch, Borders Party, BritainThinks, Duty and Obligation, Common Sense Party, Equal Parenting Alliance Party, Friends of the Earth, Fur Play Party, Get the Snouts out the Trough Party, Grumpy Old Men Political Party, The Idle Toad, Legalise Cannabis Alliance, Mums Army, No Candidate Deserves my Vote, Pirate Party, Throne Out and Telepathic Partnership.
Canadians have Marijuana Party, Canadian Clean Start Party, Western Canada Concept Party, Rhinoceros Party of Canada, Pirate Party of Canada. And Americans have Marijuana Party, arty, Pirate Party, Prohibition Party, Reform Party, Objectivist Party, Independence Party, America’s Party, America First Party, Blue Enigma Party, Grassroots Party, Rent is too Damn High Part and Tax Revolt Party
It seems Pakistanis have also taken a liking for the suffix “-gate”, popularized by the Watergate scandal in the US, to describe any scandal, small or big. Not surprising, for we have a pronounced tendency to like everything American, except their foreign policy. Even in foreign policy, we make two exceptions, namely, American aid and Green Cards, both of which we don’t mind at all. After all, in a world of compulsions, they have their compulsions and we have ours.
Thus we had Memogate, Bahriagate, Osamagate and Mediagate, all within the space of a few months. The addition of the suffix “-gate” to any significant negative event or development, real or imagined, instantly transforms it into a national scandal and conspiracy, particularly if so desired by a couple of TV anchors and a lawyer or two.
Our political and state vocabulary is laced with very intimidating words and expressions, such as “exemplary punishment”, “law enforcing and sensitive agencies”, “targeted operation”, “long arm of the law”, “will be dealt with forcefully”, etc. The potency of the terms employed is inversely proportional to the dwindling might of the State. Presently, the writ of the state only extends to its peaceful and law-abiding citizens, perhaps no more than ten per cent of the country’s population. For the rest, the coercive organs of the state are just a minor inconvenience and its bombastic threats no more than a joke!
By Razi Azmi