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Ill Use of the Word "Politics" in Pakistan

By Zeenia Satti

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 20, 2017

Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif  

In political science, ‘public representation’ entails the ability to assess the wishes of a polity, to fathom their needs, to articulate the same constructively through speech, to address the same through sincere care that involves policy planning and implementation. Public reps are political beings. Politics is defined as the rules and norms that make an existing state more useful to its citizens. Though democracy as a global phenomenon is only two hundred and fifty years old, (if you date it from the independence of USA from UK), humanity has yet to design formal education leading to the creation of a public representative, such as Masters or Ph.D  or post doc in public representation, though formal education in political science does exist and and philosophizes political existence through serious debate.

In the absence of a formal, scientific and holistic academic design aimed at creating professional public representatives, the latter are self-initiated professionals. However, aptitude is as much at the core of this profession as any other. Without the ability to assess the wishes of the public, without caring to fathom public needs, and without the enlightenment to innovatively and dexterously address those needs, one cannot be a good public representative. There is a general assumption that only a good public representative will make it to office because his or her selection depends on the choice made by the majority of public.

Because the representative comes into office without formal prior training, his/her mettle is to be tested while in office, the imperatives of which require the public rep to move beyond articulation of public wishes and beyond policy promise, into the domain of conceiving and implementing policy that addresses public needs successfully. Though trained bureaucrats who occupy their hierarchic office for a long period help public reps govern, yet the latter must exercise leadership in what-ever office they hold. Unless the leaders deliver healthy leadership, the democratic political process is hollow within and unproductive without.

Pakistan calls itself a new democracy because there has been uninterrupted hand over of power from one representative government to another for the first time since Pakistan emerged as a sovereign state in 1947. Paradoxically, it is only during this time, (since 2008) that public reps have started unwittingly making statements regarding their political role that are in-fact derogatory towards their profession. This tendency is a red flag over Pakistan’s democratic political culture. If it is not checked by civil society, Pakistan’s nascent democracy will grow akin to a python slowly eating its own tale.

A blaring example of the unhealthy tendency of describing public role derogatively is the pronouncements made by the members of the ruling party PML(N)about their leader Nawaz Sharif’s  speeches in parliament and his address to the nation post Panama Leaks.  Nawaz Sharif gave one explanation of how he acquired his assets abroad to the parliament and the public and another to the Supreme Court during hearing. Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer and other members of his party are explaining away the inconsistency by calling the speeches Nawaz Sharif, the elected office holder at the helm of government, made in his official address to the nation on TV and in the elected Parliament of Pakistan merely “political” statements, that should not be accorded importance during a judicial inquisition regarding Prime Minister’s political character, (which ultimately is what the Panama Leaks hearing is about).

Prime Minister submitted to the court that he bought the extravagant May Fair flats in London with the money raised from investments in Qatar, only letter from a Qatari prince is submitted as proof. During hearing in December 2016, justice Aijaz ul Hassan stated that the PM did not mention Qatari investment in any of his speeches post Panama Leaks.  Nawaz Sharif’s counsel Salman Butt replied by stating the Prime Minister’s speech cannot be a judicial record as it was political speech. No clarification came from the office of the Prime Minister regarding the derogatory dismissal of the credibility of a speech made by the Prime Minister of a country in the Parliament and on air as address to the nation.

There are innumerable instances of usage of the concepts “political” and “politics” by Pakistan’s political elite as frivolous, non-serious, unworthy, self-seeking or self-aggrandizing. For instance, when-ever there is a terror attack with a large number of lives lost, the government’s response to criticism leveled at its security policy is always in the shape of advice that members of the opposition should not do “politics” over a tragedy of national proportions.  The interior minister Chaudhy Nisar Ali Khan has often used the word “politics” in such terms. On January 28, 2016, a week after the terror attack on Bacha Khan university, Chaudhry Nisar responded to the opposition party PPP’s  criticism of government’s inability to implement the National Action Plan against terrorism in the following words;  If some one does not like my personality, no matter; but don’t do ‘politics’ on national issues.” Speaking in the aftermath of the tragic Landhi train accident that killed 22 and injured 60, Bilawal Bhutto, who studied social science  at Oxford, also seems to have succumbed to this culture when he said that there should be no ‘politics’ over terrorism and accidents.

The state is the highest form of community and aims at the highest good. It is founded on political association. Politics defines the nature and function of the state. It is defined as the rules and norms with which citizens mingle with each other. Political rulers aim at the good of those who are ruled.

In commercial enterprises, office politics is a disparaging phrase. It refers to behavior that is self seeking and contrary to the main function of the enterprise. It is focused on who gets what, when and how without the involvement of professional ethics. Pakistan’s public representatives attach similar meaning to the world politics. They thus not only undermine their own professional credibility as politicians, they belittle democratic culture itself. It is painted as a political culture devoid of accountability, ethics, established and respected norms by which political behavior is regulated.

*** for meaning of word politics

politics is the method of making an existent state more useful to its citizens. Ethics and politics must go hand in hand.

The state is the highest form of community and aims at the highest good. the state is founded on political association.

Political rule aims at the good  of those who are ruled.

Ruler must act as the embodiment of law

Politics is the Rules and norms with which citizens mingle with each other

Is politics the business of who gets what, when and how?


Zeenia Satti is a senior political analyst with expertise in the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia. She has taught Middle Eastern Affairs at Harvard University USA. She currently heads PPLDM, a disaster risk reduction organization in Pakistan. Her blogs can be found at at


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