In the armed forces when a soldier fires a bullet he has to keep an account, collect the empty shells which are called ‘khokas’ or ‘khol’ which are then disposed as used ammunition. In politics a politician comes into power through the ballot. His re-election is based on performance otherwise he is classified as spent force and relegated to the dossiers of history.

Only in Pakistan, a politician can remain in corridors of power despite poor performance. The phenomena is called electability. From manipulating the electoral process, to change of party loyalties every move is justified in the name of survival. It is also termed as old wine in new bottles or new wine in old bottles but the bottom line is no performance or progress, only more of the same.

‘Chala Hua Kartoos’ (fired cartridge) , cannot hit its target at best it can be disposed off as used ammunition, that is why it is called a ‘Khoka’ (kiosk) an empty space where small items can be displayed. Though we live in information age it can be easily converted into disinformation campaign. On paper and in paid advertisements, Pakistan is projected as an emerging Asian Tiger while the ground realities remain grim. Even on development or way forward there is no consensus. A nuclear power cannot ensure clean drinking water for its citizens. Despite the fact that basic human needs like health and education are not catered for, still the same old faces remain on the center stage.

In the original 1973 constitution the Prime Minister (PM) could only be elected twice which was later amended to make room for Nawaz Sharif. Long stints in power results in stagnation. In USA Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was the last three term President. He died in office and his Vice Harry S. Truman had to complete the term of office of FDR. Since then the constitution was amended to limit it two terms only (4 + 4). Most presidents lose their popularity in the second term and then indulge in supra-constitutional acts and misuse of office. Ronald Reagan was involved in Iran Contra scandal while Bill Clinton faced impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky episode.

In an ever changing world, driven by technology only change is permanent. Changed scenarios demand fresh approaches. Skill sets have to be regularly upgraded otherwise they get obsolete. In the Armed Forces SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are strictly followed. Most modern management standards, tools and techniques have been adopted from the men in uniform. Recent example is of ISO-9000 Quality Management System (QMS). Originally developed by the British Army, it then became a British Standard and then finally adopted by the Geneva based International Standards Organization. Today it is the world’s most used QMS with international certifications.

Battlefield demands precision as such there is no second chance. Once fired, the cartridge must hit the target otherwise the battle is lost. Similarly a politician once elected must serve his voters otherwise face extinction or disposed as ‘Khokas’. Only performance can recharge a political cartridge. It was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s governance and legacy that has ensured victory for his party in five elections a feat unmatched by any other political outfit.

Perhaps the Panama leaks are the largest collection ever of fired cartridges, who thought they had hit the bull’s eye. Wealth hidden and protected through off-shore companies and mostly ill-gotten was the norm. Tremors have been felt worldwide and there have been resignations in the civilized countries. As a bare minimum this used ammunition should be immediately discarded and disqualified from holding any public office. Then their coffers of ill-gotten money should be turned into ‘khokas’ as a deterrent.

Now there is an international list of ‘Chala huay Kartoos’ which can be discarded for the betterment of humanity at large. Pakistan too can benefit from this God sent opportunity to get rid of its ‘khokas’ as is regularly done by the armed forces by strict enforcement of SOPs. The present Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has set a noble example by declaring his intent to go home after expiry of his term in November this year this tradition should be expanded to other areas also.

I once had the opportunity to talk to General Muhammad Sharif the first Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee formed after the promulgation of the 1973 constitution. I asked him a straight question. “Why did you support Zia’s Martial Law as it was un-constitutional’? Being a professional soldier his answer was honest and straight. He said that I called Zia and asked him to return to the barracks. According to him Zia promised to hold elections within ninety days and urged him to stay in office till then. General Sharif true to his word did not go to office on the 91st day when elections were postponed. Since then, ten elections have been rigged to keep the ‘Chala Hua Kartoos’ in power. It is time to revert back to the constitution and rule of the ballot by massive cleansing of used ammunition left behind by the political firing squads of both Zia and Musharraf the two generals who had no respect for the constitution and the people of this deprived and ambushed country. Throw out these ‘khokas’ and save Pakistan- both for us and the coming generations.