Pakistan doesn’t have history. It has current affairs with a long memory — a tartan panorama of provincial bias and special pleading, where the grievances of yesterday are the defining characteristics of today. And in all these bright and beastly years, somebody or other has been frothing with special interests and pre-presumed truths. This is no more evident than in the case of the trial of Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, in which the president’s adviser has been caught napping. In agreeing to exhume and review the judgement handed down by their peers, the Supreme Court is making a supreme gesture. The decision might end up as the Rosetta stone of jurisprudence in this blighted country. It will probably be talked about for the next 10 years. However, as the matter is sub judice, one is proscribed from commenting on it. All one can say is, this contentious issue will be finally put to rest… or will it?
The trial is basically of interest to the president whose popularity is waning and who is trying to score a point, the surviving members of the Bhutto family, the apparatchiks and freeloaders of the PPP, a clutch of lawyers and the odd journalist, like this writer who plans to write a book some day on the judgement that tossed out the constituent assembly of Pakistan in 1954. But what is about to happen in Islamabad can’t be of much interest to the man in the street who doesn’t have a job and is terminally hampered by the rising cost of living. As it is, he has to, on a daily basis — often three times a day — witness the uglier side of democracy, as practiced in Pakistan. The sight of those elected representatives in their monstrous four-wheel drives without number plates — flags fluttering in the breeze on both fenders — breaking traffic rules they are supposed to uphold, pushing other motorists off the road. And if that is not all, there are the private guards, who look as if they have just escaped from a maximum detention cell in the Andaman Islands. The climax came on the day when the chief minister (CM) of Sindh called a meeting to discuss the law and order situation in the province! The road outside the CM’s office looked like a war zone. There were 19 police mobiles each, with a screaming siren.
The chief minister appears to be hell-bent on disenchanting the public. In this, he is certainly on the right track. Has anybody in the excise department ever asked if these four-wheelers that carry the chaps, who believe they are gracing the streets with their presence, ever been properly registered? The time has come to stop calling these functionaries the peoples’ representatives because they stopped serving the people a long time ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2011.