Generally speaking, there exists a general consensus that generals should confine themselves to the General Headquarters. So far, they have done exactly this — kind of — to the general relief of most and sundry.
But are the janissaries of the Triple One off “internal security” for good? Generalisations about the intent of generals are generally a bad idea in Pakistan. This explains why the resolution moved in the parliament by the government is general enough in wordings so as not to mention the generals. Practical political wisdom still prevails among the politicians. But is the ebb and flow of time altering the contours of this wisdom? Are the politicians getting better at handling the generals? Is there a new appreciation for the limitations of power that each institution and office commands?
Manic Monday may provide a sneak peak at what’s cooking in the country. Yes, Monday, the 16th of January 2012 AD may be remembered in infamy. Not because political heavens will be torn asunder, but because a simultaneous play of events will pit power players against each other in hallowed forums.
At the Supreme Court, the larger bench kicks off hearings on the NRO in the smouldering backdrop of the six options presented by the previous bench. A short distance away, the Memo Commission will move into higher gear with its hearings, while Mansoor Ijaz keeps his travel plans under wraps. Nearby, parliament will convene to discuss, deliberate and debate the government resolution, and possibly vote on it. None of these three events will throw up any final conclusions on this Manic Monday, but what they will do is expose the emerging fault-lines within Pakistan’s power structure.
Who dares wins?
Winning entails someone losing, which makes it a zero sum game. At this critical juncture, a zero-sum game amongst Pakistani power players is the last thing the doctor would order. The alternative is a compromise — howsoever uneasy and temporary — which allows the players to step back from the brink and survey their losses. The most likely compromise may be this:
One, memogate loses steam as Mansoor Ijaz is unable to come to Pakistan due to “security reasons” and the judges disallow video testimony. Husain Haqqani ends up being the sole casualty. Two, the government writes a harmless and diluted letter to the Swiss government which is full of form and devoid of substance. Three, the opposition agrees to let the Senate elections be held peacefully in return for government announcing a schedule for general elections immediately after the Senate polls. Four, the DG ISI walks off into the sunset when his term of office expires in March. Five, all power players live happily ever after, which means till the elections.
Bonus: all political parties agree on a caretaker setup, including the new prime minister and the role of the president.
Too good to be true? It probably is. In the absence of laid down rules of the game, each power player is jostling to get the best deal for himself while mouthing off principles of democratic co-existence. Truth is, none of the players smell of roses.
The government has proved it can’t govern. The judges have proved their judgements are selective. The generals have proved they still answer to no one but themselves. There is only one term to describe this situation: collective failure. A failure of the leadership to grow beyond its own personal, political and institutional interests is a failure which opens up the country to charges of being a failed state. Pakistan is not a failed state because Pakistanis are not a failed nation. The failure lies with the politician who is a prisoner of his own severe limitations. The failure is of the judge who is burdened with a messiah complex and who is unable to heal the personal injuries inflicted by a dictator. The failure is of the general who cannot change his world view despite knowing that the world itself has moved on from that view.
These power players are now locked in a mortal combat whose relevance does not go beyond their own restricted spheres. But its toxic fallout pollutes the whole nation, bringing the running of the state to a grinding halt. The world scoffs at us for a reason.
Shame on the world?
No. Shame on us.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2012.