Corporal punishment is frowned upon in my household. So, when we want to punish our six-year-old for, shall we say, refusing to write an apology note to his elder brother for destroying his Xbox games, we tell him to ‘stand in the corner and think about what he did’. It seems the Supreme Court (SC) had much the same approach in dealing with our prime minister, with the difference being that our punishments usually last a little longer and also entails a loss of all ice cream privileges for a designated period of time.
Seriously speaking, this verdict is the very personification of the much-extolled but rarely witnessed ‘win-win situation’. The worthy justices of the Supreme Court can now rest easy knowing that in courtroom number one, as well as in the court of public perception, they have ignored political expediency to see justice done. Their supporters and detractors both win, as those who had begun to doubt the will of the SC can draw heart from this admittedly historic verdict, while those who always suspected the SC of having a political bias are also vindicated.
As for the PPP, it’s as if all their prayers have been answered. Faced with the near impossibility of producing an actual martyr in order to bag those precious sympathy votes, the party had put all its hopes on the prime minister taking the judicial bullet and thus providing them with a perfect rallying point. One should now expect the siyasi shaheed slogan to be screamed from the rooftops to rally the jiyalas and rile the talk show audiences. Prime Minister Gilani can now look forward to a long and fruitful political career with the PPP, as can Aitzaz Ahsan, who has so clearly chosen his side after several years of playing hard to get.
In fact, our canny prime minister already foreshadowed this decision by earlier announcing that he would rather face death than compromise on his principles, taking a cue from Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari who advised him to ‘lose your government but…do what is right.’ And the one thing the PPP does right is martyrdom.
So this now gives them an opportunity to whitewash the disgraceful governance of the past years with the weather-resistant paint of shahadat, a word that is rapidly finding itself in the dictionary of most abused Pakistani political terms.
As for the PML-N, this gives them the opportunity to coin a few new political slogans, as ‘Go Zardari Go’ was getting a little old. They can now scream ‘criminal prime minister’ at the top of their lungs to all the patwaris and schoolchildren they can muster at one of their rent-a-rallies. For Imran Khan and his Tehreekis, this is yet another validation of their stance that everyone in Pakistan’s entrenched political elite, except for themselves of course, is corrupt and unworthy of power. I’d put this in the ‘win’ column for them, but I don’t think there was ever any debate on the issue in the first place.
Finally, the greatest winners here are (no prizes for guessing) our standing army of talk show hosts and the ‘I’m not an air crash specialist, but I play one on TV’ all-topic analysts. I can literally hear a great sigh of relief from this lot, who now no longer have to do actual research (beta, Google ‘black box’ for me please) and can go back to having a bunch of screaming politicians abusing each other on the 10-11 pm slot. Life is so much easier when all you have to do is announce commercial breaks.
So let’s rejoice as the circus that is Pakistani politics finally has a new attraction! Everyone wins. No prize for guessing who just lost.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.