It just takes the combination of two names in the top slots to comprehend the depths into which this Islamic Republic has sunk itself. It is a unique pairing in a comity of known parliamentary systems. To see President Asif Ali Zardari coupled with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, in print — or otherwise — has the effect of making many a heart sink low into the ground, beneath one’s feet.
Just what do these names conjure up? Both have a past which precedes them; one with a far longer litany than the other. Both are synonymous — by perception and reputation — with corruption and malpractice. There is little need to elaborate as it would be but repetition. Both face contempt charges.
One in the Lahore High Court, the alleged contempt being the fact that he holds two conflicting positions — that of head of state conjointly with the co-chairmanship of his supposedly inherited political party and of politically operating from the hallowed premises of the presidential mansion, which has been converted into the headquarters of the ruling party. He has been given ample time by the Court to ponder, but since the situation has existed happily for the past four years it is unlikely that anything will come of the matter. The other, the new boy in the hot seat, is in a far more dicey position. The Supreme Court is fixated upon a letter it insists must be written.
In the case of the head of state, the contempt with which he is charged pales into insignificance when it comes to the contempt he has exhibited for the nation by dealing it one blow after another with nary a care other than his own self-preservation, which circles around the immunity granted to him by the Constitution. His skills are well known — and have been for over two decades — but many had the feeling that over the past four years, he might just trip himself up by outsmarting himself. But no, he has shown consummate acumen by outfoxing his opponents and buying the complete and utter loyalty from his herd of supporters, who rely upon him to keep them where they are.
But his latest act of contempt for the nation has outshone all others. After the expected departure of his chosen prime minister, he had to make choices. Now, he may not have known that Makhdoom Shahabuddin was to be presented with an arrest warrant but he certainly knew that there were pending charges against him for gross malpractice, financial and moral turpitude. So why pick him?
As for his second choice, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, has made his country a laughing stock internationally. His contempt for the nation is as great as that of his master, for if he had an iota of self-respect or respect for his country, he would not have accepted the job. He cannot be taken to task for this contempt (and the same goes for master) but the Supreme Court, which is in full and confident flow may have the last laugh yet again.
And as for the herd of parliamentarians who voted him in with a bang, they have also shown their equally potent contempt for ‘Pakistan khappay’. They voted not with thought or conscience, incapable and bereft as they are, but merely because their greed, coupled with loyalty to the man — who can make or break — outshone all other considerations.
An unhappy situation, to put it mildly, and it seems that the present dispensation is intent upon dragging out its term to the bitter end. Rather than call for elections right away and begin the ending of the agony, Zardari has no intention of doing what many feel would be right and proper.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2012.
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