Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is not the best choice for the premiership, actually he might be quite close to being the worst choice. His performance as minister for water and power was less than stellar and both his competence and credibility are suspect. I personally would have been thrilled if I never saw him in politics again. One expected some outrage and criticism of his election (we would do well to remember it is not merely an appointment), however, somewhere along the line it became obvious that our media has gone a tad too far. This is precisely what prompts me to undertake this Luciferian task of putting up a slight defence.
While we all know Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has gained notoriety, and rightly so for giving false deadlines, however, one is entitled to mild stupefaction when a senior journalist says that the day of his election is the most depressing day of his life. Surely, he does not consider the new PM’s election a bigger catastrophe then Ziaul Haq coming to power. Another firebrand media pundit expressed his desire to leave the country because of this abysmal choice for PM. I am certain he would have been this outraged when General (retd) Pervez Musharraf took over or when Moeen Qureshi or Shaukat Aziz were ‘appointed’, or maybe he wasn’t. Also be careful not to exhaust all your outrage, save some for the less important matters such as suicide bombings and the Shia killings etc. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has been elected by a quite overwhelming majority, with no ‘Changa Manga’ or ‘Midnight Jackal’, which is a breakthrough.
The new prime minister has allegations of corruption and perhaps, more significantly and tangibly of incompetence. Yet, watching a recent television programme it occurred to me that they may not be the only reasons for resentment. In that television programme, a top anchor person showed a clip of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, wherein he pronounced the ‘Q’ in PML-Q in the typical Urdu/Punjabi pronunciation of the alphabet, which vaguely speaking has a tiny howl at the end and then went on to mock him repeating the same pronunciation. The point of this exhibition was to demonstrate how uncouth the new PM was: we do not like him because he is an upstart, a common man, perhaps, not the best representative example of a common man, yet unquestionably common. To be painfully honest, the anchor person would probably belong to the same class originally and his proficiency of the English language and phonetics would also make for easy criticism. I dare the said anchor to mock the Urdu of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which also left much to be desired. The problem with Pakistan’s middle class like most middle classes is that they hate themselves.
I do not like Malik Riaz one bit either but the jokes about his pronunciation of the word ‘screw’ have outlived their amusement value. Remaining on television anchors, sometime back I saw another gallant chat show host refer to Malik Riaz as “Riaz Thekaydar” repeatedly and perhaps, too strenuously. I can understand him saying it once to declare his independence but to protract the use of “Thekaydar” as a pejorative word is just cheap. Again, it is not elitism in the personal sense since the said anchor probably would be self made, it is self-hatred. Malik Riaz and Raja Pervaiz can and should be justifiably and scathingly criticised for a lot of things. However, the fact that they give the impression of guys who imbibe top shelf single malt with Pepsi in large gulps, while admittedly being personally irksome is not one of them.
We do not like corruption or deceit, but we really, really do not like it when the common man does it. Fake degrees make us a bit angry, however, if it is Jamshed Dasti’s fake degree, that is earth shattering, “what have we come to” apocalyptic stuff. It is also cathartic at some level, I am sure many of our media gurus and opinion-makers are secretly thrilled and all of their birthdays have come together. A target as unchallenging as Raja Pervaiz Ashraf would make it easier to look smug and the airs of superiority will not seem as phony. I can imagine Raja Pervaiz Ashraf saying some purged version of Tony Montana’s in Scarface, “You need people like me so you can point your finger and say, that’s the bad guy”.
There has been some talk of a recent Pew survey and I see a lot of urban middle-class folks getting fairly excited about it. I restrain myself from commenting on the finding. However, if surveys catch your fancy, there is a bigger survey held periodically that all of you are invited to, it is called the ‘general election’. Make sure you do not miss it. The moralising of the urban middle class is particularly irritating when one realises that most of them do not vote; worse still consider all politics dirty business. I am told that winds of change are blowing and we will see it in the next election, I certainly wish that is so and look forward to it.
No one is really happy about the new PM, except perhaps, his immediate family and no one has to like him. The seminal question is this: is bearing Raja Pervaiz Ashraf being allowed to complete his term of a few months too high a price for the democratic system to continue? I go for high stakes and say the categorical answer is “no”. He maybe a bad example of a very important principle but the principle trumps the personality quite easily. Do not underestimate yourself, we have survived 11 years of Zia, this should be a walk in the park.
Loadshedding is an inescapable subject while talking about the PM. The analogy summoned to mind is that while protesters have genuine grievances, yet to burn the Wapda grid station or destroy electricity poles is not the smartest of moves, since it deprives you of the meagre electricity that you are, in fact, getting and the cycle becomes more vicious. The same goes for democracy, don’t do it, it is self-sabotage and suicidal.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2012.
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