Even you, Brutus?

The political crisis in contemporary Pakistan has a comparable analogy to history’s precedents

Dr Haider Mehdi October 14, 2017
The writer is an academic and political analyst on Pakistan affairs, American foreign policy, international relations and economic matters. He can be reached at [email protected]

It is not in my knowledge who, where, when, and why someone first said: “History repeats itself,” but the 19th century philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Perhaps that’s true in many ways and in various manifestations. At times, history repeats itself quietly, without warning, mysteriously. The comings, as they say, are sudden, unpredictable, dramatic, even rapturous — or frightening, cruel and merciless. The fact is that nature works in secretive and innumerably puzzling manners. It nullifies and invalidates the expected and normal rules of engagement and conduct in human experiences. It baffles and frustrates people. And generally speaking, the impacts and results of historical repetitions are consequential, lasting, and at times cause the entire discourse of human existence to drastically change.

Who could have imagined that Julius Caesar, the Roman emperor, would be assassinated on the floor of the Roman Senate soon after being ceremoniously declared perpetual dictator, stabbed by several senators with the final blow committed by no other than his most trusted friend, counsel and comrade, Brutus. Indeed, at that particular moment, as Julius Caesar lay bleeding to death, the entire course of Roman history abruptly changed.

The amazing thing in this history-changing episode, was that in a fraction of a moment Caesar did not have the slightest inkling of what was coming in that split second of that momentous instant. And all that Caesar could utter at his end was a surprised “Et tu Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?) seemingly realising his absolute ignorance of the actual state of affairs in his beloved empire, of the fact that his friends and fellow citizens were unhappy, dissatisfied, and disappointed in him as a person, in his political conduct, and in his role as their leader.

It is said that Caesar’s wife had a dreadful dream about her spouse’s assassination the night before he was stabbed to death by several senators and his comrade Brutus. And she begged Caesar not to go to the Senate the next morning. Perhaps she had sensed Caesar’s overbearing political ambitions and how his allure to personalised power was negatively impacting his role as the leader. Or perhaps she had a mystical premonition. However, Caesar was politically eliminated because his comrades, supporters, and friends could no longer trust his political judgment nor could they support his ego-centric political discourse which was harming the interests of the state.

History is witness to the fact that this kind of thing has happened numerous times in human history and it can happen again anytime.

The political crisis in contemporary Pakistan has a comparable analogy to history’s precedents. Julius Caesar did not die because of his wife’s premonition or frightening dream. Brutus believed that Julius Caesar was politically ambitious beyond the limits of acceptable political behaviour, and Caesar’s political elimination was a direct consequence of his conduct.

Similarly, Nawaz Sharif is not likely to attain political immortality because his daughter Maryam Nawaz and some of his loyalists endorse his overblown political ambition (seemingly a perpetual dictatorship) as an acceptable norm of political conduct. The fact of the matter is that the former prime minister has been disqualified because of charges of massive corruption, misuse of his powers, and amassing wealth beyond his legitimate means. There is not a single shred of evidence to suggest that Nawaz Sharif is a victim of some kind of conspiracy against him by anyone or any national institution.

However, it appears that Nawaz and his loyalists, at present, seem to view “politics” as a form of cinema — except that the former prime minister and his comrades are not the “heroes” in a film. What has happened to him is real. He has been accused of gross political misconduct by the highest judicial court of the country and, in the spirit of democratic principles, it is his legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to put his defence before the court and the nation in a lawful manner, that is, if he truly has any reliable defence to offer.

Let this be a warning to Nawaz: “You can fool some of the people some of the time…but not all of the people all of the time.” Politics is not “cinematography” or an “art of deception,” or “fortune-telling” or even “theatrics” staged to acquire the political immortality dreamed of by one’s favourite child.

Political management is a real serious thing intertwined with the lives of “real people” with their “real problems” and seeking “real solutions.” What the disqualified ex-PM is doing these days is purely staging melodramatic theatrics, putting the nation’s safety and well-being at stake — a horrible ethical-political discourse. It must stop and it will stop, whether the Sharif family likes it or not!

Mind it, betrayals by loyalists and comrades is a historical reality — and it may hit the present-day political campaign of the ex-PM at any time.

The psychology implicit in treacherous behaviour is not difficult to comprehend. Some simply do it for personal rewards in its different manifestations. Some betrayal is caused by monetary reasons; however, in many instances, the betrayal behaviour is conclusively triggered by what is called the need for self-preservation or self-interest. In a political culture like Pakistan, it is always the imposing compulsion of vested interests that infuse the betrayal behaviour. It is an extremely powerful and forceful motivational factor.

When a loyalist or close associate of a powerful leader feels that the said leader’s personal conduct or political ambition or emerging personal conduct of despotic attitude or overbearing personal interest is likely to harm the loyalist’s interests and might irrevocably damage the faithful’s political advantages and position, at that moment, the “devoted” decides to retaliate and distance him/herself from such leadership. At once, the friend turns into foe and becomes politically active to neutralise the said leader’s importance in the conduct of national politics.

Let’s get back to Nawaz’s problematic political saga post-disqualification. Already the cracks and dissensions in the ranks of his close associates appear to be happening. But Nawaz and his daughter are not willing to give up, and they are demanding absolute loyalty from their political associates. It is reported in the media that already some of Sharif’s loyalists have visited his mother requesting her to counsel her son to accept his fait accompli. Only last week, over 30 members of his political party walked out of the assembly, and his younger brother is reported to have counselled him not to engage in confronting national institutions.

Indeed, the entire nation hopes and prays for Nawaz’s long and healthy life. For he should have a full opportunity to clear his name in the court of law and before the nation by fair means — and if he cannot prove his innocence, Nawaz must be dealt with by the full force of the law and the constitution of the land.

Let Nawaz be the judge of his own political conduct!

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2017.

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Toti Calling | 4 years ago | Reply I agree with the analysis. It appears NS has decided that if he can be 'eliminated' from power, he does not care about rule of law, democracy or the system. It is like saying, if I cannot be on the top, I do not care about the country's future.
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