Without a paddle

There is a clash of institutions on the internal front, political uncertainty and visible paralysis in governance

Ihtasham Ul Haque December 23, 2017
The writer is the recipient of four national APNS awards and four international best journalistic awards. He can be reached at [email protected]

The weekly newsletter from Islamabad broadcasts an uneasy calm. There is a clash of institutions on the internal front, political uncertainty and visible paralysis in governance and intense pressure on the diplomatic front. Who is responsible for the mess is not an easy riddle to decipher. It would be perhaps useless to hold one particular institution or a political party responsible for not delivering. The quagmire seems to be the product of collective apathy, egocentric proclivities and individualistic institutional concerns.

It is almost election season. The ruling party is all set to advertise and market whatever good they claim to have brought to the people in the last few years. They obviously would not talk of massive debt that they are handing over to our children. That is hardly palatable. Major parties in the opposition will cry hoarse over the ruling party’s corruption, alleged destruction of state institutions and even murder while making tall claims of their own to bring real change.

Comparatively smaller parties will side with the most advantageous political sloganeering regardless of merit or honour, and try to steal as many seats as possible. All parties across the board will spend massively on election campaigns hoping to balance the scales later on. The lure of false promises will pale common sense into insignificance and the public will vote the same faces into power. There is little probability of this scenario changing dramatically.

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The same period might also see a defiant Nawaz Sharif taking the judiciary head on. The outcome may not be as rosy as he might wish. However, there is a good prospect of engineered upheaval on the streets. Violence, intended or otherwise, is a solid possibility and that would make security agencies relevant to the milieu. The newly empowered religious zealots of the Faizabad fame will also try to exploit the blasphemy issue in the elections and their ‘spiritually uplifting’ antics may also be a cause of violence on the streets.

Another aspect meriting attention is a coalition of parties demanding resignation from Shehbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah over Model Town killings. Nawaz Sharif’s decision to nominate Shehbaz as the next contender for the top slot means that Shehbaz would not go down without a fight. With the gauntlet thrown, the probability of aggression on the streets has increased manifold.

On the external front, troubling developments are brewing up fast. The latest US national security strategy is a fascinatingly offensive document for Pakistan; deficient of rationale, full of inconsistencies and reeking of arrogance. Thucydides, the Athenian general and historian, is relevant again, “right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power; while the strong do as they will, the weak endure as they must.”

Tillerson’s statement prophesising that Pakistan may lose territory to terrorists is an ominously-veiled threat. While the COAS is busy appeasing and assuring the legislators that there is no threat to democracy from the armed forces, intellectually juvenile lawmakers looking for cheap popularity are busy peddling sensitive information divulged by the COAS to remain relevant. National security seems to be the least of their concern. Sane voices are few and far between.

Law and order in the country is shaky and unsteady. The recent attack on the church in Quetta near Christmas was crafted with social science precision. There is nothing random in this violence. Surgical method is visible in this madness. The credibility of law-enforcing agencies is the target. The last few weeks have seen meticulous targeting of selected police officers in Quetta. Breaking the will of security personnel is the objective. There is evidence that more is in the offing.

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Credible information of large sums of money being doled out in Afghanistan for destabilising Balochistan is trickling in. The US keeps harping about how Pakistan is shielding those who “target an ally’s security personnel” and how it must “continue to be a responsible steward of nuclear weapons” in the region. All this while, it accommodates India in Afghanistan and provides it with diplomatic legitimacy and strategic space in Pakistan’s backyard. Who is who on the chessboard seems impossible to discern.

The Gregorian calendar is setting. It puts a pit in the stomach to think what is in the offing as the new year begins. The Middle East is teetering on the edge of serious religious confrontation. The world at large rejected Donald Trump’s decision to consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel in a UN vote despite brazen American threats and blackmail.

The question is whether the rejection would mean anything in the hard-cold real world. It probably would not. The Saudi-Houthi standoff is turning ugly. Pakistan would need to show spine and remain staunchly neutral in the conflict. There is too much on our plate already to be nosing around elsewhere.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2017.

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James Dyer Morgan | 5 years ago | Reply Nicely put. Simple prediction of events based on logic. Quality reading.
Nicholas Tan | 5 years ago | Reply Very nicely composed. It’s a treat to read tribune and its quality articles.
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