Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is finally defrocked and sent home by the Supreme Court. His was a troubled tenure, full of bad governance and corruption. His ministers were addicted to crookedness and so was his family. He was not awfully bright, but that is Pakistan’s norm rather than an aberration.
The nation saw him leave amid an energy crisis, the likes of which it had never seen. Punjab, its love torn between Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, hated him. In other provinces, too, he did not have many supporters. His allies on whose vote he began prime minister kept swaying in their loyalty.
As ex-speaker of the National Assembly, he had to go to jail for doling out jobs to favourites. He made dubious friends there and got them juicy appointments when he became the PM. His holy-looking Hajj minister is cooling his sacred heels in jail for squeezing money out of the most holy ritual of Islam.
His sons were constantly rumoured to intervene in the system to enrich themselves. His wife got a huge bank loan written off. He was not articulate and frequently shot himself in the foot as an interviewee. TV comedians, called bhaands, would have starved without the routines they could lampoon. There was a veritable joke industry based on his gaffes.
If Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had brains and could speak, he soon proved that it could be dangerous to have a big-mouth leader in a small-sized state. Mohammad Khan Junejo was tongue-tied but he was the best. Corruption in Pakistan is a Third World sickness. Comparable with India’s, our corruption has a different aetiology. Insecurity inclines our politicians to graft.
Gilani had to live under an army habituated to calling shots in foreign policy. The PPP was soon called upon to be deftly accommodative with neighbours and global powers. Instead, the army used all kinds of brainwashing — via TV anchors — to bring the national focus on honour, rather than opportunity. Gilani was hamstrung also by the condition of living under a bifurcated party authority. To that extent, he felt less responsible.
Gilani ran a country with an eroded writ of the state, which was not his fault. Ignoring the ‘enemy within’ meant looking for enemies abroad. The PPP was cowed by an al Qaeda-Taliban overlordship of Pakistan with its command line running through religious parties, the madrassa network, and non-state actors — the last named, once again, becoming strategically important because of the army’s break with the US.
The first toe was stubbed in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks when the PPP felt it could flex its parliamentary muscle. It asserted its right to handle the Mumbai incident cooperatively with India but was made to crouch in canine submission behind the ISI. The army had learned to be cautious with the PML-N on the basis of fear: fear in the breast of the army chief because of a shared narrative. Its abhorrence of the PPP was irrepressible and the PPP’s obedience was not enough to allay it.
Confused by events it could not interpret, the army went for the jugular with memogate, knowing beforehand how the Supreme Court will find. Gilani faced contempt because he could not let Asif Ali Zardari be immolated to the fury of an activist, encroaching judiciary. His government was dysfunctional as the economy went into successive nosedives because the country had no electricity. Who could pause from street vandalism to appreciate the niceties of the Eighteenth Amendment and the new NFC Award?
Gilani was always ‘going’ on the basis of the loaded dice described above; now, he is gone. Should we celebrate? Or, should we ponder the survivability of Pakistan, which still looks suspiciously like a democracy?
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.
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