Just as British television audiences don’t need to hear another word about Henry VIII and his exes, the Bloomsbury Group, the Mitfords, the Raj and the Abdication, Pakistani television audiences don’t need to hear another word about the president’s smooth inauguration, why the PPP senators, MNAs and MPAs boycotted the election and the resignation of a dejected chief election commissioner, as if they were unparalleled visual chronicles and spectacles. The inauguration went off smoothly because it rested on the comfort of dull predictability. The PPP boycotted the election because its candidate didn’t really have a dog’s chance even if there had not been a postponement. And the chief election commissioner threw in the towel not only because he felt his authority had been undermined and the independence of the commission had been compromised, but because members of his own team decided to play Judas. Though my sympathies are fully with retired Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, whose honesty and integrity are unquestionable, I am sure the thought must have occurred to him that he hadn’t handled the election very well, at least in parts of urban Sindh.
If you look at what has transpired in the recent and the last election, you will notice on both occasions, the president and the prime minister have been from the same political party. It’s rather like political cycling in tandem. Asif Zardari had tossed away the flimsy fig leaf of objectivity the moment he decided to wear two hats, sit in the president’s barricaded castle and chair meetings of the Pakistan Peoples Party. I can’t really see any change in strategy after his departure. If that is going to be the future pattern in Pakistan, then so be it. Anyway, Mamnoon Hussain hardly looks the type who will steal Nawaz Sharif’s thunder.
So far, I haven’t come across any specific move or gesture from Raiwind on how to tackle the menace of militancy in the country. In fact, every time I hear somebody in authority saying it’s high time we did something, I am reminded of that delightful cartoon by Laxman, India’s most prolific cartoonist, who was entertaining readers of the Times of India for 40 years. In one of his drawings, a minister of the government is reading a newspaper, which has the headline “TERRORISM” splashed across eight columns. The minister has apparently just been quizzed by a grim-faced member of the opposition. “Don’t be critical,” says the minister. “We are dealing with it step-by-step. First we condemned it. Then we said it shouldn’t be tolerated. Then we said it should be crushed. Then … ”.
Something similar is happening in our part of the world. Every sane person is condemning the militancy, saying it shouldn’t be tolerated and should be crushed. But nobody appears to be doing anything about it. Militancy is still very much there. It has become a part of our life, our social fabric, something that we have begun to take for granted. Every time one reads about a fresh disaster taking place in some part of the country, a symbol of resurrection to some and nihilism to others, the public accepts the event with stoicism and resignation, like the rise in the price of petrol. Innuendos about the ‘agencies’ being behind the bomb blasts are now beginning to sound a little ridiculous when ISI offices and other intelligence centres are also being regularly targeted and attacked. It is unfortunate that a lot of prime time is taken up by television channels in Pakistan in gloating over useless events when they should be focusing on the basics.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2013.
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