All is well now. The natural order of things has been restored in the Fatherland. The interruption is over, the armistice has ended. Power completely returned to where it belonged, the journey of few miles from Islamabad to Rawalpindi has been made. Boys will be boys. And the ‘boys’ like to be in control, not merely in a supervisory capacity, but to have complete authority, to dominate and intimidate. The democratic experiment discredited. Discredited first on the streets of Model Town, Lahore, then on the television screens and now finally being turned into a cruel joke in the Red Zone in the Capital. This fight does not have protagonists; however it has a winner and will have many losers. Some will lose a lot of face, some a little less, however all of us will lose; perhaps have already lost. The last and only laugh is currently being had in “Aabpara”, sighs of relieves, smacking of lips, remarks of “what bloody idiots”. The only civilian who can possibly come out of this as a bit of a winner is DJ BUTT.
Everybody wants it to stop, except maybe Mr Imran Khan. One can only speculate on how those who truly care for him will be pained to see all this happening to him. It is all heading towards ending with a whimper; any banging sound will only be made by heads. The trip has to end; the flake has to blow away. The maximalist position retreated from, loss of face cannot be saved, however his politics can still be salvaged.
His holiness Tahirul Qadri was never serious about change or any such thing. His annual vacation plan is to display strength, more accurately nuisance. The demands of both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri are deliberately impossible. They intentionally or if one is very generous unintentionally want the “system to be packed up”, “derail democracy”, “non-democratic intervention” and several other such euphemisms, basically a military coup, in case you are wondering. There is a distinct possibility that Mr Khan and the Shaikhul Islam are following a master script, yet, the sad part (for them) is that if there is a master script, their roles end in the Red Zone.
A coup would be surplus to requirements. The intervention has already been made. One statement from the ISPR urging everyone to get their act together is sufficient. Mian Shahbaz Sharif can meet the “Chief” all he likes. Survival perhaps will be granted, however on harsh terms, survival is rarely granted on anything less.
The gains made by democratic dispensation in the previous five years have been reversed. Five years without political prisoners now being replaced by containers and arrests. Mr Khan and Tahirul Qadri are not playing fair, they never do, however Mian Sahib, this comes with the job. Mian Nawaz Sharif is not blameless. Negotiations could have happened earlier, regardless of the ridiculousness of the demands. Underestimating to begin with, and overreacting to end with is a habit which Mian Sahiban have maintained.
Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s police did kill fourteen people. The dangerous politics of Allama Tahirul Qadri aside, innocent people were killed by the police in broad daylight, telecast on the media, and we have not heard why. Why do the Mian Brothers have to wait and lend helping hands for a problem to become a crisis, and the crisis to morph into apocalypse before they act?
The purpose of the march in Mr Khan’s head is that he will become the prime minister. The only real objective of Mr Khan’s protest is “de-legitimisation” of the 2013 elections. The 2013 election was rigged, all elections in Pakistan are. There was pre-poll rigging in favour of both parties to the present stand-off, Mr Khan and Mian Sahib, by the TTP, essentially by killing and intimidating their political opponents. However, have there been elections which have been more rigged in our history? Yes, 1990 and 2002 are just two examples. Is there evidence of systemic rigging, following a master plan? No, there is not, all we have is Mr Khan’s words and beliefs, and evidence of irregularities in some constituency. However, all of this is increasingly becoming moot. Mr Imran Khan has learnt the model of the Sharif politics, which is that urban Punjab is all that matters and Mr Khan is keener on fighting for four seats in Punjab than governing the entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Mian Sahib had the law and some of the facts on his side to counter Mr Khan. He did not; the de-legitimisation of the 2013 election is fast becoming complete in the Punjab urban middle class. It does not imply that Mr Khan has necessarily gained; it does mean that the faith in the democratic process has taken a major blow. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s first order of business was to defend his mandate, defend the elections. However, the Punjabi model of politics is to rely on formal mechanisms to deal with political crises; Police for Dr Qadri, Courts for Mr Khan. This has not worked.
The positions have become so extreme that politics has been reduced to a reactionary, personal business and it is quite ugly. The temptation is to defend Mian Nawaz Sharif since the adversaries have become so unsavoury. However, how does one defend the ASWJ holding rallies in favour of the great democrat, Mian Nawaz Sharif? Of course, one can and many will. Similar to how many defend Mr Khan’s language and fluid deadlines and flexible stands. Nothing is indefensible now, no mistake too grave, politics is personal first and last. We are heading back to the 1990s. Criticise Mr Khan and you are receiving bribe money from Mian Sahib, ask for accountability of the PML-N government and you secretly want a coup.
Mian Nawaz Sharif’s cold detachment is matched only by Tahirul Qadri’s Messiah complex which is overtaken only by Mr Khan’s ego, the size of Punjab. It is a battle of egos that is the highest imperative in this fight. The cost is not only the survival or weakening of this government. It is the loss of faith in the democratic experience and electoral process. All political forces have to come together not only to save the “system” but to ensure that the democratically-elected government of Mian Nawaz Sharif be held accountable at every step and now comes forth and defend its mandate. Mr Prime Minister, it certainly should take less than a siege of the Capital to compel you to attend a Session of the Parliament. The “boys” have won this round already and Mr Qadri and Mr Khan have facilitated that. On to the next round, Prime Minister, display the intent to put up a fight, to make a comeback.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2014.