The Umpire Strikes Back

Published: August 31, 2014
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore

Was this really about any demands (at least those made before the marches and the sit-ins), except, maybe, the very confusingly phrased singular demand, “Go Nawaz Go”? Mr Imran Khan just has the same anecdotal ‘evidence’ about rigging, which is also featuring less and less as days go on; the rest is ad hominem attacks and false bravado. Vanity is a dangerous sin. To hear Mr Khan talk about his prison days (yes, all eight of them, maybe he should just do a Gramsci and write his Prison Notebooks already) without any visible embarrassment is not that amusing anymore. The primary reason (apart from the obvious, blatant power lust) given by Mr Khan that he has tried legal avenues for fourteen months and now his ‘patience’ has run out. Really? One can only speculate on whatever subjective conception of the legal system he has in his head. What sell-out courts are these who have failed to factor in that he is a “fast bowler” and thus has a little patience, right? Never mind the institutional problems with the legal system that millions face every day. This exceptionalism is not surprising from a man, whose speeches constitute exclusively of “I, me and myself”.

Yet, there were finally some signs of humility, of ordinary human emotions from the Mighty Khan. It was moving to see him suppress giggles as he rushed to meet the ‘Chief’, almost like a child meeting his idol; an emotion countless have felt about seeing and meeting Imran Khan. Mr Khan wants to be something like General Raheel Sharif when he grows up. The Umpire has not lifted his finger yet, however, you have got his attention.

His holiness has one absolutely legitimate and non-negotiable point, the registration of the Model Town FIR. There is no grounds explaining the delay from the government; none. However, rest is hubris, at least in form, if not completely in substance. Yet, it was interesting to see his grace making the exception, letting “martyrdom”, “revolution” and other such elevated things wait, as he made his way to the “Sipahsalar”, and Dr Qadri’s speech post-meeting suggested that he had just met the perfect living specimen of humanity. It is time to dust off the old slogan from the days of infamy of the lawyers’ movement, “Chief teray jannisar, beshumaar, beshumaar” or of course the new “Raheel, teray phone say inqalaab aaye ga”.

One cannot be certain if the ‘Chief’ wanted it to be this way; however, one can be fairly certain, that the Chief is not complaining. What about the man that this country elected to govern this country? Mian Nawaz Sharif has not surrendered completely, yet he surrendered significantly on Thursday evening, when he asked the Army chief to ‘facilitate’. That was the prime minister, throwing his hands up, shrugging his shoulders, and in essence saying “I am just not up to it”. One can debate the semantics till Kingdom comes (might be sooner than Mian Sahib thinks), yet the point remains, that the prime minister buckled under pressure in the Parliament on Friday, and did not state the whole truth. Of course, Mr Imran Khan and Allama Qadri wanted the Army chief to ‘mediate’/ ‘facilitate’/ ‘arbitrate’ (no meaningful difference in this context, let go off the Oxford Dictionary) right from the get go. It was you Mian Sahib, who was supposed to resist and repose the trust in the Parliament which the Parliament reposed in you.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Khursheed Shah, made the best speech of the last 14 months on the floor of the House. Excellent and with moral clarity; no coups will go unresisted. Yet, that speech had to be made by Mian Sahib. Nawaz Sharif has never been a man of crisis, starting as a prodigy of General Jillani and General Ziaul Haq. The patriotic business tycoon from Punjab against the treasonous folks from the deep dark feudal fiefdoms of Sindh, he is used to having at least two out of the three power centres — the Army, Media or the Judiciary — with him. For the past five years, he had the media and judiciary who were vehemently anti-government. Now, Mian Nawaz Sharif has a government and a state with fragmented power centres, whereas one deal is good enough. It is a test of his nerves, the past is not confidence-inspiring on that account. Mian Nawaz Sharif lost his nerve and asked the Army Chief to intervene (even if demanded by Mr Imran Khan and Allama Qadri). The only honourable course of action was him apologising to the Parliament and assuring it that he is a man worthy of their trust and support. Instead he simply told a half-truth. Mian Nawaz Sharif cannot take stand like Syed Khursheed Shah, simply because he has never had the need. It has always been detached arrogance until tragedy strikes. Well, he has to learn now.

It took the government a good 14 hours to react to the news of the prime minister asking the army chief to intervene, like it took Mian Sahib the younger half a day to finally wake up to the Model Town massacre. The prime minister might survive still. Yet, Mian Nawaz Sharif has to publicly on the floor of the House apologise; he should not have asked the army chief to play a role, any role, in a political dispute, and of course if he survives start leading the house from INSIDE the house. He should now stake his job on ensuring that this is dealt with only by the Parliament and the political class.

The illusion of civilian, democratic supremacy has been the primary casualty of the fiasco thus far; the velvet coup is upon us already. The real possibility is that it will reduce the business of all governance to politics of survival; one long day at a time. The non-existent debate on social and economic rights will remain non-existent. There will be no time or energy for institutional reforms. In due course, the saturation point with the political drama, with the shenanigans of Imran and Qadri, on the one hand, and the indifference of Nawaz Sharif, will be reached on the other. The recently politicised urban middle class will go back to normal life, shrugging their shoulders and with the customary, “they are all the same”. The democratic project undermined now, will diminish further, perhaps worse, it will create a vacuum yet again for a demagogue egoist, another Imran Khan with hollow rhetoric to come in another few years. We do not need that.

Postscript: Mr Khan and Allama Qadri have brought the culture of viciousness and personal attacks in vogue. It is disturbing to hear of threats to excellent and courageous friends Mr Omar Quraishi and Mr Kamran Shafi. This government, it seems, can do little else at the moment, but it can at least track down and prosecute those who threaten dissenting voices.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2014.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Aug 31, 2014 - 3:12AM

    The problem is that all major political parties, media, courts and army are talking out both sides of their mouths. All acting like hypocrites see themselves some day in PAT and PTI shoes and on some other day see themselves countering miscreants like PAT and PTI. They know any clear stand will haunt them in future. Intrigue and Hypocrisy are the clear winners.


  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Aug 31, 2014 - 5:24AM

    If Pakistan, does not become a Islamic welfare state, the reason for
    partition, it’s very existence becomes threatened as time goes on. It started with
    ZAB, who dismembered the country, since he refused to accept the reality of his
    defeat in the 1970 elections, to Mujeeb. By the time BB, came in she and 10 percent
    had all but vanished the wealth of this country. Now the Sharifs are left to loot what
    remains of this unfortunate country. We desperately need Imran Khan, to straighten things
    up, or else the situation looks very dangerous. The secular liberal brigade should
    leave this unfortunate country alone, and buzz off from here to their friends in India.


  • RHS
    Aug 31, 2014 - 7:10AM

    Saroop is hard-hitting and to the point here as usual.
    Which Arab country has really benefitted from the “Arab Spring”?
    One hopes that the outcome of this “Pakistani Spring” is different from theirs.
    Only time will tell who the real friends of Pakistan were here…


  • choptocut
    Aug 31, 2014 - 8:02AM

    Great piece Saroop sahib.
    Imran-Qadri could read Plato’s dialogue to know why Socrates refused his friends’ offers to escape him from prison when he was waiting for death penalty. I&Q are just paper tigers with no moral courage or principles


  • Naeem Khan
    Aug 31, 2014 - 8:52AM

    Harsh on Imran and Qadri but soft blows on both Sharif brothers, Pretty critical of Imran and passing comment on Shahbaz Sharif. Do you really think that any one in Punjab could have taken the initiative or lead to massacre unarmed political activists, I say not. Just study the management style of running the Punjab government from the Chief Minister’s office, he has been known to micro-manage every single thing which goes on there and we are to believe that he did not know anything about for half a day. It was him who has ordered the massacre and that is why the police is putting all sort of hurdles to register the FIR, Now the parliament has become so important of institution for Nawaz Sharif, how many times did he ever showed up there, forget about him,how about the interior minister. Granted Imran and Qadri may be out of step but what they are saying has some validity to it. Do you think that reforms in elections could have been done by the dynastic political parties,they like the way it is because they could rig it with ease now as they have done it since 1970. There has to be drastic surgery done to the election commission of Pakistan, and it is time now to reform the whole electoral system. The Senate and the Presidency is rigged right from the beginning because the way they are elected. Let the President and the Senate be elected directly by the people, 5 years initially for Senate ,4 years for the MNAs and 3years for MPAs and later cut it 4 years,3 years and 2years, this will bring some changes into master-servant relationship. By the way I have not heard any political party opting for democratic changes, it seems PTI is the only one which has been advocating drastic changes in some of the institutions specially the election process. I see it differently than you, I believe in checks and balances in running the government and when certain leader becomes so arrogant to understand that he is not Ameer-ul-Mominees but was elected and could be DE-elected by the people. Hopefully NS has learned some thing out of this mess, and will get off his high horse to face the discontent in the masses. Their goons could do massacre, attack the Supreme Court of Pakistan but circumstances has already been changed by these protests, now they won’t be able to stand front of the nation and tell blatant lies any more, Nawaz Sharif’s last legacy was not worth a hoot and now it will be worst than the last one. May God help us all.


  • Arifq
    Aug 31, 2014 - 9:15AM

    Saroop, balanced critique difficult to argue against but this time i have mixed emotions, on the one side there is the need to uphold civilized democratic principles and then there is the romantic notion of people (masses) rising and taking what is rightfully theirs! Once again, the “Empire” (dark side) appears to be winning, like any other fiction novel this movement needs a hero to rise and defeat the dark forces.


  • Jawaid
    Aug 31, 2014 - 11:13AM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:
    Actually the seeds of dismemberment were sown by Iskandar mirza (a bengali general) who brought martial law and his stooge ayub khan went on to rig the elections and got himself elected lota-in-chief. He murdered Suhrwardy and Ms. Jinnah and supplanted them with his agents Mujib and Bhutto. The final act was performed by drunkard Yahya whose army made a record surrender in human history.


  • Napier Mole
    Aug 31, 2014 - 11:56AM

    On the spot. One can add that a mob has not much to lose especially when their leaders have publicly stated that they dont stand to lose much in case the system comes down. These are the most dangerous lunatics. Hence, it really goes to governments credit that despite continuous provocations by the two suicidal maniacs trying to raise temperatures and stakes, not much blood has spilled.


  • Feroz
    Aug 31, 2014 - 12:46PM

    In this game the one who writes the rules, plays the role of selector, takes the field as the player and enacts the role of referee — are not different individuals but one entity. Judge, jury and executioner remain the same though the pawns on the chess board are selected depending on the occasion. The “Circus of the absurd” trying to pass off as a Democracy, without understanding what the term Democracy even means. That the citizens of Pakistan are so naive to allow these shenanigans be termed a call for restoration of democracy, is sacrilege.

    The great Captain talks about rigging without wanting to see the elephant in the room that facilitated it — his TTP friends ensured his walkover in KPK by eliminating ANP leaders and preventing them from campaigning. This rigging that took place with threats and coercion benefited the Insafians in KPK and PML(N) in Punjab, decimating ANP and PPP. Both the beneficiaries of rigging are now at each others throat, egged on by the Wolf of course in Sheep’s clothing. The rigging at the booth is a matter that should have been raised with the Election Commission at the time of declaration of results, not a year and a half later. It must be understood that the body that conducts elections is independent of influence and Political parties cannot influence its decisions. This farce will also come to an end but the light at the end of the tunnel is not what the pawns in the game think it is. Hindsight will prove that the people of Pakistan have been taken for another jolly ride, the oasis nothing but mirage.


  • Ishrat Salim
    Aug 31, 2014 - 1:19PM


    Do you know the meaning of ” moral courage ” ?…it is NS / SS who has no moral courage to accept resignation on moral ground.

    The President of S Korea resigned taking moral responsibility & on moral ground for the death of 200 kids in Ship accident. And when you talk of numbers which can force a President of a country ( in this case S Korea ) resign, families of 200 kids…families of 200 kids ! This is a meaning of ” moral courage & morality ).

    Ask the meaning from anyone from any civilized democratic society & then comment.


  • LOK
    Aug 31, 2014 - 3:46PM

    Dharna for days, now running in to weeks is illegal from every aspect. There was a legal way to dislodge the government and that was by exemplary governance in KPK and whole Pakistan would have voted for PTI in 2018. This obviously was the harder route, Imran, sadly chose the wrong way, a short cut, either not knowing or ignoring that it will lead him to where he started, perhaps a little behind.

    Long live Pakistan.


  • Khan
    Aug 31, 2014 - 10:02PM

    If go Nawaz go is confusing to you then you are in the wrong profession. Even your sarcasm is comic.Pathetic.


  • hamid
    Aug 31, 2014 - 10:33PM

    Saroop. Very anti IK article at a personal level, and a few soft protests against nawaz. Hope you are not a benificiary.


  • Parvez
    Sep 2, 2014 - 12:19PM

    @hamid: Well said…….my comment on similar lines was not printed.
    The story making the rounds is that 8 billion is being thrown at the media, judiciary and were necessary to ensure that nothing against the government ( I call it the truth ) comes out.
    If this comment does not appear hereon ET, I would not be surprised because DAWN has also resorted to the same practice……..shame indeed.


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