The deluge | Pakistan Today

The deluge

Beware the lurking danger and the battalion of Brutuses

 

 

Well, the scent of the impending revolution has preceded the marchers to the capital: we have a town under siege of a draconian government using the worst of its fascist tactics. More than that, the PML-N leadership seems to be totally confused, even divided.

The prime minister’s worst fears are reflected in the comic spectacle that, since the convening of the National Security Conference, he has been in a perpetual photo-shoot with the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). Be it the Independence Day Parade in front of the Parliament House which appeared to be more like a congregation of the exhumed, or the visit to Ziarat in Balochistan to inaugurate the new Residency building, he seems to be making sure that the COAS does not move out of his sight. Is it the fear of the lurking danger on the horizon further compounded by the Machiavellian movements of the battalion of Brutuses within the party? And, what possible good can such contrived optics do in the context of influencing the gradual shift in the ground conditions that may make an intervention of sorts inevitable in the end?

Things are not looking good. The fact that Nawaz Sharif did not want the marchers to reach Islamabad is borne out by many factors, not the least by the physical assault that his goons launched on the PTI caravan in Gujranwala — supposedly a stronghold of the ruling party. The manner in which the government functionaries delayed according permission to the organisers to begin their march towards the capital and the impediments that were placed in the way of the marchers including the huge, earth-filled containers and the digging of trenches were rooted in the inconsolable fear that does not quite leave the elder Sharif at any given moment in time. He appears consumed with it and his facial expressions and body language are not much help in hiding the ailments which are rather dug deep in his person. In the end, his actions speak volumes that he has not been able to rationalise his decision-making process and remains bitten by the demons of fear and hate. If anything, this has been a consistent feature of his person, and consequently of formulating and driving his policies.

Hypothetically, if the marchers are able to gather a sizeable crowd, and I am not talking of a million or even a number close to that, and are able to choke the life in the capital as it has effectively been even before the protesters having reached here, what could be its possible and irredeemable consequences?

The manner in which the government functionaries delayed according permission to the organisers to begin their march towards the capital and the impediments that were placed in the way of the marchers including the huge, earth-filled containers and the digging of trenches were rooted in the inconsolable fear that does not quite leave the elder Sharif at any given moment in time. He appears consumed with it and his facial expressions and body language are not much help in hiding the ailments which are rather dug deep in his person. In the end, his actions speak volumes that he has not been able to rationalise his decision-making process and remains bitten by the demons of fear and hate. If anything, this has been a consistent feature of his person, and consequently of formulating and driving his policies.

Before we get into that, let’s first look at the demands which have prompted the onset of the marches. These include the resignation of the prime minister as being central to the electoral fraud that has allegedly taken place, the induction of an interim government consisting of technocrats, later changed to non-partisan individuals, the constitution of a judicial commission to look into the irregularities that took place in the 2013 elections, apportion responsibility and punish the culprits, replace the election commission with a fresh one comprising people of known integrity and character, reframe the electoral laws to ensure a free, fair and transparent election in the country, holding of fresh elections and transition to the new, elected government. Army or any other kind of extra-judicial intervention is not solicited. But, then, it never is, but is always welcomed.

On the face of it, at least some of the demands are not likely to be met by the incumbent government particularly the ones relating to the prime minister’s resignation, formulation of an interim government and the holding of mid-term elections, thus paving the way for the induction of a new government that may not include the PML-N as a component.

In the event the marches remain predominantly peaceful, the government could also try through intermediaries, particularly the ones who were reportedly active in having facilitated the grant of permission to the marchers in the first place, to engage the PTI and other leaderships to come to a negotiated settlement which could be built around the concession already granted in terms of the formulation of a judicial commission to look into the alleged electoral fraud and taking measures to correct it together with taking some other cosmetic measures.

If the negotiated settlement approach does not work, as it is unlikely to, the marches could either turn violent, thus inviting an intervention of some sort to keep peace in the capital. Even if the marches don’t turn violent, but bring life to a standstill in Islamabad, this again would necessitate a certain level of corrective intervention to bring things back to normal. What could be the possible ramifications of any such intervention, its objectives and the time-frame in which to achieve the desired goals and put the country back on the democratic course? And whether that would be doable at all under the existing constitution and its associated appendages that have repeatedly brought the country to the verge of many an irresolvable impasse like the existing one?

While there is a gnawing trust-deficit between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan which has been gravely aggravated because of the electoral adventurism of the PML-N leadership in cahoots with the judiciary, the election commission and some notables who had been allocated seats of power with a stated intention, there is virtual hatred that separates Tahirul Qadri from Nawaz Sharif. This is rooted in a rather close relationship that the two enjoyed towards the beginning of their respective careers, one in politics and the other in prophesying. So, in essence, and if the reconciliation bid does not work, and it is also not possible to leave the capital to the mercy of the feuding parties, we have only one possible conclusion that may come about as a natural consequence of two emerging scenarios: either a stalemate encompassing a capital held in hostage and bruised by a certain level of violence leading to intervention, or downright bloodshed among the marchers and the institutions of the state resulting from increasing levels of desperation being displayed by members of the Sharif family and their paid cronies and foot-soldiers.

The other dangerous factor to any prospect of a peaceful resolution of the burgeoning conflict is centred in the composition of the marchers and what they stand for? While the major component, the PTI, stands for constitutional democracy and has repeatedly vowed to work within its parameters in its struggle for a genuine democratic rule, the other component, the PAT, has altogether rejected the existing corrupt system and has vowed to replace it with a people-friendly arrangement that would transfer power to the lowest echelons of the society. This paradox could also be exploited for some of form of adventurist intervention, the likelihood of which remains remote though.

Eliminating the undoable, the question is whether there remains any prospect of a peaceful resolution of the emerging crisis, a possible reconciliation between the feuding leaders on a give-some, take-some basis? While there is a gnawing trust-deficit between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan which has been gravely aggravated because of the electoral adventurism of the PML-N leadership in cahoots with the judiciary, the election commission and some notables who had been allocated seats of power with a stated intention, there is virtual hatred that separates Tahirul Qadri from Nawaz Sharif. This is rooted in a rather close relationship that the two enjoyed towards the beginning of their respective careers, one in politics and the other in prophesying. So, in essence, and if the reconciliation bid does not work, and it is also not possible to leave the capital to the mercy of the feuding parties, we have only one possible conclusion that may come about as a natural consequence of two emerging scenarios: either a stalemate encompassing a capital held in hostage and bruised by a certain level of violence leading to intervention, or downright bloodshed among the marchers and the institutions of the state resulting from increasing levels of desperation being displayed by members of the Sharif family and their paid cronies and foot-soldiers. Do we, therefore, say that some kind of intervention is a done thing and, sooner or later, the system in the country is going to be put on a ‘corrective’ course by those who take charge?

Back to square one? In a way, that may be so. This is what has happened in the country with a monotonous regularity, but, nevertheless, has so far not resulted in chiselling any credible and sustainable solution that would preclude the prospect of any further interventions. The Sharifs erroneously thought that by forcing the Musharraf trial, they would close the doors to any future military intervention. It was deeply flawed. As predicted, it has come back to haunt them and they are eager to let the general slip out to wherever he may wish to, but it may be rather late for that now. Quite in keeping with the inglorious tradition, every few years, the people who are assigned the responsibility of leading the country make a horrible mess of it, thus precipitating the eventuality of the undesirable. On the face of it, we seem to have reached that point!

More than anything else, we must concentrate on bringing about some key changes in making the existent system more workable and more quality-intensive, absolutely the best for every job. It is no longer a question of incorporating cosmetic changes to transition this crisis. It is more a question of the long-term that should drive us to what needs to be done. This system has outlived its utility, if ever it had any for a country like Pakistan. We need to look at it afresh and come up with constructive ideas which will stand the challenge of crises in the future and would eliminate the prospect of any undemocratic mindset ascending the citadel of power. Let’s not be consumed by who does it. Let’s just do it to expedite the advent of a democratic and egalitarian culture that would take Pakistan further, failing which there is only the deluge.

It may also be undesirable to assign reasons to individuals for our failure to govern by opening up avenues of mindless confrontation among them. But this has been the case primarily because we are consumed with an intense undemocratic and despotic mindset that only thinks of ways and means of strengthening our personal hold on power in a manner that it would forever banish the prospect of others to step in. This has been particularly the crisis of the Sharifs. Having taken political birth in the lap of a vile dictator and having perfected his art, even adding further venom to it, the Sharifs try desperately hard to hide their spots. They are not able to because it is so deeply entrenched in the persons. They protect and patronise it. They nurture it. They feed on it. Carrying empty skulls on their necks, and infatuated by a dominant passion to strangulate an entire country so that it would only remain engaged in singing their hollow praises and that of their unworthy progeny, they have done more damage to their cause and the country than all the rest of the jokers put together. What looked like a propitious opportunity for them to put the country on an irreversible course to progress and egalitarianism has been turned into a dungeon of darkness in barely fourteen months.

Principally, it is the corrupt Sharifs and their coterie of paid cronies and dim-witted lieutenants, hailing from both the political and the bureaucracy domains, who are pitted against Imran Khan and his youthful charges who genuinely believe in the prospect of ‘change’. Having known both the protagonists at close quarters, I don’t believe that there is even a remote prospect of either the Khan backing off on his stated demands, or the Sharifs ceding ground that they perceive would endanger their unchallengeable hold on power. Forget the prime minister resigning of his own free will. Forget that he would take some genuine measures aimed at making the electoral system free and transparent. Forget that he would support the move to constitute a fully empowered election commission. Forget that he would allow the judiciary to conduct a fair evaluation of the last elections. He is not made like that. He has perfected the art of despotism which he learnt from the one he called his ‘father’. He employs this at its crudest solely to elongate his stay in power. Consequently, confrontation appears to be the only course that the prime minister and Khan are likely to follow and the intermediaries would not make an impressionable difference.

A lot may already have happened before this piece appears in print (it is 9 pm, Friday, August 15 when I am despatching it to the paper), but a lot may yet happen. More than anything else, we must concentrate on bringing about some key changes in making the existent system more workable and more quality-intensive, absolutely the best for every job. It is no longer a question of incorporating cosmetic changes to transition this crisis. It is more a question of the long-term that should drive us to what needs to be done. This system has outlived its utility, if ever it had any for a country like Pakistan. We need to look at it afresh and come up with constructive ideas which will stand the challenge of crises in the future and would eliminate the prospect of any undemocratic mindset ascending the citadel of power. Let’s not be consumed by who does it. Let’s just do it to expedite the advent of a democratic and egalitarian culture that would take Pakistan further, failing which there is only the deluge.

Raoof Hasan

The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.



3 Comments

  1. Azher said:

    MNS will Be saying ‘et to brute’ to COAS before this is all over. His personal hand picked COAS.

    • Dr.M.M.Khan said:

      So did ZAB. He personally picked Zia and we are paying the price still today.

      It was said some years ago that Benazir did not listen and Nawaz did not understand. It was a prophetic statement.

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