Politicide in progress

Published August 11, 2014
The writer is a member of staff.
The writer is a member of staff.

There are two operations being conducted in this country of ours. One is the much-heralded Zarb-i-Azb, and beyond ISPR press releases we really don’t know much about it. The other is operation ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ being conducted by none other than the PML-N government in full public view.

This was supposed to be a Nawaz who had become both wise and wizened; a Nawaz who, tempered by his exile, had learned the lessons of the past. He would do well, what with no coalition to cater to, Punjab in hand and a simple majority in the National Assembly.

A few months in, doubts began to rise when the same ‘takht-i-Lahore’, the same blatant, dynastic nepotism, the same policy of governance by inaction seemed to emerge.

Some counselled patience, and justifiably so. After all, one pillar of the state was controlled by the canny Kayani and the other


This was supposed to be a Nawaz who had learned the lessons of the past.


by the suo-motu-happy Iftikhar Chaudhry. Neither of them were people to trifle with. Let them leave, they argued, and you will see Nawaz shine.

Instead we saw a prime minister intent on enclosing himself in a cocoon of courtiers. He had indeed learned lessons in exile, but apparently the most important of them was to value loyalty over merit. And speaking of merit, the PML-N has even sabotaged its own talking points, has negated the strengths it sought to project.

Take this for example: they sold themselves on experience and governance. After all, they had been in power many times and had ruled Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and politically vital province for almost an entire term. And that province was headed by a Shahbaz Sharif who would quite literally roll up his sleeves, don rubber boots and wade into the mire.

This is a man so thoroughly competent that he controlled several ministries himself and made babus shiver, all the while keeping an eagle eye on everything that happened in his province.

This is also a man who claims that he only learned of police deployment outside the PAT’s model town headquarters on June 17 through the television. Take a moment to consider that. This wasn’t Bhai Pheru, this was the heart and the seat of the Sharif power. If we are to accept his version of events, then we must also consider that his super chief minister status is simply an illusion. Let’s not even talk about Joseph colony, Gujranwala and Rashid Rehman.

The loss of life on June 17 was avoidable; the attempts at damage control laughable, and victory went to Tahirul Qadri, whose previous revolution had been defused by a Zardari who knew how to play the game. Indeed, even as Qadri shouted his ‘mubarak ho’, all you had to do was see Kaira’s smiling face to see who really won.

The second time around, despite the government guaranteeing him coverage by diverting his flight (again a move out of a failed playbook of the past), his movement would likely have withered without the shot in the arm the Punjab government, in its panic, so willingly provided.

And on Aug 8, when Qadri’s charged supporters ran riot, the Sharifs laid siege to their own constituency, an overreaction that undoubtedly fed Qadri’s megalomania. And the biggest joke is that it’s not even Qadri who is the real threat, but Imran Khan.

Here a saying of Napoleon’s comes to mind: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” And, despite the public protestations of diehards, the ‘azadi march’ is a mistake. Privately, even dedicated PTI supporters question its timing and simple logic tells us that the energy to protest is not an unlimited resource, especially in country weary of turmoil.

But instead of letting it happen and letting it fizzle out (no one can sustain indefinite sit-ins), the government panics. It invokes Article 245, then imposes Section 144 and calls for a high-sounding national security con­ference. That move would have been laudable a few months ago, but now it reeks of desperation.

Consider also that they could not have asked for a more self-destructive foe than the PTI, whose leader has transformed from a symbol of hope and change to one of brinkmanship and intransigence.

In quick succession he threatened to hang policemen (if they attacked his supporters), and said he would shut down the country (if put under house arrest). This is stuff even PTI’s internet trolls were hard pressed to defend.

Then his deputy information secretary accused Kayani, America, India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for having rigged the elections in one of the most ludicrous statements ever made. And the list of follies goes on. Yet, instead of handing them the rope to hang themselves with, the government hands them the initiative. Nawaz Sharif got power on a silver platter and still manages to conjure crisis out of thin air.

Forget giant flags, this is what the Guinness World Record people should take note of.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro@gmail.com

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

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