A battle without heroes

Published August 11, 2014
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and brother Shahbaz Sharif. — Photo by Reuters
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and brother Shahbaz Sharif. — Photo by Reuters

Mr Imran Khan wants to be Prime Minister and he wants it really, really bad. All elections till, if and whenever that time will be “rigged”.

There is a lot of hubris by Mr. Khan and his enthusiastic cadre about facts and exposes. Sadly, none of it is completely rational. Sadder still is the fact that it does not matter. “Reason” is the distinctive casualty this protest season.

Dr Qadri, now, wants blood. He wants “action”, chaos and perhaps most significantly he wants martyrs. His holiness is playing an extremely dangerous game. We should expect nothing less or more from Shaiky-ul-Islam. It is his willing playmates, the Mian brothers, which stumps one at the sheer masochism and desire for political suicide. It is almost poetic; all three of them deserve each other.

Also read: Politicide in progress

What does Mian Nawaz Sharif want? Mian Sahib wants to survive. However, the battle is significantly already lost, and Mian Brothers have no one to blame except for themselves and the loyalists. There probably will not be a coup. Yet, Mian Nawaz Sharif, the businessman has squandered political and moral capital spectacularly fast and with breathtaking recklessness. The best case scenario is that Mian Sahib “survives” and does just that, survive, nothing more, with the possibility of quite a lot less always looming. All the plans, if there were any, sacrificed, the price of survival, subsisting. We know the “not best” case scenario, all too well.

The moral and indeed political authority erodes as Lahore is a battleground. Not quite the incredible hyperbole of his holiness Qadri of absurd comparisons with Gaza, yet quite bad, worse than it was on the worst day of the lawyers’ movement against the Commando. Tear gas shelling, lathis, arrests, petrol stations closed, mobile phone services tipped to shut down anytime, the Metro Bus model of good governance at peak levels.

Dr Qadri provokes and incites, that is just what he does. He exaggerates, threatens and blackmails, today Model Town is Gaza, last year the elected government was the “Yazids”. He is a vacationer and has no stake in the system. His business is hate and fear. In the Mian brothers, he has struck gold. Mian Nawaz Sharif is nothing right now, if not very, very afraid. Those asking Mian Nawaz Sharif to retire are hammering on an open door. Mian, the elder has in fact retired. Mian, the younger takes a sledgehammer to every nail.

The PML-N government is not to be judged in comparison with the egoistic Mr. Khan and or the maniacal, Dr. Qadri. It has to stand on its own merits, and it does not. Mr. Khan and His holiness do set the bar very low, and being better than them might not mean all that much in any objective or perhaps final analysis.

Excessive force is being used. Qadri wants martyrs, and Mian Sahib is here to oblige. His holiness was all this last time around and yet the country did not descend into chaos. Mr. Khan threatened dharnas every week, and Mian Shahbaz Sharif lead marches against the President, yet calm, albeit, a tense one prevailed. What is different this time around? Firstly, it is the Mian government, and they do not like dissent, particularly when the heaviness of the mandate bears upon them. Secondly, Punjab and Lahore is where the line is drawn, in this case by blood. Zaman Park and Model Town versus Model Town and Raiwind.

This is just not done. You mess with Punjab, it is personal.

Tahir-ul-Qadri has an entire city hostage, and worse he did not have to work very hard for it. Mian Shahbaz Sharif handed it to him on a platter, with ribbons and all that jazz. The fear demonstrated by the brothers is unbelievable, from the blockades and arrests, to the astounding absurdity by Rana Mashood and Co (where in God’s name does the PML-N find these gems, a secret mystery garden in Raiwand, perhaps).

One shudders to think how of all of this will play out when Mr. Khan embarks on his march of destruction, and the same tactics will be used, since, these tactics apparently is what the entire skill set of the government is composed of. There is collective punishment for the entire city, and most of the province for the sins of Qadri, and much more awaits us for the silliness of Mr. Khan. Our fundamental rights are suspended since Qadri and Khan do not respect law?

This fight has no heroes, only varying degree of villainy. The violent versus the vicious. The dumb versus the dumber. Yet, there is a heavier onus on Mian Nawaz Sharif, and he seems both unwilling and unable to discharge it. One has to resist the very real temptation of not letting the thoroughly unappealing and undemocratic politics of Mr. Khan and Dr. Qadri not obscure the arrogance and inefficiency at display by the Sharif government.

Related: Revolutionary expediency?

There is never a valid, justifiable excuse for the “boys” to come in. Messers Khan and Qadri have not put forth compelling arguments for a midterm. Yet, the threat lies within. Model Town episode 1 and 2 are signature bureaucratic solutions, the sort that Mian Nawaz and Shahbaz love.

Mian Nawaz Sharif, it seems has no real appetite left for hands on politics. That’s too bad. The task at hand requires lot more than Turkish and Chinese solutions, whiz kids and wily bureaucrats. Where was the address to the nation on rigging allegations, Khan and Qadri threat? Where the all parties’ conference was when it was needed (would have at least saved a lot of pleading and desperate wooing being attempted now)?

Policy making was never PML-N’s strong point. Marketing and optics were all they had; after Article 245, section 144, Model town and Islamabad, not anymore. Sticks and stones should not be all it takes to bring down the mighty Punjab Police.

Also read: Unfit to lead

With the feeling of futility, one can still volunteer advice. Let them do their thing; just enforce the law, not repression, respect dissent (even if unsubstantiated and vicious). Tire them out, exhaust them, have a dialogue with them and the rest of the political leadership, a real one, not the superficial sort going on now.

Once all of this is over, it soon will be, and if there is still time, the battered Mian Sahib has to begin the long process of consolidating and actually doing some democratic governance and slowly regain the lost political capital.

All of that will require doing some real, serious politics. It seems, it is simply too much to ask.

The writer is a lawyer.

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