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Crisis is the new normal

Updated September 21, 2014


The writer is a member of staff.
The writer is a member of staff.

Even the conspiracy theorists have given up. Why bother when reality is so much more bizarre?

As the never-ending crisis chugs along and becomes the new normal, folk can’t even muster the pretence that October may reveal a deus ex machina. And that tells a story of its own.

For if this was Zaheer leading the charge, Zaheer is going home in October. The charge should stop. But if it was Raheel…

If you were Khan or Qadri, would you go home? Go home to what? The prize, the target, sits across Constitution Avenue. Home doesn’t offer the same view, or the same possibilities.

There is only guesswork from here. The denouement is unknown. Some hope that Khan and Qadri will tire and go home eventually. Surely, even the mightiest cannot indefinitely sustain the unsustainable.

Except that doesn’t factor in the nothing-to-lose part: Khan and Qadri have nothing to lose by sticking around, and much to gain. For as long as the agitators stick around, there’s a chance they’ll succeed. Go home and they definitely fail.

If you were Khan or Qadri, would you go home? Go home to what? The prize, the target, sits across Constitution Avenue. Home doesn’t offer the same view, or the same possibilities.

Or the Tawdry Twosome can split up. Imran can take his dharna on the road and Qadri can symbolically hold down the fort on Constitution Avenue with a few desolate supporters.

That would keep interest alive and the pressure on, allowing Khan and Qadri a way out of the cul de sac they’ve found themselves in on Constitution Avenue.

Wouldn’t that be something though? The era of single-episode crises would give way to multi-chapter crises. That’s what happens when you have more moving parts, more mercurial characters, less control and lesser minds.

What about the boys? If decapitation wasn’t the agenda, then what else is left to achieve? Nothing.

So why not pull the rug out from under the protesters, roll up the show and get on with enjoying internal predominance? But that’s not happening. Why? There is a possible explanation: the hunter wants the hunted to free himself.

A trap was sprung, the prey was caught, and ever since the prey has thrashed around, trying to free itself. Now, the prey is exhausted, but the hunter isn’t willing to help him escape the trap. Somehow, the prey will have to do it himself.

It seems unnecessary and is unwise. For if decapitation wasn’t the real agenda, if just pinning him to the mat and wresting away his mandate was, then that means several years of co-habitation lie ahead.

But every extra day this drags out is an extra day lodged in the memory. Too much punishment, too much humiliation, can cause a victim to snap.

Surely, if decapitation wasn’t the idea, then pushing Nawaz into survival mode was. And stuff still needs to get done in survival mode; meetings still have to be held, decisions have to be taken.

National security and foreign policy may be core interests, but there’s a world outside that too. The economy, the people, the business of running the state and keeping the coffers filled and figuring out who gets what.

All of that can happen if Nawaz is nudged into survival mode. But what if he sails past survival and goes over the edge? Why run that risk by keeping the pressure on?

Surely, crisis after crisis isn’t good for any business, even the boys’. If you didn’t want to knock him out, then why not hold out a hand and pull him off the mat after the fight has been won?

Let him lick his wounds, don’t add to them. But there seems to be a smallness at work that is the hallmark of a bully, not a warrior.

Then again, if decapitation was really the idea…

On to the wounded prey: Nawaz.

As the chief custodian of the democratic project, Nawaz is someone you want to sympathise with. If he wins, we all win. If he loses, it’s back to square one.

And yet, Nawaz has emerged as a singularly unsympathetic character in all of this. Even his allies have looked on in awe at a three-term PM who still just doesn’t seem to get it.

It’s not so much that Nawaz is trapped in a net that nobody can escape from, it’s that he seems unable to recognise the escape routes even when they’re right in front of him.

You could see it again over the weekend, when he gets up, makes a speech before a joint session of parliament, and essentially says nothing. No road map, no plan, no concessions, nothing. Just — talk.

What could he have said? He’s the damn PM. He has options. He has the advantage. He should know.

Or perhaps he shouldn’t. Because it could just be that he’s out of his depth. That it’s not so much his judgement that is clouded, but that he’s just not up to scratch.

Unless he’s convinced decapitation was and is the plan…

In which case, Nawaz may be unwilling to cede anything and is challenging his foes to do their worst: either knock him out or learn to live with him.

Throw all of those possibilities together and the picture only becomes gloomier: boys unwilling to be benevolent in victory; Nawaz unwilling to forgive in defeat; Imran and Qadri hungry for power and unconcerned about the system.

And so, we’re back to muddling through, rummaging through minutiae, looking for meaning where there is none and an end that may never come.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, September 21th, 2014