Back to comedy

Published November 11, 2018
The writer is a member of staff.
The writer is a member of staff.

AT least there’s the comedy of politics to distract from figuring out whether we’re now far right and insane or still merely centre right and dysfunctional. But the comedy could be of a better quality.

Back to politics.

Shahbaz is wanted for something something because he did something something to someone something. Nobody knows what exactly — not even, apparently, the chaps who have been set after Shahbaz — but it’s hugely important.

And for whatever it is that he is supposed to have done, Shahbaz has to be in prison. Immediately and forever. Throw away the key.

Mercifully, no one has to pretend any longer that this game has much to do with anything other than politics. Back in more innocent days, that incipient accountability phase between Panama and Nawaz’s ouster, folk brushed up on the law, analysed precedent, studied the facts. History was going to be made.

The big question, seemingly: will it stick? But if it won’t stick, then what’s the point in doing all of this?

Then came the judgement and in the aftermath no one even bothered to pretend that it was anything other than that oldest of fights dressed up for more modern times. So, there’s no point in trying to understand what kind of actual legal trouble Shahbaz may be in because his troubles aren’t actually of the legal kind.

Oh, and have you heard that Nawaz may be back in the clinker soon? Sure, why not. The appropriate amount of time has passed since the death, so off the father-daughter duo may be to jail again. Apparently, the suspension order wasn’t very well reasoned — but the suspension order argued the sentencing was wholly flawed.

Who’s right? Who cares. Right is the chap who has the final say and until then right is whatever the last guy who had a say said. Never mind that we may have stumbled into a fairly interesting legal debate and a thoughtful resolution could further the cause of real accountability: where should the burden of proof lie and what triggers it?

But no one really cares. The point isn’t the law, the point is to get Nawaz. Or it was anyway. It had seemed that 2018 was going to be the year of nudging out one chap and ushering in the next. But we’re not even halfway through November and the scheme has expanded.

This week was about softening up Shahbaz, but the real skill is being honed in the hunt for Asif and his goons. The N-League is howling about media trials and what not, but it’s really the big PPP targets who are being softened up through the media. It’s that much easier with Asif and his goons — because in the court of TV-driven public opinion, there is no second opinion on Asif.

But the scale of the PPP’s alleged corruption is being slyly revealed and a delightful little juxtaposition set up: multibillion rupee accounts in the name of unwitting impoverished types. Street vendors, the homeless, folk clinging to the lowest rungs of the economic ladder — they’re stealing from you, the poor people of Pakistan.

By the time some of it — any of it — arrives in a trial court and gets chucked out on appeal, we may find that a great deal of it was exaggerated or simply invented. In a court — OK, in some courts — it doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what you can prove. But in the court of TV-driven public opinion, Zardari never had a chance.

The big question, seemingly: will it stick? But if it won’t stick, then what’s the point in doing all of this? Seems like an awful lot of trouble and disruption for relatively small gains. Nawaz is out, but he’s not out-out — the scheme used to keep him out for now almost itself carving a path back for him.

Shahbaz is in jail and maybe in his future lies a criminal conviction. But if it does come to that — and with Shahbaz you can never know — the sheer awkwardness of the scheme to get Shahbaz will eventually undo the weight of a conviction.

As for Asif, he’s already laughed and told us that a spell behind bars may help resurrect his and his party’s fortunes in Punjab. And yet it’s happening — and expanding. The ridiculous and transparent schemes to knock out the principal political players in the land — or the principal political players who are deemed unworthy, undesirable or not worth cutting a deal with.

But why so messy and clumsy?

If you start with there’s no good way ever of doing it, then you’re probably OK with a bit of a mess. Crack eggs, omelette, etc. On top of that you can add a layer of arrogance — if you think the shots are yours to call, then you don’t much care for criticism of how you do what you’ve decided is your job.

But that still leaves the question of efficacy.

On the touchstone for doing what it takes to get what you want, surely the ouster schemes have to be judged on how successful they are in achieving the outcome sought. But how does it really help if in trying to engineer ouster you end up creating a path for the ousted to potentially return to the same position you were trying to oust them from?

What’s the point to either grand or tawdry minus-Nawaz, -Shahbaz, -Zardari, -whoever schemes if they don’t actually end up getting minused?

There really is only one possibility left: it’s not politicians, the point is to discredit politics itself. To what end? We’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe the quality of the comedy will improve, too.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a@gmail.com

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2018

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