AFTER years of friction and power grabs between the judiciary, executive and the military, the bonhomie currently in evidence must bode well for Pakistan’s stability and raise the expectations of the people that their issues will not fall victim to infighting in the corridors of power.
You may ask me why am I so optimistic? Well, there are signs aplenty.
And you don’t really have to look for them as they stare you in the face on prime time TV and if, for some obscure reason, you stayed away from that enriching fountain of wisdom paradoxically called the idiot box, the good news is plastered across the newspaper front pages the next morning.
The chief justice, whose single-minded pursuit of raising funds for the dams he deems vital to national survival may not have gathered handsome amounts but did help raise awareness of the criticality of the country’s depleting water resources, has now focused his attention elsewhere.
But, before we discuss where, it would not be out of place to mention that the military and the executive seem to have endorsed Justice Saqib Nisar’s efforts. The army chief too delivered a cheque of a large amount.
The journey from a clean to a competent government can’t be an impossible one.
The various government ministries and even departments/entities facing huge losses such as the railways also did not shy away from stepping up to the plate. The prime minister’s special assistant, UK millionaire Zulfi Bukhari, who is facing a NAB probe, has been paying his entire salary to the dam fund, his illustrious lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan informed the Supreme Court.
With this level of buy in, one can be sure that Pakistan will now embark on concrete measures to address the water issue which has already caused massive devastation in Sindh with mangrove forests obliterated and sea ingress into the Indus river to alarming levels.
The chief justice has now focused attention on another life-and-death issue: Pakistan’s galloping population growth rate. Just this week he hosted a conference in order to moot suggestions and possibly a plan on how to halt the population explosion.
It was at this conference that the prime minister opened up his heart as he publicly expressed gratitude to the chief justice for taking up the Panama Papers case and thus, he said, laying the foundations of naya Pakistan. The prime minister’s words appeared heartfelt; they were not perfunctory at all.
A couple of days earlier, the prime minister had given an interview to a group of anchors where he largely faced half volleys and was able to drive them on the front foot. Perhaps a tad too comfortable with the run of play, he seemed to have lulled himself into a near-hit-wicket.
This, of course, was his statement that the ‘PTI manifesto’ had the backing of the military. This particular angle of the prime minister’s interview started to get the mild sort of flak that the government has been receiving after its 100-days-in-office milestone was reached.
Here, too, civil-military harmony would soon come into play. On a visit to GHQ soon after taking office, the prime minister had talked of this harmony, while blaming any rifts in the past on corrupt politicians rather than any issue related to civilian supremacy.
The prime minister’s view received validation when the DG ISPR addressed the media in Rawalpindi on Thursday and said he had watched the prime minister’s interview not once, not twice but thrice, the last just before arriving at his briefing session.
Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor, the affable DG who in our only personal contact, a telephone conversation, was polite to a fault, said that the media needed to view the ‘honourable prime minister’s’ statement in its entire context; he also tried to explain what the context was.
This was a far cry from the brusque ‘notification is rejected’ tweet when he had responded to a former premier’s decision. That prime minister would subsequently be disqualified from holding office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It seems the establishment is now more accepting of civilian supremacy.
With such solid and meaningful support coming from powerful quarters, the PTI should now be setting sail for a smooth voyage till the end of its term and complete it sans hiccups. It should also be able to deliver on its agenda.
I say this with certainty because rarely in our history have the ‘people’ toppled a government before its term’s end. And, this time round, as the prime minister says because a clean government, led by a clean prime minister, is in place there is no fear of destabilisation. The journey from a clean to a competent government can’t be an impossible one.
This is important as there remain issues such as 22 million children out of school; an economy that is yet to show signs of any normalisation with the exchange rate bobbing up and down like a bouncy ball; enforced disappearances continuing even today particularly in Balochistan and, despite, the DG’s warning, the PTM appearing determined to peacefully press for its six demands.
The issues mentioned are for another day. I will also not address what the APNS and the PBA (the newspaper owners’ and the TV channel owners’ bodies) are saying about how economical with the truth my friend Fawad Chaudhry has been about the payments to the media and how much is owed for government ads.
As you may have noticed, this week I have abandoned being a prophet of doom and gloom, choosing instead to be positive. In the tumultuous world we live in, even a week is a lifetime and when you see perils, not ringing the alarm bells appears like a dereliction of duty.
But the truth is, what have people like me achieved by ringing the alarm bells when we have done so responding to the dictates of our conscience? Nothing. So, what’s the point?
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018