Here comes trouble

Updated November 30, 2019

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The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.

THUS tweeted the prime minister:

“Today must be a great disappointment to those who expected the country to be destabilised by a clash of institutions. That this did not happen must be of special disappointment to our external enemies and mafias within — mafias who have stashed their loot abroad and seek to protect this loot by destabilising the country.”

The prime minister fired off these tweets on Thursday in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s issuance of a short order on the extension of Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

This is troubling on so many counts.

Read: PM assails opposition at huddle on COAS extension ruling

Let’s start with the intent. The tweet is meant to blame some elements for what transpired in the Supreme Court this week. The prime minister is clearly not blaming his government and his team of legal wizards, that much is disturbingly obvious. We can then safely infer that he is pointing fingers at elements who wanted the system to be destabilised as a result of all that was transpiring in court.

Let’s move to the meat of the tweet: external enemies and internal mafias.

The prime minister does not explicitly say that these elements orchestrated the affair of the extension but he states that elements were certainly hooting and rooting from the sidelines for some sort of an institutional clash to break out. The unsubtle inference that the prime minister is making is that his government is neither responsible, nor blame-able and, by this logic, definitely not incompetent.

Right then.

Intent done, now let’s move to the meat of the tweet: external enemies and internal mafias. By external enemies, the prime minister may have meant India. Fine. But he used the plural ‘enemies’ and not the singular ‘enemy’ which means he had other enemies in mind who were salivating at the prospects of these court proceedings to lead to some humongous fiasco. Who could these other enemies be? Do we, in fact, have certifiable, verifiable, and undeniable countries or entities that we can call enemies? Al Qaeda perhaps? Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)? The Islamic State (IS) group? The government in Kabul? Were one or few or all of them high-fiving their colleagues while listening to the attorney general of Pakistan fumbling, mumbling and bumbling in front of the three Supreme Court judges? And if so, should we direct our well-founded exasperation and umbrage at them?

Really, prime minister?

Then of course, there are the internal mafias. But since we have so many of them prancing around the country doing what mafias habitually do, one is justified in wondering which one of these multiple mafias was actually disappointed that the extension affair did not combust into fiery flames of fury? But wait. Lest we waste our precious time being confused, the prime minister drops a hint: those mafias that have stashed their loot abroad and actively indulge in activities that can lead directly to the destabilisation of the country as a result of which, they hope, their loot remains protected. That’s a long thought. And a longer sentence.

Precedence suggests the prime minister is referring to the PML-N and PPP. In essence then, he inferred these two parties should be held responsible at this moment in time for — if not actually writing the notification — then certainly being joyous and blissful that the notification got written and trashed and written and trashed and written and trashed; and then finally finalised as the final act of the grand finale which, as per the prime minister, led to these mafias’ joyousness and blissfulness transforming into grieving-ness and sorrow-ness.

If this be so, as it so seems, then the Prime Minister wants us to believe that the entire brouhaha in the top court and the ensuing adverse effects, was no one’s fault really, but in fact was – really – the fault of India, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, TTP, Ashraf Ghani, PML-N and PPP because, hey after all, why were they happy?

Right then.

Not troubling enough? Consider this: why did the prime minister feel the need to vent so? Was he angry at something? Something to do with his team writing a notification to be trashed so they could write another one to be trashed only to write yet another one to….

Yes, you get it.

Or was the prime minister angry at the universe for allowing the notification to be picked up by the court and torn to legal shreds? The universe does tend to conspire against people every so often — so yes, there’s that aspect too. Maybe. Whatever the cause of his tantrum — Farogh, Anwar, universe — the Prime Minister tripped into default mode and swung a left hook as per muscle memory. He did not need to be specific, you see, because when do leaders really need to be specific when they have conveniently random ‘enemies’ and mafias’ to blast? Here’s the troubling part though: did he think through his rage before igniting the tweets?

Had he done so, he may have realised that he chose the (a) wrong target; (b) wrong logic; (c) wrong timing. That’s a lot of wrong in one thought.

Which is exactly why the prime minister and his unstable government may want to bite the bullet and prepare to make nice with the ‘internal mafias’ who have stashed their loot abroad. There’s some legislative work to be done in five months and 28 days. It is fairly important work because it has been ordered by a chief for a chief. More than that, it can — if done right — pave the way for greater institutionalisation of our fairly de-institutionalised system. This is no child’s play. Which is precisely why the government will need to select some adults from within its ranks to lead this legislative venture and indulge in some grown-up negotiations with the opposition. That’s a big ask. But is it too much to ask?

The answer will probably trouble you.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.

Twitter: @Fahdhusain

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2019