Problem with two in one

Updated 23 Oct 2020

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

THE system needs to be cleaned up fast. Or we will be left with no room to take on the real and deserving suspects. You can get away with voicing all kind of obscenities at each other, but can still face accusations of treason for raising slogans at the mausoleum of a man we have been guilty of disrespecting without the most sensitive of us getting offended. You only need to go to any of the hospitals named after the father of the nation to see what miseries we heap on his people in his name.

It is very upsetting to have a man, even one not known for caring for others’ sentiments, raising his voice at the resting place of anyone, let alone a revered soul such as the Quaid. So by all means use the instance to score political points against the man; have him blasted in the media and read out the long lament about the fateful matches and mismatches of the most famous and most promising Pakistan politicians, a couple of women included. But why, pray why, do you have to drag it to a level where you blast open the door to a hotel room and reveal, to use the mildest term, the uneasy makeup of what is otherwise hailed as the hybrid regime?

Karachi is yet more proof on the pile of evidence that the system needs some urgent fixing for better understanding by everyone. Sorry everyone who is behind this experiment — this hybrid types confuse too much. Tired of having to constantly figure out who has exactly played what role… and who is minding whose business and following whose orders. It takes so much out of you trying to make sense of this jumble you call a country.

Honestly, it’s quite impossible to see through the maze and come up with a definite answer. It’s all guesswork. Except for the fact that we all have old positions to be anchored in, we might have been torn apart by the two quarrelling groups here, without knowing where we ought to stand.

Could the Zardaris be finally going a notch up and joining Nawaz Sharif in attacking the hybrid experiment?

Just heard one honourable commentator, who happens to be a former serviceman, asking Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari a very pointed question, the kind that would have the cameraman close in to capture the triumphant smile on the face of the master interrogator about to clinch the argument. Why did BBZ, a politician even if a hereditary one, feel compelled to take his complaint about the alleged abduction of the Karachi police bosses and the registration of the case against retired Capt Safdar for shouting slogans (and threats) at the Quaid’s mausoleum to the army chief and not to the prime minister?

There would be many answers offered. But perhaps the easiest explanation would be that this is the problem with hybrid regimes, and this is why we must all try and resist the temptation of inventing them. Hybridism can lead to diarchy and you might end up in a situation where you don’t know where your orders are coming from. The accidents caused by such arrangements can have serious consequences.

A friend visiting from America is innocently at a loss to understand why the system needs to pretend. Why does Pakistan have to act as if it could not do without the facade of these elected set-ups and have in place a pure benevolent government of those who are really capable of running the country smoothly?

This is an old question brought to the fore by this particular visitor’s circumstances — he talked about rampant corruption in all spheres of Pakistani life. But seriously, in all its mystifying and revealing aspects that have been leaked to the public in the shape of information and rumours, the Karachi ‘scandal’ does leave a lot of people wondering whether the veneer is needed. And also, what compelling reasons make it mandatory for the state to maintain the front office run by the good-for-nothing politicians in these times where the emphasis is on lean and austere and efficient management?

We lack that efficiency and instead have accidents which leave those at the centre of the system not badly bruised but what is worse, widely ridiculed by authority and the crowd alike. Imagine what kind of mood the Sindh police would be in after this latest episode. The danger is that the ‘Karache Guevara’ revolutionary image could disappear in a jiffy at the first suspicion of a force that is unable to get some kind of morale booster from those who can still try and provide them with one. Or for that matter, what would be the state of mind of the Sindh government formally led by Murad Ali Shah and anchored by the Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari?

Could the Zardaris be finally going a notch up and joining Nawaz Sharif in attacking the hybrid experiment? They have already been protesting ‘discrimination’ against Sindh over so many issues. Not least of them is the latest case in which the federal government seeks to seize territory — islands — belonging to the province. According to one piece of advice, the PPP can no more afford to be ambiguous and might be forced to oppose the hybrid system much more openly not for its revival in parts of Pakistan but its survival in Sindh.

The PPP needs to display to the world around that it is in control of a few things, at least. It cannot be a spectator to just about everything that takes place around it, from a rude call at the hotel room of a special guest in Karachi to other minor and not so minor events taking place under its watch.

Indeed, the scene is messier now than it was when these politicians had gathered in Gujranwala at the Jinnah stadium. At that first congregation of the opposition, the Pakistan Democratic Movement, many things were to be ironed out, many opinions among those gathered on one platform were to be reconciled. Karachi must decide the core question of whether they are travelling as a group or as individual independent fortune-seekers.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2020