No more dot balls, please

Published October 31, 2021
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

WHILE Asif Ali hit those four dream sixes in the 19th over to take Pakistan to a win that seemed very unlikely at that stage in the T20 World Cup and brought both relief and joy to beleaguered Pakistanis, it did not take long for the reality at home to drop right back in with a thud.

Although the TLP march towards Islamabad and the now-on/now-off dialogue to convince them to turn back continues, amid tough words about action, I suspect the matter will be resolved peacefully as there seems no real likelihood of a crackdown on zealous protesters out in such numbers.

Of course, columnists who write a day ahead of the publication of the piece against the backdrop of a highly charged and volatile situation always run the risk of having to eat their words and I am aware of the perils of sticking my neck out.

But living dangerously seems to be the norm for us Pakistanis these days. Look at how the National Action Plan was left to gather dust on a shelf somewhere, while the TLP was propped up not too long ago for a rather narrow and, if you ask me, pretty mindless, goal.

Living dangerously seems to be the norm for us Pakistanis these days.

It hasn’t taken long for the centre-forward to realise that they were facing the wrong way and ended up scoring an own goal. A rearguard action may be underway but the price of that initial folly is turning out to be incalculably high in terms of the economy, inflation, jobs and instability.

Now look at the beneficiary of someone else’s own goal. They may have been given a win but needed to remember they were ‘given’ a win and didn’t get it on their own. They were carried, literally dragged, over the finish line after others in the field had lead-weight tied to their legs.

But many pointless and fruitless witch-hunts carried out via video-compromised heads of institutions and the intoxication of power began to play tricks on their minds and made them dizzy and their heads spin. So much so that they snapped at the hand that fed them so many goodies.

Do you get the drift why I am prepared to put my money on a relatively peaceful resolution of the TLP crisis? Well, I have only my nearly non-existent reputation to be worried about. Look at what powerful state players have played/are playing Russian roulette with: from the TLP to a delayed notification.

Editorial: Thankfully, the opposition has acted mature and responsible where the TLP protest is concerned

Fearless or mindless depending on your point of reference but replete with risks. Each of the players has staked so much for so little gain that one wishes to have one’s own head examined as to why we have been passive spectators while each one of us, our future and that of our loved ones has been put in jeopardy.

Asif Ali’s spectacular over had two dot balls ie balls that produced no runs. He made up for those with smashing the ball out of the playing area four times. Our national leaders, civilian and, more so, military can’t afford dot balls.

But do they have what it takes or will they continue to play mind games, which in our case need to be called daft games, and take great pride in meaningless wins as the challenges mount every single day and can’t be left unaddressed.

The reaction of some of the government ministers to their perceived or real loss of support from their (erstwhile?) hybrid partner is indicative of extreme panic. A number of spokesmen who speak on different policy issues have made a mess of explaining the government position, even more incoherent and rude than usual.

Even the normally cool and super-confident Sheikh Rashid is displaying signs of frayed nerves. In his case, it isn’t clear whether it is the pressure of the job that is telling or the stress of being pulled in different directions due to split loyalties.

What is becoming evident is that the status quo is untenable as public anger is simmering and needs to be tackled by solid, credible policy responses before it boils over and a totally unpredictable scenario starts to take shape.

Yes, you can accuse me of harping on the same theme over and over again but I truly believe our best shot is in a system reset to where things are aligned with the 1973 Constitution after a transparent electoral process in which all players of significance agree that they owe it to the people to deliver credible elections.

Whosoever is the winner be allowed unimpeded to govern and all stakeholders follow the Constitution and the rule of law and play their defined role. A winner who is only beholden to the voter for putting them in office is the only one that has a chance to deliver.

Our experience tells us nothing else works. Yes, some institutions and even individuals have the power to undermine democracy and indulge ad nauseam in pulling down elected governments but surely they must now also know that quasi-authoritarian, hybrid and other such experiments are doomed to failure as they have no ability to succeed.

No doubt any such system reset need not follow the use of a nuclear option by the main players but has to be done via persuasion and lawful means. And the inherent contradictions in the system that was midwifed some three years ago are so many that those could be used to attain the real goal.

I am neither a well-plugged-in commentator nor a soothsayer who is giving you the roadmap agreed by someone somewhere. I am merely someone whose heart bleeds at seeing our country lurching from one crisis to another, while the people remain steeped in poverty, hunger and disease.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2021



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