Much ado

Published March 25, 2022

THE combined opposition’s joint charter on the way forward, ambitiously titled Quwwat-i-Akhuwat-i-Awam and released on the occasion of Pakistan Day, can best be described as a tragicomic attempt at a bold reimagining of the future. One wonders why the old hands of Pakistan’s politics felt a need to repackage so many of their past campaign promises as some great breakthrough that they had collectively achieved. With the prime minister’s ouster almost within grasp, perhaps they felt they deserved a pat on the back. Otherwise, there has been little in the events of the past few weeks to justify their premising of our future on such grand promises, especially when the citizenry has witnessed just how messy, even dirty, the political process really is. The title of the charter, which translates roughly to ‘the might of the unity of the people’, is particularly ironic: there is nothing in the document itself about how a new political set-up will bridge the bitter divides in our highly polarised citizenry.

The charter promises the elimination of terrorism “through effective implementation of the National Security Policy”. It also promises “an effective, transparent and just law for across-the-board accountability to tackle financial corruption”. No Pakistani can say they have not heard this many times before. Other vague promises include an “urgent” policy to ensure relief for the poor, labourers and farmers, and “concrete steps” — whatever these may be — to recover missing persons. There are commitments to the devolution of power to local governments and politicians’ usual lip service to “guaranteed” civil, social, gender and minority rights. The charter boldly claims that Pakistan will be turned into a state where all administrative institutions will be subservient to the elected executive and parliament. A tall order, given the success of the opposition’s no-confidence move remains conditional on the same institutions’ implicit endorsement of it through their continuing ‘neutrality’. Much of the remaining charter pertains to things that might more simply be described as: ‘the government will do its job’. It is unfortunate that the opposition parties, which now seem sufficiently confident of their victory, spent their energies on revisiting old vows rather than a roadmap to dispel the uncertainty that is bound to follow if the government is sent packing. Surely, its collective wisdom cannot be so bereft of ideas that this charter was the best it could do. There’s no wine in this new bottle — only vinegar.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2022

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