There is a saying in many of our languages whose watered-down version goes something like this: “Grandpa remarried was a surprise in of itself; that it ended in a divorce was a dampener. However, the real shocker is that he tied the knot again.”
With much of the country shunning love as a construct of Western capitalism, most marriages in Pakistan are either born out of necessity or convenience. Throw in one of the most popular refrains from the bygone era of Urdu cinema: yeh shaadi nahin ho sakti [this marriage will not be allowed] and one can almost imagine the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) in the roles of the shy bride and the bewildered groom.
Only, this seemingly comic situation has all the telltale signs of a full-blown tragedy that this political marriage will most likely end up being — again.
We, the public are most weary of these shenanigans not because of the villain in the habit of making a dramatic entry right before the “I dos” as a party pooper, but because this time around, the antagonist himself is playing the rishta aunty — for those uninitiated in the South Asian courtship and asking-for-hand mechanism, she is the go-between who makes up for want of Tinder etc.
Much married, more divorced
If there ever was an example of the proverbial triumph of hope over experience, these two political parties are the closest approximation of the Hollywood couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who were both not only much married but a couple of times to each other as well.
In the case of these two most influential parties of Sindh, the history of political expedience and entering alliances and eventual breakups dates back to the ’80s. Their courtship has been long and tedious, with both sides playing hard to get.
Eventually, however, after a hell of a lot of bickering over the dowry and the number of the groom’s party on the wedding day, the ceremony itself is always sanctified by the senior most clerics. And what would a Monsoon Wedding be without grumpy family members and friends on both sides.
The best ‘men’ this time around, are also known as “men at their best". The witnesses and guarantors are the funniest lot at this wedding. These are the type of characters with whom you would not shake hands — Covid or no Covid — lest they steal a finger or two.
Best wishes for the newly-weds ... or not
On a more serious note, all of this could be seen in a more positive spirit as well. What could be more encouraging and hope-inspiring than the PPP and the MQM-P coming together to address Sindh’s challenges instead of creating the worst parliamentary and administrative logjam one can imagine.
The unfolding drama of the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan at the centre opened possibilities of a patch-up between sworn enemies like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the PML-Q in Punjab [the latter recently chose to cut the romance short].
In Sindh, an alliance between the parties, that between them represent much of the rural and urban electorate in the province, can at least be expected to slowly remove misgivings and distrust between the so-called sons of the soil and the migrants’ community who arrived post-1947.
Karachi alone sends 21 members to the lower House of Parliament comprising 342 members. Throw in the 40 National Assembly constituencies from the rest of Sindh and their ability to get along with one another augurs well not just for the province but makes them one of the most influential cohort of legislators, next perhaps only to Punjab — its own south and central schisms notwithstanding.
Both sides can very well defend their decision to enter a partnership to oust the PTI government and portray it as political maturity and pragmatism. The PPP can claim it has forgotten the bad blood between the two from the past in the larger provincial, national, and international interest. With Karachi being the backbone of the country’s economy and the role its industry and the ports have in the CPEC scheme of things, the alliance could only be seen as a win-win for everyone.
The MQM, on the other hand, will try to redeem its lost image due to its erstwhile supremo Altaf Hussain’s verbal tirades from self-exile in London. The party will most likely claim that it has not bargained on any of its principles and will proudly enumerate all the demands, nay ‘rights’ it has wrung out of this deal with the ruling provincial party.
So, what is our problem with this rainbow of a situation emerging from the dark clouds of political uncertainty hanging over the country? Well, history!
We’ve been the “Abdullah deewana” in “Begani Shadi” before. Despite all the baat pakis, dholkis, mehndis, mayun, boot, ahem! joota chupai, doodh pilai, salamian, drone videography and fireworks, such weddings do not have a good track record of longevity.
Before one can send off the newly-weds to a honeymoon, the prenups are in the courts. The guarantors vanish, the witnesses turn hostile. The divorce is aggressive and ugly. Only the rishta aunty sits pretty, having charged not just both sides to this unhappy tie-up but the entire wedding party as well.
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