Fiddling while Rome burns

Published July 31, 2022
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

THE rupee seems to have fallen into a bottomless pit and is losing its value dramatically against all major currencies such as the US dollar, the pound sterling and euro, while all major power players in the country continue playing their games as if it was business as usual.

There is not one from among the tight band seen as the major power players in the country such as political leaders, the security and intelligence set-up, the judiciary and the media which reports on these players, that is not being seen as utterly callous.

There is no better way to describe them as they go hoarse shouting ‘national interest’ and yet, with the country so critically poised, their actions come across as being motivated by narrow self-interest.

Read: Politics of establishment

What started as a difference of opinion between the then elected prime minister and the military leadership over the issue of abandoning the use of militant groups as a tool of national security policy, spiralled into a get-Nawaz Sharif operation.

Surely, ‘theft’ is a lesser crime than mass murder where even small children are not spared.

If you look dispassionately at the period from 2016 to the day these lines were being written you will agree that it has been downhill all the way. Politics, economy, and worse still, the entire value system and rules of engagement in society, especially where disagreement happens, represent a mess.

As a journalist who has worked now for 38 years, it was always heartening to hear a well-articulated argument find holes in something you have written. Heartening, because a reader took the pains to read you, collected their thoughts, formulated their arguments and responded.

Of late, in a reflection of the mindless polarisation we have, yes mindless because all of us are cut from the same cloth — those claiming moral supremacy are no better than those they seek to tarnish — any disagreement with your point of view is rarely informed or educated; in fact, it questions your integrity.

‘I don’t agree with you so you must be a crook’ is the attitude that is all-pervasive. It is not all-pervasive as an accident but is the result of a well-crafted and effectively amplified strategy on social media. It is proving to be a winning strategy Goebbels would have been proud of.

When a national leader, a former prime minister and an aspirant/claimant for high office, says he is willing to talk to everyone except “thieves … [because] will you speak to someone who robs your home?” in a reference to the political leaders and parties opposed to him and his party, his fans are delirious with joy.

Among the people (non-thieves), he says he is prepared to talk to is the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. But nobody is going to ask him for fear of being shredded by his supporters that didn’t TTP bomb our homes and butcher our children?

Surely, ‘theft’ is a lesser crime than mass murder where even small children are not spared. But when messages spewing hate are a winning strategy, why bother with coherence, logic and even small amounts of common sense.

If the lament was restricted to one political party, its leaders and supporters, we’d be in a very happy place. It isn’t. Those who were keen to supplant the intolerant and clueless incumbents also kept the very, very short-term goal of occupying the chief executive’s office as their main objective.

Within a few weeks in office, it was clear that they had neither a game plan on how to move forward nor a communication strategy, and so failed in the ‘messaging’ battle too. Their ‘all is going to be well’ talk inspired no confidence in the nervous markets and, I suspect, profiteers, sprang into action too and destroyed any semblance of hope.

If that were not enough, those who had encouraged a hitherto discarded set of politicians and parties to strike at and take the notional citadel of power for their own pathetic little petty objectives, started to get cold feet. This added even more to the mess.

And, of course, how could those who perhaps saw themselves as the third (and possibly the second most important) element of the troika, with the power to sack, imprison and even hang elected politicians, not get going? Their disdain for established political parties has been evident on more occasions than one.

In an interesting twist, the two elements of the troika which have often exercised authority way beyond what is mandated in the Constitution also seem rife with internal dissension and, some keen observers say, all that is being witnessed is a manifestation of that struggle.

I, for one, might have taken satisfaction at the spectacle of the crumbling edifice of extra-constitutional power centres but tragically I can’t. When these elephants fight with one another and one of them falls to the ground, so much is smothered underneath them.

As I see it, the economy, the fragile political system and the country itself are being smothered under the weight of their (political and hence illegitimate) ambitions and power grabs. So far, there is little indication that any of the players are prepared to take their foot off the accelerator pedal and slam it on the brakes.

We are merrily heading towards the edge of the precipice. Men and women of faith start praying at this stage normally in the hope of divine intervention and miracles. Short of a miracle how else do you see better sense prevailing?

Yes, better sense is sorely needed. Everyone has to understand that there is hope when we have a viable country with a growing economy. There is a need to act now and think of our beloved, albeit blighted, land. We can resume our power grabs and take up our narrow agendas once things have stabilised.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2022

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