CAFÉ NOIR: ‘IT’S JUST POLITICS’

Published August 14, 2022
Illustrations by Hafsa Ashfaque
Illustrations by Hafsa Ashfaque

Last month, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) swept the Punjab by-elections as the province said bye to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The PTI now constitutes the largest political party in Punjab, and the second largest party in the province to have NAB cases registered against it.

“It’s just politics,” says a PTI member and offshore-account holder who did not request anonymity (we just couldn’t be bothered naming him).

The Supreme Court also threw out the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker’s decision not to count 10 votes for PTI that came from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q), after party president Chaudhry Shujaat had advised them to vote for PML-N. The deputy speaker was also thrown out.

Pervaiz Elahi, Shujaat’s second in command, sided with PTI and was sworn in as chief minister after the dust settled, mostly on PML-N. When asked about the verdict of the Adaalat-i-Uzma, Imran Khan, sitting in his locally funded mansion, looked confused and said he didn’t know anyone called Uzma.

A round-up of recent events in Pakistani politics. Never a dull moment in the land of the pure absurdity

Chaudhry Shujaat was stripped (let’s all get that image out of our heads as quickly as possible) of party leadership but the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) later restored him to chief of the PML-Q. Seeing rifts develop between Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi, perhaps we’ll have a Qaaf League and a Kaaf League soon.

Earlier, while debating the actions of Punjab’s deputy speaker, the Supreme Court had called Hamza Shehbaz a trustee CM, as someone who should be ready to hand over power as soon as the case was resolved. Surely they meant trust-fund CM.

Hamza Shahbaz has had the easiest, most spoon-fed path into politics, and still had the shortest tenure as chief minister of Punjab, discounting the interim or caretaker CMs of the past. Hamza Shahbaz lasted 87 days. The Pakistan Post takes longer than that to deliver mail. It takes more time for Daraz orders to arrive at my house. I’ve seen weddings take more days. College semesters last longer than his chief ministership.

On a scale of 1 to a Shahid Afridi innings, Hamza Shahbaz’s tenure ranks somewhere close to 1. Usman Buzdar was there for three and a half years and he didn’t even know which chair to sit on. Charming, clever and gifted are just some of the words that have never been used to describe Hamza Shahbaz. He came and went so soon, people thought he was like the service Lesco provides.

The fortunate news is that we will no longer see him smiling on our television sets; the unfortunate news is that lots of poultry will now have to see him smiling at them.

The problems in Punjab have the federal coalition government shaken as well. With many doubting Shehbaz Sharif’s ability to hold things together, much like UHU glue. Shehbaz has finally stepped out of Nawaz’s shadow, and is now becoming his own man. Which isn’t good news for anyone, least of all Shehbaz. The civil servants of Punjab breathed a sigh of relief when he left, now the additional secretaries in Islamabad have stopped breathing entirely.

Maryam Nawaz is the only one with enough charisma and force of personality to breathe some life into the PML-N again, but she has two major problems — husband Captain Safdar and father Nawaz’s platelet counts.

Many around the country are saying it would take someone of real conviction to get Pakistan out of this economic and political mess. By all accounts, that points to Pervez Musharraf, a man with many convictions still pending, even after the orders of the Supreme Court to bring him back.

Pervaiz Elahi, meanwhile, had problems assembling his cabinet; he must have bought it from Ikea. Imran Khan has now formed a cabinet for him, but he warned Elahi not to ask for a closet and bookshelf next.

Usman Buzdar has been made parliamentary leader; it will take another three years to explain to him what that means. But the imported government’s days seem to be numbered, as we are looking to cut down our imports to balance the foreign exchange reserves.

Unless, of course, some agency theoretically tipped off Ayman al-Zawahiri’s location to the US and they theoretically give us billions of theoretical dollars. Now we just have to tip them off about how North Korea theoretically got nuclear weapons, and the World Bank should wipe out the rest of our not very theoretical debt.

But the exported government, many of whose members are dual nationals, has come across problems of its own. The ECP, normally less useful than the Emergency Contraceptive Pill, has been investigating the PTI foreign funding case for eight years, and has finally reached a conclusion — that the PTI concealed at least 16 bank accounts, and received prohibited money from abroad, including from the Abraaj group founder Arif Naqvi, who is wanted for fraud in the US and is awaiting extradition from the UK. Arif Naqvi is a businessman, a cricket fan and money laundering enthusiast.

The Financial Times report on Naqvi was a damning indictment of Pakistani cricket team names. As if Lahore Loins weren’t bad enough, now the world knows about Peshawar Perverts and Faisalabad Fothermuckers. I hope the prize for winning that tournament was a dictionary.

Naqvi also invited the Multan Mausoleums (Shah Mahmood couldn’t participate in case his tiara fell off), the Rawalpindi Rascals (Sheikh Rasheed was busy with talk shows) and the Chinyoti Ch…. sorry we’re not allowed to print that.

In any case, there are two things in life that money can’t buy — integrity and honesty — though Imran Khan did give it a good try.

When asked about whether the ECP’s behaviour was impartial and unbiased, a lawyer still firing an AK-47 into the air six months after the Lahore High Court Bar Council elections, says he really can’t comment, as he’s a human rights lawyer, not a constitutional expert.

Meanwhile, our incumbent prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, used harsh words when talking about foreign funding in the PTI case, but then he was late for a meeting with the IMF, where he had to ask for foreign funding.

The writer is a medical adventurer who has almost died on three continents

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 14th, 2022

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