All over in a day

Published June 11, 2023
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

WHAT a difference a day makes is a song immortalised by Dinah Washington’s version in 1959, even though American songwriter Stanley Adams wrote its lyrics in 1934 and it was first recorded then, the same year as Mexican Maria Grever wrote the original Spanish Cuando vuelva a tu lado (‘When I return to your side’).

Many believe that Dinah Washington’s rendition of the song is one of the finest. Who wouldn’t agree? I also quite like the version done much later, in 2003, by Jamie Callum whose music I enjoy, being partial to jazz and its various variations.

Of course, this column isn’t about music and all that jazz. But just as I sat down to write it, the song was playing in the background, and somehow found its way into these columns. Admittedly, it isn’t about politics. It is a love song and politics everywhere these days is so filled with acrimony and even poison that mentioning a love song sounds incongruous and utterly absurd.

Then let me get to the point, because isn’t it equally true that a day can change so much in politics too, especially of the kind we witness/are witnessing in our beloved land? A political party that was considered to be the frontrunner for the elections due latest by November this year is now not even being considered as a serious contender for office.

Fundamental rights are, and ought to be, inalienable. Regardless of who is on the receiving end.

I needn’t say what day I am referring to because you must be familiar with May 9 as the date seems to find mention with such frequency on our TV channels that even if you were ignorant of the happenings on that day, repetitive messaging must have ensured that the date is now etched in your mind, in fact, emblazoned across your existence.

When the PTI’s chief was arrested and its second-tier leadership gave a call to the support base to take to the streets in protest, it seemed they believed they were in the vanguard of a revolution which would usher them back to near-absolute power.

Regardless of whether the mobs chose certain targets or were nudged towards them, one thing was quite apparent. They must have been led to believe that there was substantial support for their cause within the country’s most potent power player.

What else could explain their confidence or self-destructive over-confidence as it turned out to be? There had clearly been not much debate within the party leadership of the consequences of a possible failure of their strategy. They decided to go for broke without much thought. And ended up on the losing side.

The consequences are not just for them to bear. They engulf each of us. Shrinking civil liberties affect every Pakistani. Not just those who rashly overplayed their hand so grossly that awful day. I know people who appear to think, and I could well be among them, that they have no role in a fight between what they see as a monster and its creator.

They ask themselves why they should risk taking the heat when they were on the receiving end earlier too. But due process is every citizen’s right. There can’t be two opinions on that. Fundamental rights are, and ought to be, inalienable. Regardless of who is on the receiving end.

Just because a party pays scant attention to these rights and displays crass authoritarian tendencies when in government, should not make others who hold principles dear mirror that behaviour. In times of clampdowns, it is understandable that taking principled, moral positions can be costly so those with vulnerabilities will shy away. It would be wrong to judge them. Silence is infinitely better than being cheerleaders for those who are denying due process. But our dilemmas are cyclical aren’t they?

When Jahangir Khan Tareen announced the formation of his ‘political party beyond politics’ the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party some of us were filled with a sense of déjà vu. This record has played itself to death and yet we insist on playing it again and again.

In recent memory alone, from the IJI, to MQM Haqiqi to PML-Q to PPP Patriots to Pak Sarzameen Party to BAP, I could go on and on. But that’s not the point. Have any of these parties or the engineering effort they represent brought Pakistan the much-needed ‘istehkam’ or stability that our country and its people yearn for? I leave the answer to you.

The day after the budgetary proposals are tabled the reader would expect a mention of it. And rightly so. But what’s the point of spreading more despondency when times are pretty bleak as it is? All I will say is that the budget looks like more of the same with a few tweaks here and there.

The focus on resource generation that one expected is not there. One could understand not touching the retail sector, the all-important trader community, in an election year because its members happen to be your constituency, but leaving real estate untouched when billions of dollars are invested in it is incomprehensible.

What can one do other than bury one’s head in sand, or my version with jazz blaring through my headphones, when one knows well that anything that you and/or I may have to say will have zero impact. Zilch. So what’s the point?

PS: Pardon me for suggesting last week that the president’s term ends when he completes five years in office. Grateful to a reader, Ishtiaq H. Andrabi, for pointing out the factual error in my piece last week. The president continues in office till the election of a successor. Unless, the incumbent resigns, is incapacitated or removed.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2023

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