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Slapping in public, apologising in private

Published Feb 03, 2012 06:53am


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PM Gilani is a simple man from Multan and his politics is based on rural principles in which the first slap matters the most. - File Photo.

The rural life has a code of its own that may not make much sense to the urban dwellers.

And in village life, there is a commonly agreed wisdom to slapping or hitting your opponent hard in a big public gathering and then apologising to him in the dark of night.

This may not make much sense to urban dwellers; perhaps the phrase that comes close to capturing the sense of this strategy is the English saying that attack is the best defence.

The logic of the village dwellers is simple – an enmity is an enmity; there is no point hoping for a resolution or peace.

Hence, you might as well land a blow when and where you can (especially if others are watching) and worry about the consequences later.

If the situation gets really bad you always have the option of bowing and scraping in front of the rival and seek forgiveness from him. But what the rest of the village will always remember is the slap in daylight.

The prime minister is a simple man from Multan and his politics is based on rural principles in which the first slap matters the most.

What else can explain his behaviour in the recent past?

Hemmed in by the military, the judiciary and the PML-N (that took memogate to the Supreme Court), a nervous and irritated Prime Minister Gilani used most of January to land the first blow – in public – again and again.

On Jan 9, Prime Minister Gilani, first at an exhibition and then on the floor of the house, said that he would not allow “state within a state” in the country. In the same speech he even pointed fingers at the security establishment for Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country.

His rhetoric took everyone by surprise. Stunned, analysts felt that the end was near and Gilani’s days were numbered. He had crossed the red line.

But the man himself was like a bull in a China shop. Within weeks, in an interview with a Chinese online magazine, he declared that the answers submitted by the COAS and DG ISI to the apex court, which had been submitted in the wake of memogate scandal, were “unconstitutional and illegal”.

In the same vein, during a media interaction in Lahore in later part of January, when asked if the military leadership was pushing him to retract his statements on COAS and DG ISI, he said: “I am only answerable to the parliament not an individual”.

Along the way, he also sacked the defence secretary, who was a man chosen by the generals, and replaced him with his trusted bureaucrat, Nargis Sethi.

Everyone was convinced that Gilani was on his way out.

Those whose claim to fame is their closeness to the politicians insisted that the prime minister was ready to embrace martyrdom.

Like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he would defy the generals and the courts (the present establishment) and go down fighting – which admittedly in the prime minister’s case would have just meant imprisonment and a loss of his position as the head of government.

In fact, one journalist, who claims to be very close to everyone including the military and the civilian leadership, said Gilani was to be sent packing on Jan 19, the day of his appearance in the court to face contempt charges.

But come D-Day and Gilani, the lion took a lamb with him to court. Aitzaz Ahsan, whose stated position was not to seek a confrontation with the court, and he tried his best to defuse the situation with the judges. That Ahsan is still far from his goal is a story for another day especially as its end is still to be written.

Anyway, to get back to the Gilani-military story, after having huffed and puffed and stunned the military as well as his own detractors, Gilani met the generals away from the media glare and thrashed out the matters.

It then appeared that all was hunky dory in the world of Gilani and the generals – the prime minister took his words back and absolved the COAS and ISI head of any legal hanky panky.

But that first slap that he landed in public. Will people ever forget that even if his detractors assail him yet again for backtracking? Not those who understand how life in a village works.


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Comments (15) Closed

Y Khan Feb 03, 2012 02:18pm
so much for the prediction of the journalist who was close to the Generals that Gillani will be sent packing. Journalists like this have been giving dates about this government since the elections.
(Dr.) B.N. Anand fro Feb 03, 2012 03:26pm
Very interesting analysis. But what awaits the PM on 13th January? BNA
Tauheed Ahmed Feb 03, 2012 04:54pm
Although like many other Pakistanis, the author chooses to castigate the prime minister for this, this logic explains quite well the behavior of the famed Pakistani "anti-americanism" of pakistani leaders of all stripes - civil and military, bearded or otherwise. That is, spouting anti-american or anti-west rhetoric on TV and public gatherings, seeking to get visas to study or migrate to the west for themselves and their families in private.
Ghani Khan Feb 03, 2012 06:09pm
You forgot to mention the unique quality in men of honour - 'Never apologize for telling the truth'. Our man from Multan was found lacking.
Blitzer Feb 03, 2012 06:10pm
If what the author of this article thinks/says about Gilani is true, then Gilani is an incredibly naive. He had the audacity to blame the security establishment of hiding OBL in Pakistan -- that too without any evidence whatsoever -- while so conveniently forgetting that his government has been in power for the better part of the past 4 years. Any sane head of a democratic government in any part of the world, even in a proverbial banana republic, would not have maligned their own Armed Forces in a fashion that he did. He came across as an absolute ****** while addressing the members of parliament when he infamously made the "state within the state" remarks. Any intelligent person could infer that he was undoubtedly pointing a finger at the Army/ISI and accusing them of meddling in the state's affairs. He then backtracked from that position and pinned the blame on the Sec. of Defense and sacked him. And this statement of the PM just takes the cake: “I am only answerable to the parliament not an individual”. As a matter of fact, he IS only answerable to just one individual and that is the President of Pakistan. Gilani should pick his fights more carefully because at the end of the day he might get much more than just a political martyrdom (the Nishan-e-Haider analog much coveted by the PPP). The people of Pakistan are sick of the incumbent regime.
G.N.Nawab Feb 03, 2012 06:46pm
Any humanbeing who gets developed his / her character to be like this ( as per English Dictionary ) is called as a HYPOCRATE. This has nothing to do with being from a Village background or an Urban background. The Question is that,"How much is someone Honest & Serious towards his / her duties & responsibilities entrusted on him being appointed on a particular position. We can go through the details of all what is going on OR happening around, not only at Government Level but also at Public & Political Level, is like a Mirror for all of us to look at and see the Face / Picture of all of us as a Nation. Ex-President of Pakistan & General Pervaiz Musharaf answered once to a person during his disigned Media Program "Aiwanay Sadar Say" that Military is also from the same stock. The answer is very clear that what we have in our hands ( the Pure Milk or Diluted with Water ) and by Blowing it by Hand Mechanism or by Electrical Machine System, we cannot get / obtain Pure BUTTER ) very simple answer. Allah / God / The Creator has guided all of us ( The Humanbeings ) through His Messengers & Holy Books, How to Live our Lives & how to grow ourselves & how to build our Characters, I believe we all have forgotten to match with that SET Standards and trying ourselves to prove that we are the BEST, which is not and never True. There is always wisdom in any thing to learn and utilize but who cares as long as it is not our problem type thinking is prevailing almost each and every corner around.
Amjad Wyne Feb 03, 2012 07:09pm
Two things to conclude from this analysis (although I disagree) - One, that Gilani is the only villager in the government and two, he has not met another villager like him - at least not as yet. The fact is that wisdom is not the property of the urbanites - there are as many wise people in the villages as there are in the cities. Suggesting that simple people cannot be wise is not true either. What Mr. Gilani has proven is that he is the embodiement of a number of characteristics - He slaps first, he speaks first, he is constantly nervous, he is unsure, . In my opinion, he is not a villager - he is a misfit for this job.
Sophist Feb 03, 2012 08:19pm
Well written, good job to the author of this article.
M Bhutto Feb 03, 2012 09:22pm
Khawer, I would appreciate the words you put in the chain of sentences. It is quite right first slap matters - not only in the rural but in everyday life. I am thinking all the times why we cant dare to speak publically on the wrong doings of the Militarymen, they are the government servants and are there to defend the geographical boundaries of the country being in their skin not to dictate the home owners and not to rule the Nation. I hope the day will come when we all will realise our responsibilities and will work to strengthen our country and put institutions back on the track and pullout corruption from the routes.
Javed Qamer Feb 03, 2012 09:54pm
Excellent article. Tears were running out of my eyes. Keep it up. Javed Virginia
TKhan Feb 03, 2012 10:36pm
"And in village life, there is a commonly agreed wisdom to slapping or hitting your opponent hard in a big public gathering and then apologising to him in the dark of night." What an insult to the underprivilleged but honest folks of the rural areas. It may be the way of life for elites but for sure not of the ordinary people. They are honest in the day light and just as honest in the dark of the night. Mr. Gillani may go down fighting rather do the right thing in the interest of the nation. (actually Gillanis never go down, they rise up & keep coming back again & again in a different govt.) If there is nothing to hide the write! "And if it didn't fit, you must acquit".
Adil Jadoon Feb 04, 2012 04:16am
it is a shame that those predictions did not come true!
masroor durrani Feb 04, 2012 05:52am
I am an American Pakistani and stand much socialized various ethnic and diversified population. I feel very much ashamed when Pakistan is discussed. Zardari 10% Zardari money laudered Zardari suspect in murders, I say not yet proved. They laugh and say your PM Gilani too much scandls I say nothing proved. OK what about insulting the highest court and defying court orders I left the room.
M N Panini Feb 04, 2012 08:53am
As a student of South Asian anthropology I appreciate the point that Khawar is making about giving the first slap in public. In rural politics of South Asia, giving the first slap counts even more if the weaker one administers it to the stronger one because it is the stronger guy whose status and image will be tarnished beyond repair while it only enhances the weaker guy's reputation even if he has to apologise subsequently. And in rural politics power comes from the capacity to make your opponents fear your very presence. And to counter such terrorising leaders, the tactic of slapping in daylight and being profusely apologetic at night is a fine tuned weapon of the weak.
Shaukat Brah Feb 04, 2012 10:04am
I wish it was so simple. I hope our leaders are honorable people. However, I think the match was fixed long ago in 2007 and the drama continues.