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OUT OF GEAR [Published as ĎGodís Creations and Pak Pollsí]

Pakistan and God enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Pakistan needs God for its survival.  God needs Pakistan for his credibility. Like Voltaire’s watch, Pakistan provides evidence that there is a God. This master craftsman must look with despair as his creation misses every gear of rational governance.

Pakistan has completed two consecutive five year parliamentary terms. It is an achievement of sorts, considering the journey underwent abrupt change of drivers, a low passenger load (a lack of quorum often interrupted legislative business), and someone in uniform manning the switches who derailed its momentum.      

Pakistan is scheduled to hold its 13th national elections on July 25th this year.  In the subcontinent, July, not T.S. Eliot’s April, is the cruellest month. The results of that day will reveal whether the ballot boxes exonerate Nawaz Sharif even though he stands disqualified by the bench, whether Imran Khan will fulfil his self-defined destiny to become prime minister – to govern the ungovernable (to borrow the title of Dr Ishrat Husain’s latest book), and whether Zardari Ali Bhutto will emerge as the minority kingmaker in a fragmented parliament.

A year ago, Nawaz Sharif was unassailable. He could have called for snap elections in the autumn of 2017. Instead, he preferred to squeeze the tube empty. He has paid for his greed. Last year, seas would have parted at his command.  Today, he is a Moses, drowning among cases that have been floating for years.

His Aaron – Shahbaz Sharif – sees his chance of becoming prime minister.  The obstacles of an obstinate father and an obdurate elder brother have gone. Shahbaz has taken dancing lessons. He has learned to goose-step. He is convinced that everything he has done to create a ‘shining’ Punjab will be converted into a mandate to repeat the miracle at the national level. All he needs is for his dancing partner to acknowledge that he is no longer his brother’s brother.  

The impending literary revelations of Imran Khan’s last wife Reham Khan, like Tehmina Durrani’s salacious exposure (My Feudal Lord) of her previous husband G.M Khar, will not destroy their target. They will only act as a political Viagra, stimulating his macho reputation. Gandhi’s abstinence and Modi’s continence have no parallel in Pakistani politics.

Until the elections in July, interim governments are being inducted to masquerade at national and provincial capitals. Such bamboo governments are temporary, a constitutional artifice that in practice only institutionalised suspicion among parliamentary parties. The 1973 Constitution intended the provision of an interim mechanism as a safeguard against outgoing governments being tempted to walk off with the family silver. Instead, the fissures between the PML-N, the PPP, the PTI, and the rump PML-Q, on the selection of the interim prime minister and the provincial chief ministers (the allocation of specific ministries was not even addressed) have revealed how deeply they distrust each other. Sadly, they not only appear to loathe one another; they were willing to sacrifice the national interest in order to damage their opponents. A poor augury indeed for the next five years, whichever party comes into power in July 2018.   

Those who remember history will recall the December 1970 elections. When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League emerged with a majority at the national level, Z. A. Bhutto and his PPP refused to accept the results. In July 2018, regardless of whether the PML-N or a PTI-PPP shot-gun coalition wins, will the loser be tempted to call ‘Foul’ as Bhutto did, and refuse to play the game?

God should not put away his watchmaker’s loupe. He may need it sooner than he thinks.   



 [The Tribune, Chandigarh, 10 June 2018] 




10 June 2018
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