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This is a question every sane Pakistani is asking. In every way, we are back to square one. We are swallowing our own tail.

In March 2022, a former prime minister accused a high-level functionary in the U.S. State Department of interference in our domestic affairs. A strong démarche was issued to the U.S. government, which with practised insouciance it ignored. This month, the same person, in an unverified audio conversation, allegedly appealed to a senior US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D) for her country’s support in his ongoing battle against the Pakistan government and the Pakistan Army.

In April 2022, 123 PTI MNAs “resigned from their seats by writing under their hand”. This week, the Lahore High Court set aside the decision of National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to accept the resignations of at least 53 PTI lawmakers and their subsequent de-notification by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The LHC now wants the speaker ‘’to hear out the relevant PTI members again and then take a decision regarding their resignations’’. If re-notified, they will return to the same Parliament they rejected with vehement contempt last year.

Pakistan’s negotiations with the IMF have come full circle to their starting point. The desperately sought IMF tranche is still not in the treasury. We are as bankrupt as we were a year ago, despite window-dressing deposits by the Chinese, the Saudis and the U.A.E. Worse, the IMF has declared that Pakistan's economy has shrunk from 6 percent in 2022 to under 0.5 percent this year.

The Pentagon must be concerned about another attack on its distant cousin in Rawalpindi. It will recall that on 10 October 2009, a group of militants belonging to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi staged a daring attack on the Pakistan Army’s GHQ in Rawalpindi. Many military and civilian hostages were held. ‘’It took the Pakistan Army’s elite commandos, the Special Service Group (SSG), more than 20 hours to kill or capture all of the militants and free most of the hostages.’’

Fourteen years later, on 9 May 2023, the same GHQ in Rawalpindi was stormed by an organised mob. Obviously, the SOPs regarding the security of our defence headquarters had been filed in the wrong drawer.

In June 2013, the house in Ziarat (Balochistan) where the Quaid spent the last months of his foreshortened life was incinerated. Ten years later, the house in Lahore which he bought but never occupied was torched by a rabble. Perhaps Jinnah was more prescient about his future in the country he created from verba non facta.

According to Sri Prakasa (India's first High Commissioner to Pakistan), Jinnah intended to live (perhaps even retire) in the house he built on Mount Pleasant Road, Mumbai. He sent this message to J. Nehru (then prime minister of India): `Tell Jawaharlal not to break my heart. I have built it brick by brick. Who can live in a house like that? What fine verandahs? […] You do not know how I love Bombay. I still look forward to going back there.'

Mercifully, the Quaid is beyond feeling chagrin at the state of decomposition of our Parliament. He would have agreed with Oliver Cromwell’s exasperation with the sparring Parliament of his time. In April 1653, Cromwell led an armed force into the House of Commons, dissolving it with this dismissal: " You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... In the name of God, go!"

Many who are frustrated by the current maelstrom in our politics pray for some Cromwell-like figure to do away with our Parliament.  That is wishful thinking. Each khaki Cromwell in our history has proved a more pallid, ineffectual version of his predecessor.

And to which political purgatory will he banish these impenitent parliamentarians?  They have nowhere to go except to their constituencies, where, like serpents, they will slough their previous skin and grow new markings.

The next general election already has a familiar mal-odour about it. Many recall the 1977 elections when PM Z. A. Bhutto was determined to have a landslide victory. He did, but the land slid from under him. 

Assume in the next elections, the PTI fulfils its leader’s expectations and delivers a victory. With more than a two-thirds majority? That will enable him to make changes to a Constitution he has no use for anyway. A simple majority?  He will still have to work with corrupt adversaries. Less than a majority? He might be tempted to imitate Bhutto in 1970 and reject the result's consequences. 

We are back to square one, swallowing our own tail. 



[DAWN, 25 MAY 2023] 

25 May 2023
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