December issue 2002

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 22 years ago

It could only happen in Pakistan. A PML(Q) contender for the Sindh Chief Minister’s post asks for postponement of the Sindh Assembly because he does not have the requisite votes to make it to the top slot.

The governor obliges by postponing the session indefinitely — read till the man gets the required numbers.

And that, one presumes, will not be a tall order. Given the wide reach of the invisible hands that continue to dangle the carrot and wield the stick unabashedly in their game of securing the right numbers. Given that the law that forbids floor-crossing has been held in abeyance while the rest of constitution ’73 stands restored. Horse-trading is in, as are corrupt politicians. So much for NAB and Musharraf’s lofty ideals. Lotas have been born again in the respectable garb of “forward blocks.” Loan defaulters suffered pangs of “conscience” subsequent to their NAB references being put on hold, and switched over to the King’s side.

It’s every legislator for himself — and the people be damned. There is no talk of issues, of problems. No statement of policy on poverty alleviation, income generation, eradication of illiteracy, provision of clean drinking water, improvement of the economy. The only sounds that emanate from the parliamentarians are “Gimme gimme, gimme.” The Muttahida Qaumi Movement wants the Haqiqis ‘no-go’ areas to be converted into ‘go-in’ areas for themselves and ‘no-go’ areas for the Haqiqis. The PPPP wants the cases against their leader and her spouse to be withdrawn and the couple declared Mr. and Mrs. Clean. The MMA will settle for nothing less than their own prime minister. The newest members of the forward bloc are angling for as many ministries as they can grab.

Is this the face of “sustainable democracy”? Even the three-week-old prime minister seems to be in danger of losing his gilded chair before he has had a chance to settle in.

Not quite what the general ordered or desired. All that the King’s men, with all their wheeling and dealing, coercion and cajoling, and bribing and bamboozling, have been able to deliver is a one-vote majority that is in danger of coming down like a house of cards with the slightest hint of turbulence in the air.

If there is any one group that has managed to score a sensational scoop way beyond its own expectations, it is the MMA. And they’re grinning all the way to the assemblies. Why, they’ve even managed to get their wives, sisters and sisters-in-law in the namehram parliament, burqa et al — who said anything about segregation in parliament?

They’ve succeeded in forming the government in two provinces for now. And in one, they’ve even ordered the enforcement of their brand of Shariah. Separate prayer and ablution places for women at bus stands. No liquor and no gambling. No tape recorders, no TVs, and no VCRs aboard buses. And they’ve declared that all public transport will have to screech to a halt five times a day for prayers, or else the driver will be prosecuted. Has Mr Durrani never heard of qaza namaz?

Stop the world, Pakistan wants to get off here — and stay here, suspended somewhere in time.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.