September Issue 2014

By | Editorial | News & Politics | Opinion | Published 10 years ago

A poorly scripted TV serial would not have provided the Pakistani nation with more intrigue, drama, fireworks and sizzle than the events of the last three weeks.

And, what’s more, they have unmasked in “full glory” the faces of some of the lead players, warts et al, and exposed the vulnerabilities of a political system that has taken repeated battering from military interventions.

Firstly, this unfolding saga has brought to the fore the exceedingly tall ambitions of the rising star of politics, Imran Khan, and the lengths he is prepared to go to capture the throne. He joined hands with the leader of a religious group, a rabble-rouser who has no political constituency, to hold dharnas; held the country hostage to a singular demand;violated every norm in the book; abused and slandered anyone and everyone, from fellow politicians, to judges, to journalists to members of the Election Commission; and showed self-seeking adventurists — worse, jihadis — the way to dislodge elected governments with the help of a group of danda-wielding, stone-throwing supporters.

The Sharif government hasn’t emerged unscathed from this unfortunate chapter either. Its arrogance and complete incompetence stand exposed. At an especially convened session of the National Assembly to express support for the Prime Minister vis-a-vis Khan, parliamentarian after parliamentarian lambasted the administration for their poor performance.

The PM’s penchant for shooting himself in the foot is well known. As is his disdain for the Parliament and Senate. He stayed away from the National Assembly till the dharnas turned violent and sent him scurrying for parliamentary cover, as rumours flew fast and furious about the army’s interest in dislodging him.

Given the history of his assorted tiffs with the army, one would have expected Sharif to pick his battles carefully and wisely. But drunk with the power of his huge mandate, he probably overplayed his hand. From Indo-Pak relations, to the Af-Pak policy to Musharraf’s indictment, Sharif opened too many fronts, all at once, much to the chagrin of the army. And the army, despite its vociferous denials, may have chosen to hit back. Captain Khan’s allegedly “manufactured” revolution proved, if further proof were needed, the army’s overarching presence.

PTI defector Javed Hashmi alleged that some men in khaki had scripted it, and were the driving force behind it, as was being conjectured. If that had not been the case, it was argued in many circles, the dharnas would have been wound up forcibly right at the outset.

EBut now that Hashmi has spilled the beans, Sharif has secured a vote of confidence from Parliament, and the judiciary is determined not to use the doctrine of necessity anymore, the khakis may find it difficult to dislodge the Prime Minister. But given the vagaries of Pakistan’s politics, one cannot be certain.

Meanwhile, the media too has become a power-broker. News coverage is being slanted, based on which side of the divide the channels’ big bosses tilt towards. Objectivity has flown out of the window.

In short, it’s a free-for-all. To borrow from an Urdu phrase:“Iss hamam may sab nangay hain.”

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

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