Plugged in: headphones or earplugs?

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

The PTI has too many spokespersons. The spin has become self-defeating. It no longer leaves listeners merely dizzy with listening: the noise is so loud that far too many have stopped listening or can’t make out exactly what is being said. And, in the meanwhile, there may be a whole new message which even a fanatically attentive audience is losing out on.

Now that, the perspicacious sceptic say, is the whole point — engaged in lip-reading in a deafening din, we don’t look where the real action is. It’s the juggler’s sleight of hand in auditory form.     However, when you give up trying to make sense of the statements and messages being fed you, you start to think for yourself. Or to put it another way when you are glutted you start to digest. So, where are we heading – what is actually happening?      In an off-the-cuff session with journalists after

a foundation-laying (road? University? Housing project? There’ve been so many of these, who remembers?) the PM pointed out that in a parliamentary system nothing got done unless one had an absolute majority.
There are ways of dressing up dictatorial powers, juntas, and a totalitarian approach to government, where it’s not for the people to reason why, let alone select.  He has often expressed a personal admiration for absolute rulers; the single party system. Or shown – despite the shock and awe Trump’s implementation of it elicited internationally – empathy if not advocacy of the American presidential system over the British parliamentary system we so mismanage. One could be forgiven in thinking he is convinced it is better to change a system than allow it to change him.
Although the incumbent government may not be strong enough to change the system constitutionally; it is still weak enough to wreck it. Systemic failure is more and more a topic of discussion. Parliament seems of less public relevance politically than street turnouts. Abuse and mudslinging, rather like yellow journalism, have audience appeal.
The parliamentary opposition has fallen into the trap of tit-for-tat vulgar verbal exchange with the PTI. And as the PTI’s parliamentary leadership disdains parliament and the PM does not acknowledge leaders of the Opposition inside or outside the House it is not possible for the opposition to engage in substantial discussion. To be fair, we need to remind ourselves that the Opposition did quite patiently seek discussion with a view to consensus and compromise but overtures were repeatedly scorned, and rubbished as attempts for what the PTI calls an NRO. That term harks back to the Musharraf era when a mutual amnesty as such was negotiated between exiled or excommunicated political leadership and the khaki-clad civil chief executive who could not avert personal retirement from military office much longer. The arrangement, or deal if one prefers to sneer, was called the National Reconciliation Ordinance. In fact, that is what it was: Is national reconciliation undesirable? National polarization, which is presently the reading on the PTI’s political compass, is decidedly more toxic to the well-being of Pakistan’s body politic.
Does such pragmatism mean condoning past cronyism, kickbacks, decisions? Yes. Does that mean a validation perpetuation of them? Of course not. Course-correction is what the democratic process is all about. The PPP and the PML(N) have shown a capacity to self-correct. Does the PTI possess this essential democratic ability, or will its captain sink the ship with the weight of his lofty principles? In that case, he needs a one-party system for the voting public, like the rats he deems those not playing his way, are likely to leave a sinking ship and vote for parties and leaders current spin seeks to persuade is are disproved and damaged beyond recall. Fresh elections anyone? Thanks, I’ll take a look.