Unmitigated dissent

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

HOW much negativity within leadership can people sustain and also how much will they sustain? Native intelligence (and I am not speaking of indigenous Intelligence services) tells us that sooner or later people demand more: solutions rather than accusations; actualized effort not oratory. The most recent of our former PMs, Imran Khan, is yet to learn to lose gracefully politically. Admittedly he was also ungraceful in victory; but deem him braggart or sporting legend, he was spot on when he warned he would be far more dangerous in political opposition than as PM. The cheering multitudes mesmerized at his subsequent jalsas give the statement alarming substance:

The danger lurks in the violence and hate he invokes for political ‘others’. Add to this the self-assumed authoritative interpretations of religious injunction and self-appointed mission he presses into service in pursuit of personal political supremacy. Our sociopolitical history offers too many chilling instances of the horrors of activated religious fanaticism and intolerance. Intellectually Imran Khan appears an oratorical street politico, for all the proclamatory vision.  

Debate is alien to imperial temperament, but time also showed up the PTI’s lack of aptitude for administrative management or ability to learn on the job. National need for a functional ‘running’ government fostered, even demanded, an urgent pressure of democratic opposition. Three years on, the submission of the motion of a vote of no confidence spurred the challenged PM into the shockingly unconstitutional — and thence quite naturally unanticipated — decision to dissolve the Assembly. Thwarted by the weight of due constitutional process, judicial pronouncement and invocation; the PTI leader and his party elite are now proudly self-declared as not allowing the successor ghadar ‘imported’ government to function, deeming this to be necessary to national self-respect and sovereignty. The PTI rejects the formulation of the current government as a fraud with Pakistan and its citizens. Imran means it when he says he and his following will overwhelm and overpower by sheer force of numbers, holding government hostage as it were in the federal capital, if their demands are not acceded to. At present this seems to be one for fresh elections forthwith.

Will Shahbaz Sharif’s coalitional government survive to attempt cope with the challenges, or will it take the escape route of fresh elections?

The truth is that – in Pakistan at any rate – street politics and the effectuality of its power is not necessarily truly representative: its success depends on an implicit coercive force. There is also another mass of people, howsoever variously electorally inclined, who in commitment to the scope and efficacious durability of democratic evolution, stay off the streets and prefer the ballot box as a means of political expression. They also realize this mode can be overset as much by undue expedition as postponement.

Thus at present it would be unfair to dismiss without due examination or a consensual compromise those doubting Census figures and finger-pointing at gerrymandering. Also, the imposition of EVM’s, the postal inclusion of the overseas Pakistanis’ vote, are hotly controversial; to say nothing of the fact that the ECP has structural reservations as to time required for implementation. Bear in mind that strong reservations were voiced from the outset at aspects of these proposals months ago, and that the issue was not satisfactorily opened to full parliamentary debate. Elections where the mode of conduct is held in doubt by electoral contestants and managers before ever they are held are likely to exacerbate rather than resolve political confrontation.  The very fact that Imran’s following is unquestioning raises questions. There is too strong an element of cultist hysteria. The rest of us need to think of where Imran Khan’s narratives of patriotism as presently requiring anti-Americanism; tied to that of long-established and strongly supported political leaders selling out fealty to the state’s interests for power and pelf; may culminate. That accusatory narrative is being reinforced with a corollary of his personal possession of ‘recorded evidence’ of a threat to his life to be revealed in the event of its actualizing. Why wait? It is but good sense – nationally and personally – to submit the evidence, show up the plotters and avert the murderous scheme. It would indeed if materialized have all hell break loose; and without any party figure with the dimension of Asif Zardari to say and see Pakistan khappe.