ONE could well think Pakistan is short of problematic issues, for the focal topic of unflagging heated discussion among politicians, anchors, analysts — ongoing from the closing week of October — is the perspective on something that happened at the close of February 2019.
The peg is what Ayaz Sadiq (the even-toned and even-handed Speaker of the House in the preceding PML(N) spell) had to say about an attitude towards it in Parliament on 28 October. Until tutored into thinking otherwise, I would have said ‘referred to’ February 2019 rather than ‘said about’ for he was just being childishly rude about a fellow parliamentarian, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, FM then and now, who he depicted as scared silly by possible developments back then. It was a cascade of unduly disparaging personal remarks in bad taste. It could have been ignored or condemned as such, instead of being officially exaggerated into serious aspersions on the part of the PML(N) upon military ability and attitude.
A CONFIDENCE deficit is afloat. Will it reach the floor of the House?
With an increasing frequency the media’s elect and select fret out loud over the content and style of current governance, and what to do given variously perceived hazards to national security those in charge seem unware of. Actually the parliamentary system and our constitution – despite curtain calls or Muqarrirs of Zia’s Eighth Amendment – is quite clear as to the protocols of a vote of no confidence. But, since President Alvi can’t do a President Leghari on the PM; and the opposition is constrained and severely handicapped and has egg on its face over the no confidence motion moved against the Senate chairman, there is cause for debate as to whether the rescue service for democratic letdowns lies in a major systemic shakeup rather than parliamentary vacillations:
What sage and smooth analysts argue: is the point of recycling leaders and parties that have been tried and been found wanting twice, even thrice, over? Even the brand new party whose leader had been jostling to win the PM cup for twenty-two years and finally reached the finishing line remains, despite the passage of twenty-two months, at a loss in victory.
THE cricket metaphor in political comment is by now so over-stretched as to have become even more applicable to the ruling party. Heaven and Pemra forbid that one has match-fixing; ball-tampering; tergiversating umpires or a well-prepared pitch in mind. Doctoring is for Shaukat Khanum and spectators realise home-ground is home-ground and competitors are opponents if not encroachers: Wipe ‘em out! However, it does happen that a match becomes a foregone conclusion and spectator interest sinks.
It is humbling to think our government of the day derives its political mystique from an endearing playboy captain who won the cricket World Cup for Pakistan about thirty years ago. Is it reassuring or alarming that it took that long for the cup of national gratitude to overflow? Or can it indicate that once the cup over-floweth there is demand for another vessel? After all there are many sports: We were once Olympians at hockey, and had as good as a dynastic monopoly on squash. Admittedly, those champions were not Oxbridge or Ivy league, or even, come to think of it, madressa alumni. Still, there is consolation for advocates of non-cricketing political gaming that the PML(N) does have hockey linkages: think Gulu Butt and Supreme Court compounds. And, for good measure, it has indigenous free-style wrestling champions in the family. For that other out-fielded grassroots mainstream party, the PPP; the only gaming metaphor that comes to mind is depressingly cerebral: Chess. How to read the fact that ZAB didn’t need sporting skills to make it to Oxford and political distinction, and for his heirs Benazir and Bilawal, Oxbridge was as good as a birthright. Politics it would appear is not the only thing that is dynastic: brain and brawn are too. Together (though not virtually) they make an unbeatable combination. But then they are seldom long enough on the same page.
Recently, in the course of a nationwide ‘telethon’ we heard the PM’s views on the media, an illustrious maulana’s views on the media; and after due pause some media responses thereto on the media; sometimes we even hear viewers’ views on the media: when and how it proffers the platform. Ah there’s the rub! The electronic media’s message and the messenger—irrespective of the guiding principle—are selective and selected. In all fairness is there any way it can be otherwise? Ultimately, the viewer’s choice—his selection—is limited to switching channels or switching off. Not so the State: it can control, project, promote, expunge, exclude, omit, invent, compel.
VIRAL fear is experienced by young and old alike globally – but not uniformly. Viral pandemic, it is certified, Covid-19 is also a search engine on the stratifications of globalization. The impact is manifold and varied culturally and economically, and we may only learn empirically if there are any impermeable layers. There is interaction and adaptation; yet there may be responses and outcomes that will never be felt in common and so a separate-ness be reaffirmed.
‘Karachi, no one owns this city’, is yet another of the doleful explanatory clichés about the metropolis. Yet Karachi might be better off if it was left alone for a bit – at present it continues to be what it has long been: a battleground for civic and political ownership. Despite the pitiable state it has been reduced to by its varied custodians it remains a prize — demographically and thence politically — and always geo-strategically — as a port.
IF one begins by saying the civil politician is as much to blame for military influence in politics as any army general, one can then stop mincing words and — having implicitly ceded that army boots do march upon civil political space — embark on a less coy discussion of this aspect of Pakistan’s democratic march with reference to the pulsating present not just the detonated past. What have the civil and military learnt from abounding exemplified lessons of history and how do they use that knowledge? Bear in mind that the canvas common to both is the space Pakistan’s people inhabit. They should be calling the shots – but not in cross-fire. Which is all that civil politics as played presently by professional politicians seems to be doing: Is there a Cheshire cat grin on military faces?
Justice Munir early on provided the doctrine of necessity as just recourse for dissolving assemblies, legislative or otherwise. General Ayub, the trailblazer of military political interventionism who as C-in-C helped President Iskander Mirza shelve Pakistan’s very first much belated but non-durable constitution of 1956 in 1958, wasn’t much bothered about cosmetic constitutional camouflage. But such is the law of popular political gravity, he came to see wisdom in promulgating a civil presidential system with a customised rule-book. They called it the 1962 Constitution. When parliamentary nostalgia and popular discontent reached a critical mass, Bhutto, founding the PPP, rode the civil storm; but the instrument for a return to regard for the will of the people was an intra-martial agreement. The army, commanded by General Yayha, structured with a legal framework order, voluntarily oversaw a return to civil electoral politicking, with elections duly held as promised in December 1970 which are still undisputedly deemed historically pristine and translucent. They also turned out to be popularly unacceptable and the eastern wing parted from the western wing.
IT is false to say those were lawyers attacking doctors or doctors under attack on December 11th in Lahore. It was us: people like you and me were doing that to people like you and me in and to our hospital. Something increasingly toxic within and around us is generating an atmosphere of violence. Personal self-respect has degenerated into self-righteous entitlement and intimidatory demand. Can we arrest this slide into the bestial before we all become completely desensitized or submerged?
and where did it begin? It is chastening to remind ourselves that an angrily
contested partition was integral part of the subcontinent’s venture into
self-rule. Simply put: this vast subcontinent’s major Muslim minority and
heavily Hindu majority did not trust each other enough to share a common space.
That was 1947. In 2019 the polity is still wrangling violently within its
separate states, failing to resolve a sociopolitical equation of common human
interest: We can justly point a finger at the subcontinent’s cannabilistic mother
India; emergent Pakistan; Bangladesh; Nepal; Bhutan; and even a not that safely
enough offshore Sri Lanka. Why then is the rampage at Lahore’s PIC particularly
Of course Muslims feel that Islam is one as conveyed by its Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Quranic revelation, and concretized by his exemplary life. But apart from podium oratory, reality demands the qualification that, as apparent in contemporary practice, this singleness emerges in the fact of variously distinct manifold ‘ones’: individual understanding and schools of interpretation are separate and differ.