By Rifaat Hamid Ghani
Plaudits are due the revolving pageant of official Information bigwigs whose fatuity conceals the adroit competence of their ministry of information, no matter which of them is managing it. That institution has the varied segments of public opinion exactly as it would have them be: numbed and distracted with statements both highly-charged and conflicting; repetitive and inconsistent; contradictory and confirmative; denying and reaffirming; so that no one quite knows what the government and its minions and bogeymen are about. Reportage and news is a turbid flood of speculative analyses and patchy investigations of what could be reality or should be reality or may or may not have happened.
Ignorance in this case is not bliss; and knowledge they say is power. Getting to the real data involves excavation as well as demolition, and common citizens are not equipped with that kind of heavy machinery. They worry intensely about what lies ahead or is in store for them. Amorphous fears are usually paralytic. In a sense today’s informed citizens are democratically in the dark: What do elected representatives represent? What seeds the hybrid system that is a verbalized phrasal reality? Is the seed genetically modified with autarky lost?
Even though we are predominantly illiterate, we crave public sanction for our literati to access and decipher the contents of the page common to the incumbent government and our increasingly emboldened (as far as intrusions into civil political space goes) military establishment. Is the hybrid system an elixir of trusted governance? And what does actual constitutional protection amount to when constitutional form and substance may be ordained and curatively interpreted, with changing necessities? What or where is the state’s writ when disruptive violence and bullying coercion may claim religious inspiration and insurance? Despite literacy, most of us can’t formulate exactly why Justice Faez Issa comes to mind in that context; whether he or his missus won a case or lost it or it is still on the anvil — gavel, hammer, and tongs. But we can recall there are many months to be whiled away until he retires or else becomes Pakistan’s Chief Justice. The constitutionality of parliamentary debating of the constitutional propriety of the COAS’ extension several months ago was comparatively less fraught!
To turn a leaf: Unlike the ministry of Information which just experiences alternating ministers, leaving seasoned staff and protocols intact; the ministry of Foreign Affairs recently had its ambassadorial reps — courtesy Zoom-type services and the worldwide web — publicly chided and rapped on the knuckles to the doubtful edification of a national audience and assured delight of an international audience. Is the PM still unaware of, or is he recklessly unmindful of, certain proprieties of office? The persona of an ambassador and what it signifies formally is spelt out in letters of accreditation. In the hybridity ratio, the spokesperson of the ISPR — an acronym that is pleasantly familiar unlike the proliferating rubrics that abound in these times of digital infatuation — had in any case come to sound more and more like a FO spokesperson, retailing the COAS’ professional social calls and engagements. Perhaps the ISPR will soon decisively if not representationally speak to and for all Pakistanis who are not expats and do not have to lend their ears: remittances suffice.
The PM often tells us local yokels what people and things are like in other countries. Let us try tell him a little about ourselves — the ‘inpats’ outside of the stadium. We are unlike the gullible rather easily persuaded rustic in, for instance, America’s Corn belt. And we have a much wider range of televangelists. We are also less malleable or biddable than strongman-loving or already socio-politically overcome peoples. Our ethnicities are multiple; and include rooted nationalists and idealistic immigrants for all of whom the self-created state of Pakistan (Quaid-i-Azam did not function in a vacuum) signifies escape from majority domination and the provision of recognizable political equity and identity.
Fiscal probity is admirable – so is much else. Politically General Zia-ul-Haq was never deemed financially corrupt. He is still remembered for his recognition and facilitation of the special person, even if it was for his daughter’s sake. But he was a political disaster for the country he so loved. Field Marshal Ayub gave the country an economic boom, its industrial and manufacturing capacity: He is economically remembered for the 20 families.
Whether or not Imran Khan got a push-start from Hamid Gul, needed Tahirul Qadri’s men, his self-stressed 22 years of hard political grafting is rather easily withering at the roots, despite the cheer-leading. The dynastic politicians, however, remain functionally rooted despite the tugging and pulling. Their parties’ working structures are surprisingly intact despite sustained battering. Obviously voters feel they got something from the PPP and PMLN that king’s parties and evergreen electables do not yield even in hybridization: But which EVMs might?