Politics in a cul-de-sac | Opinion

There isn’t a way one might do a lighter column away from the heavy political stuff which has become our bane. What do you do when the country seems to hurtle from one blunder into another without there being a sense of what we are putting ourselves into? A ruling party’s representative called the other day to share his own frustration complaining that “you [commentators] think this is the US or some European democracy where things will be as you pontificate”.

He is right. We are in this forsaken system where politics has taken a colour of its own. Revolving around ‘aggrandised’ versions of personal iconic-ism, the entire structure gravitates towards the pleasure of the leadership. Looking at Shahbaz Sharif in the last two PML-N congregations only adds meat to this proposition. He has learnt his lesson and is pleasing his ‘brother’ to the latter’s satisfaction after having toed very briefly an independent line. Now all is back in line. Over time, these leaders take on a halo which consumes even the most enterprising luminary to conform to a culture that rewards personal loyalty and unquestioned obedience. Pakistan and the PML-N are at such a point of inflection where politics has been reduced to the barest form of sycophancy and blatant tribalism.

But let’s review our current dilemma. There is a PML-N government, yet it doesn’t seem to exist. The PM will not be the PM that he is and instead will invoke at all times the ‘real PM’, the disqualified Nawaz Sharif. And while the PM goes through with all his functions, even those which had been carelessly abandoned by Nawaz Sharif, he remains an overtly disinterested PM. And this is the amazing paradox of the strain of politics which embodies Pakistan where a prime minister of one of the largest Muslim nations, a nuclear power at that, must inhibit any signs of exuberance; instead a jaded reluctance exhibits in support of NS who remains the ‘King of Hearts’.

So there is a government, but there is no government. There is a PM, but he is no PM. The one who is not the PM is the virtual PM because that is how the political logic goes in the current Circa. The ministers, an army of them, are appointed but they don’t want to function in their ministries; they rather present themselves in the court of the ‘dear leader’ wherever that might be, in Lahore or Islamabad, keeping him company in good times and bad and converting the bad into good for his pleasure. In the court, the ongoing case is ‘the State vs Nawaz Sharif’, but state ministers are there to support Nawaz Sharif rather than their state – which is a party to the case. Only in Pakistan does a sham as deep as this run what is called a government.

The interior minister, thus, ‘spake’: “there cannot be two states in one”. Someone needs to ask him whether he recognises a state at all. From their pronouncements it seems they simply don’t care. Rather than attend to their functions, the two sitting ministers of interior will wait on the deposed prime minister as he battles the state represented by the two ministers, and so a blunder will occur by way of a subordinate office seeking extra security by the Rangers for the court proceedings.

To subsequently suggest this wasn’t intended or not agreed to while it was actually put in effect is neither here nor there. No one intervened to correct the anomaly if it was one. And it wasn’t because this remains the given drill in this age of heightened security where everything is an overkill. To fall on ‘authorised’ and ‘correct’ procedure out of a faux pas then becomes a reflex. So something went amiss in this entire episode. By the afternoon the event had assumed gargantuan proportions, almost setting institutions upon institutions. We ‘may’ have returned from the brink of another political misfortune.

They and other ministers seem to have learnt that governments anyway run on auto in Pakistan, or that NS matters far more than Pakistan. If NS exists, they exist. This is called deliberate failing of the government to prove to others that the government will run only when NS is back in the saddle. The entire country can go take a walk, in the meanwhile, with all these challenges – internal and external ,as we love to call them – abounding. Blackmail, did you say? Blackmailing into submission for an intended political objective. The less said the better; it may threaten democracy. If it were not tragic it would be comical.

Yes, the army chief was away to Kabul for a day’s visit we learnt but come Monday, the day after, and one hadn’t noticed any urgency in whether the PM wished to be briefed on the army chief’s parleys there with the president and other members of the Afghan government. The Afghan ambassador, who happened to be along, tweeted that there ‘hadn’t been a visit more consequential’ than this one. But the PM had other priorities that kept him occupied like waiting on his ‘virtual’ PM, and ensuring that the political loop to induct NS back to the fold was safely closed. Both Kabul and the world can wait; we have more important things to do here.

Every time Nawaz Sharif must make an appearance before the court there is always this melodrama around his appearance when an unending retinue of ministers accompany him at the cost of their functions, short-changing the taxpayer no end. On his first appearance, many gunmen, surely from his security detail, entered the premises too. The ministers’ security details were in addition. The judge let NS go in less than six minutes to keep order in the court and to keep pace. The progress though remains perfunctory for reasons of the pandemonium on these occasions. Whether this is the intended design is anyone’s guess.

Having survived the brunt of an imposed disorder which has taken down many nations of the Middle East, any misfortune of this hapless nation can turn into a Black Swan that can simply overturn any order beyond the pale of control from within. Is this what some may be waiting to enact before Pakistan can be put into its place? I don’t know. But the signs are ominous. Our polarisation as a nation is almost perfect for just one such event and we can be history. As we serve inflated egos with statements meant to please the ‘Boss’ riven with disunity and hate, we only feed the vultures who wait upon our carcass. Sadly, we aren’t aware. Unless stopped somewhere, we are heading into a complete political, societal and institutional meltdown. This can only be music to some.

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This was originally published in The News.

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