Illegal custodians of a false democracy
On the run and where to go, what to do?
My friends and relatives were bemused that I was returning home from London with such turmoil in the offing. They will never understand I nor accept that I am a creature of the volcano. When a volcano is about to erupt what business does its creature have being anywhere except in its crater? I love to see history in the making and wouldn’t have been anywhere else for anything in the world.
Only God is King, not this ruler or that. None should ever forget that, be he prince or pauper.
Historical forces are on moving fast in Pakistan, but only the few beneficiaries here and abroad and of the current system and government are clinging on to what passes for ‘democracy’ in this sad country. An example of not understanding history-in-the-making is the US strategic think-tank Stratfor saying: “Pakistan’s civilian forces are undermining democracy.” What democracy? Do rigged elections mean democracy? Actually, they are trying to bring in real democracy for the first time. But I forget: in the Third World, the western electoral process that passes for democracy is the hegemon’s weapon that throw up poor governments that they can manipulate in its interests. A Pakistani wiseacre wrote that the custodians of democracy are destroying democracy, or words to that effect. He should have added, “once again”. The truth is that “the illegal custodians of a false democracy are destroying the sham and thank God for it”. Hopefully it will lead to a new dawn and not something even worse than what we have. You never know.
As always, the ball seems to be moving towards the army’s court. When the crunch comes, it will perforce have to become the final arbiter, the question being whether it will fall behind Nawaz Sharif on one side or Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri on the other. Apparently the army has said that it will remain neutral. That is bad news for Mr. Sharif, for he would have expected this vital institution of the government to be on the government’s side. He is mistaken. The army is on Pakistan’s side and if a particular government is damaging Pakistan then it can hardly be expected to side with it for in so doing it would be violating the very purpose of its existence, which is to protect Pakistan. But one thing it mustn’t do, which is take over directly as it has done four times before and come a cropper. If it must, it should only act as enabler and midwife. To say that it shouldn’t even do that would be the height of idealism and theorizing in the zone of irrelevance.
Right now it seems that only the few beneficiaries of the government are battling with the many opponents of the system that throws up such governments as we have always had after elections under an alien system that we have flawed beyond recognition. If one takes these people seriously one is in danger of getting distracted from an understanding of what is happening. What is happening is the movement of historical forces that cannot be stopped or diverted. A the poet Faiz said: “Rivers that have danced up and broken their banks cannot be stopped by sticks” and the moment has come “when crowns are flung high and thrones toppled.”
Those who still cling to our hypocritical and contradictory constitution, to this political system and what they think is ‘democracy’ have fallen by the wayside as historical forces have crunched on like a juggernaut. They are in danger of being left behind by history, of being on its wrong side. Someone inconsequential once asked me (and my dead father, if you please) why we father and son are always on the wrong side of history? This was in relation to my support of President Musharraf’s government against the then chief justice. I could see that if he and the same old political faces return Pakistan will be put on the destructive track. As it transpired, because I have been proved right, not that it matters in the larger scheme of things.
Once when two huge weather systems met over the Atlantic, they created the Perfect Storm. In Pakistan we also have a Perfect Storm coming, one called Hurricane Imran, the other Typhoon Qadri. They are but the instruments of historical forces, catalysts, triggers, agents of change. Don’t focus on people; focus on historical forces, on history in the making. Together Hurricane Imran and Typhoon Qadri threaten to swallow up the small dust storm called Nawaz Sharif and hopefully the system too. What this Perfect Storm does remains to be seen, for this article is being written on Friday afternoon and the two storms have still not reached Islamabad. But one thing is obvious: Nawaz Sharif is in big trouble. I’m not saying yet that he is done, but out of abundant caution he should be packing his bags and planning where he will go and what he will do. The dung will hit the fan later today or on Saturday, so by the time you read this some of it may already be dated. Actually, the dung has already hit the fan along the way in Gujranwala where stone throwing, gun-firing goons of Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz and mindless minions attacked Imran’s cavalcade. Police were caught on camera standing by and watching and patting their hoodlums on the back, just as they patted the hood Gullu Butt after the massacre of Qadri’s innocent men and women in Lahore in June. This time the head hood was one ‘Qaumi Butt’ – ‘National Butt’ if you please. What’s with these Butts anyway, except that they are Kashmiris like Nawaz Sharif? Why not a ‘Choora’, another Kashmiri name that also means ‘dagger’ in Urdu? Better Gullu who wielded a baton than a Choora who could have taken his surname seriously and wielded a dagger. Far more lethal. The many civilized Butts of the world should be in umbrage for their good name being spoilt. Worse could come. The violence may be even more horrific because rumour has it that once the storms get to Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif’s goons will carry Qadri’s party flags pretending to be his workers, go to Imran’s rally and attack, and vice versa, Nawaz’s goons wielding Imran’s party flags would attack Qadri’s rally to start a fight between them. This is how challenged minds think. Remember a flag is attached to a heavy baton and it’s a good way to hide a weapon. In the unfortunate event that this were to happen, Nawaz Sharif’s government will hurtle faster towards its demise than it already is. And the army will hurtle faster towards the hotspot. Not good.
This Perfect Storm could have been avoided if Nawaz Sharif had displayed some wisdom. Instead, his has been a litany of errors. I am loath calling it “a comedy of errors” because what he has done and is doing is not funny. Far from it. It’s downright tragic and crassly stupid.
Storms always leave some destruction in their wake. But we don’t know destructions extent yet and what will emerge in its wake – a bright new dawn that everyone wants or a political winter. Whoever coined the phrase “pregnant with possibilities” had a good turn of phrase. It applies beautifully this moment’s Pakistan – our situation is pregnant with possibilities.
For Nawaz Sharif to get out of this in one piece, leave himself a political future and save the country, he should resign immediately and call snap elections, ask the president to dissolve the National Assembly and also ask him to tell the provincial governors to dissolve all provincial assemblies, form caretaker governments comprising men and women of general acceptability, ask them to iron out the wrinkles in the electoral system and then hold elections. Having painted himself in such a difficult corner, there is no other sensible option left for him as far as I can see. He has only himself to blame for the situation he finds himself in today. But ironing out wrinkles is easier said than done. Our national population census is 15 years old, five years delayed. How can we hold credible elections when we don’t even know how many people we are, where we are and how old we are? The census should also correct the imbalance between our rural and urban populations to break the feudal hold. Overseas Pakistanis should be given the franchise. Census will require the re-demarcation of electoral constituencies and making new electoral rolls, getting in biometric ink and asking the army to oversee their fairness because it is the only credible institution to undertake such an onerous task. That’s a tall order and will take time, but nothing short of this will do.
Those who ask what moral authority the caretaker governments would have should know that moral authority comes not from Supreme Courts but from the people who are God’s vicegerents on earth, God Who is sovereign over the omniverse. Those who say that Nawaz Sharif has so many million votes behind him (we don’t know exactly how many because the elections were so rigged) and Hurricane Imran and Typhoon Qadri have only one million marchers between them at most are simply bleating nonsense. Every one of the marchers has at least 10 empathizers behind him or her. That makes it 100 million, more than our registered voters, for not everyone registers. Take any figure you will, it will be more than Nawaz Sharif’s claimed votes. So can your imbecility. We have had enough of your nonsense. Nawaz Sharif and his followers are completely outnumbered. Imagine a million people coming into a city of 1.2 million. Only Saudi Arabia that arranges the annual Haj could manage it. We are in for an interesting next few days. God help us. Whatever happens and emerges should, please God, be good for Pakistan.