The day I hit the keyboard with an intention to comment on the remonstration staged by Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), Pakistan played cricket series deciding ODI and got comprehensively beaten by Sri Lanka. I doubt if anyone, even a fervent cricketer, followed the match.
The entire nation was held hostage to political stage show alongside the parliament telecast live in real time. We may be forgiven for missing out on the cricket match but can we defend ourselves on ignoring catastrophic issue of much greater national implications such as internally displaced persons (IDPs) bearing the inclement weather conditions under open sky besides lacking all the necessities they deserve as the citizens of Pakistan. Neither their region was struck by natural catastrophe nor did they leave their homes on their own free will.
They were advised to leave or even forced out of their abode to stay away from the harm’s way during military operation, Zarb e Azb in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). Their tragedy can only be fathomed by those who have visited the camps and seen their plight. The nation responded well to meet that challenge and a nationwide campaign to alleviate their sufferings and help them with at least the basic human necessities was initiated. But alas, all national and media attention shifted to the long march and subsequent sit-ins in Islamabad. The military operation, taking care of the IDPs and any other fall out resulting from operation is left to the Pakistan Army to deal with.
No army can win any operation without the national support; still our valiant army is showing exemplary resilience and excellent professionalism in conducting armed operations and managing its fall out despite diversion of public and civilian government’s attention towards “dharna” (sit-in). Inordinate delay in employment of military option due to foot dragging of political forces helped significant number of terrorists and their main leadership escape from their hide outs into the settled areas of Pakistan or into Afghanistan before the operations were actually launched. Imran Khan was at the fore front opposing the military option in NWA. As an obvious consequence much needed element of surprise was lost before reaching a political consensus about the inevitability of a military operation. Terrorists escaping an imminent military onslaught are now comfortably lodged in well established sleeper cells within the populated areas. They have directions to launch terror attacks independently at an opportune moment..
The atmosphere at “dharna” stage is so charged that even a small administrative lapse by the government or a miscalculation on part of dharna participants would unleash an eruption of volcanic proportions having potential to cause hitherto unseen damage to national political fabric. Entire electronic and social networking media is completely focused on even unfolding Constitution Avenue in Islamabad. Events are changing so rapidly that the entire nation is totally confused about the outcome of ensuing political unrest. There have been political movements in Pakistan in the past but this one is fundamentally different. In the past all political parties constituting opposition in elected parliament or those against unconstitutional rule of a military dictator were part of a collective movement against one party in power while this dharna is by one political party against the entire spectrum of political forces in Pakistan, albeit with support of an apolitical but highly organized pressure group.
Before going further to analyze future consequences of this dharma some strange coincidences during the buildup stage of ensuing so called political struggle merits a mention. Was it a coincidence that Imran refused to accept the election results without a plan afore thought? Was it a coincidence that both the leaders heading their respective dharna were in London at the same time not too distant a past? Was it a coincidence that both the marches started at the same time and staged sit-ins in close proximity? Is it a coincidence that common grounds have emerged between a political party well represented in parliament and a religious party having no political representation after prolongation of their dharna?
Is it a coincidence that PTI leader met a very high ranking retired military officer abroad and then again in Pakistan just before the launch of long march? Is it a coincidence that an “umpire” was expected to raise his finger to declare the political government “out” at an early stage into drama? There can be an unending list of such queries casting shadows of doubt on intentions of leadership of parties involved in dharna politics. But on the other hand, in order to shun disconcerted dharna participant, can we find any solid argument in favour of incumbent government; provincial or federal? Alas! No.
Thanks to round the clock real time coverage punctuated by enlightening talk shows telecast between scholars, politicians, media persons and even common citizens. Readers are now more than well versed with the arguments and counter arguments of dharna parties and the government. So, instead of repeating those analyses in this space, I will try to examine the impact or consequences of current political brawl on our society. We cannot boast about democracy or decent political discourse after sad demise of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of now beleaguered cut to half Pakistan. Can we absolve ourselves on traumatic clipping of our eastern wing? Can we blame any external intervention for bringing us to the barely surviving present state? Economic excellence of succeeding governments, military or civilian, has crafted with patriotic pains a situation where each citizen is born with heavy foreign as well as domestic debt and dies with even a heavier burden.
Today more than half of our population lives below the poverty line and an appalling proportion of these unfortunate so called human beings cannot be sure of getting two time meals. A significant number of Pakistanis are shelter less, jobless and may be luckless; an ideal landscape for political unrest or even a revolution. This is what we can call good governance and acceptable progress? Abhorring law and order situation, petty street crimes, family suicides, organized crimes and certain acts of terrorism can easily be traced back to dismal governances and poor economic performance of elected or imposed leadership. The only two recent past positives we can seek solace in are free and vibrant media and independent higher judiciary. We may also consider transition of government from one politically elected set up to the other after completing full term in office, a major mile stone in progressing democracy and political maturity. This milestone was made possible by the so well talked about Charter of Democracy which was respected by the opposition and government. Present political turmoil created by dharna has witnessed all the political parties coming together against unconstitutional demands of radical political party PTI and apolitical PAT.
The PTI leadership shows no faith in apex judiciary of Pakistan under the present Prime Minister thus creating a political impasse which nearly brought a big disaster on the eve of their march towards the Prime Minister’s house. If the government had not shown restraint, the catastrophic consequences would have scuttled present political dispensation. As discussed earlier, the government cannot boast about satisfactory performance in the past sixteen months but the cricketer turned politician Imran Khan has taken the political game into another dimension; may be a hybrid of cricket match and street smart politics. Entire drama being staged appears to be following a well written script which failed the intended impact due to miscalculation of the author/s. The sentiment he has managed to create among his followers is less than polite which is visible not only on the streets of Pakistan and dharna scene but also on social media where extremely abusive language is being employed to discredit or disgrace those who are in opposing camps.
My only fear is that this attitude may become favoured instrument in future political struggle. Such paradigm shift in real politicking does not augur well for our future political dispensation. Any party not in harmony with the government policy would resort to disruptive street politics to force the incumbent government out of office by threatening to create a situation of civil disobedience. The irony in such a situation would be that innocent lives of political workers would be sacrificed for the agenda of such nonconforming leadership. Sanity has to prevail and politically elected leadership must be given a chance to implement their manifesto, failing which they will be voted out like the Peoples Party government. Politics is the game of finding solutions in seemingly impossible situations. The change must come through ballot, not bullet.
Masroor ul Hassan
The writer sought voluntary retirement from PAF in 1996 where he served as fighter pilot. He has two Masters degrees; DSS from QAU (1985) & Strategic Studies from KU (1995). Email: email@example.com