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ThePakPolitics • Thank you, Cyril : NATIONAL ISSUES
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Thank you, Cyril

Issues relating to Pakistan's Internal Security and It's Foreign Polity.
Unread post Fri Oct 21, 2016 6:06 am
Mirza Ghalib User avatar
Senior Moderator

Thank you, Cyril
By Ayaz Amir
October 21, 2016

Islamabad diary

You and friend Zafar Abbas have done what the dharnas could not. The democracy we all glorify has been delivered such a kick that it may be a long time before it recovers. The deep throat behind the story deserves a special prize. Democracy, the brand practised here, may eventually recover but the Sharifs, our heroes of democracy, may not.

Look at it this way: anything that brings a smile to Sheikh Rashid’s lips, can it be good for the Sharifs? Well, ever since your story his smile is just not going away. What’s that Urdu expression? Bum ko laat marna…kicking a bomb. Sharif lovers knew of the Sharifs’ propensity for this exercise. But it wasn’t happening and they were frustrated.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, came this story, a virtual ticking bomb lying in the open and it was too tempting to resist. The Sharifs and their team of wizards gave it such a determined kick that the political landscape stands transformed.

The situation was already bad enough, to the point of being explosive – Imran Khan threatening to march on the capital and shut it down, the petitions arising from that mother of all scandals, Panamagate, about to be heard by the Supreme Court (not that anyone should expect any startling decisions from that quarter, optimism on this count needing to be restrained).

What was wanting was a spark to set the gathered logs on fire, a catalyst to generate some movement. That was provided by this story which has upset the general staff more than any threat coming from India ever could.

The provocation lay as much in the story’s timing – when India is beating its drums about ‘cross-border terrorism’ – as in the way it was put together: beginning with the foreign secretary’s purported presentation about Pakistan’s growing international isolation stemming from its ‘jihadi’ policies, and then the ISI chief being taken to task for the ISI’s support of ‘jihadi’ elements. The astonishing thing would have been if the army command had not gone ballistic.

Regardless of anything else, I think it’s a safe bet that at least the foreign secretary’s goose is cooked. If he was looking forward to any Washington posting he should now forget it. If there are any other sacrificial bakras we don’t know but the army command seems adamant on something more. What that may be we don’t know.

Opinion is neatly divided about what may happen in the coming days. There are perennial hawks hoping – and the key word here is hoping because that is what they would like – that the army makes a decisive move. We all know what that means. There are others convinced that in the present international climate and with Gen Raheel Sharif on the verge of calling it quits, any outright intervention is unlikely.

The 111 Brigade script, in any event, is one that most Pakistanis – the chattering classes, that is – are tired of. It’s been tried too many times and the consensus is clear that when the army comes in it makes a hash of things.

But the army being upset is not the only game in town. There are other things happening simultaneously. The Panama scandal and its revelations about Sharif flats and offshore accounts is not going away and it goes to Imran’s credit that because of his persistence the word Panama is on everyone’s lips, even in remote villages. This scandal is his justification, the raison d’être, for his march on Islamabad.

Ominously, however, this march is not taking place in a vacuum. It is taking place against the backdrop of heightened tensions between government and GHQ arising from the Dawn story. Imran of course hadn’t planned it this way. Even Sheikh Rashid in his wildest thoughts could not have imagined that he and hopefuls like him would get such a godsend. But this having happened, a sharper edge is now lent to the planned march…because the government can expect no sympathy or help from the quarters that ultimately matter.

It will now be on its own, with just the Islamabad Police and the Punjab Police to bank on. And how effective these legionnaires are we can judge from their performance during the 2014 dharnas when on more than one occasion both these reputed forces were put to ignominious flight by the protesters. The government has no other arrows in its quiver.

And the PTI from all accounts is making feverish preparations because Imran having put everything on this throw of the dice knows that it’s a do-or-die moment for him. If he manages to bring enough people to Islamabad and if roads leading into and out of the capital are blocked then the challenge he has thrown to Nawaz Sharif is vindicated. If he fails then he fails, his enemies and detractors rejoicing.

Soon will come the appointment of the next army chief, the most popular army chief in Pakistan’s history going home, and the Sharifs, citing their lucky history – and let it not be denied that no one in this country has been luckier than them – will be fully justified in saying that fortune has not deserted them and it is their enemies who as always have once again tasted the cup of humiliation.

Sharif partisans are all too quick to detect conspiracy when their leaders are in trouble. They saw an ISI-inspired conspiracy at the time of the dharnas in 2014 and they mutter about conspiracy even now, ignoring the fact that Panamagate is no ISI plant and the Dawn story came from the government side and not the ISI’s advanced school of planning and ideology.

Indeed, whatever the inventive powers of the ISI, it cannot manufacture such rallies as Imran’s show of strength in Raiwind. If the crowds come to Islamabad on November 2 it will be because of Imran Khan and his PTI not anyone else.

The ISI has not manufactured Nawaz Sharif’s troubles. From London flats and offshore accounts to the Dawn story, in this season of turbulence and discontent he and his wizards are the authors of their own misfortunes. And far from trying to find an answer to their troubles they are still expecting to brazen their way out…except that Imran is relying not on academic arguments and theoretical propositions which the Sharifs love because throughout their political lives they have dealt successfully with such arguments, but on the strength of popular mobilisation, a tougher call to answer than theoretical and constitutional arguments.

Press conferences and TV talk shows, the standard currency of Pakistani politics nowadays, are words… and words never hurt such hardened practitioners of politics as the Sharifs. They haven’t been around in the political arena and on the heights of power for the last 35 years to be hurt by words. Bhutto and the PNA leaders ranged against him in 1977 were the practitioners of mass politics. Then this art for various reasons died down. Imran Khan has brought this lost art back to life. Not Supreme Court petitions which they can keep spinning and drawing out endlessly, this is the threat to the Sharifs.

So these are not ordinary times. We are headed for something serious although what shape the maturing of this crisis assumes only astrologers and soothsayers can make an attempt at predicting.

Email: bhagwal63@gmail.com

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