Sunday, September 21, 2014

A sudden definite change in Pakistan

Long marches and sit-ins are the last thing an already chaotic and impoverished Pakistan needs. So I was indignant when the marches of Tahirul-Qadri and Imran Khan began. More than two weeks in, their demands remain unmet, but they have been dramatic catalysts in changing the mindset, opinions and expectations of Pakistanis.


We learned the importance of the FIR, First Information Report and how it is a charge with serious consequences. Two and a half months after the Model Town tragedy and much crying hoarse by Dr. Tahirul Qadri the FIR was finally lodged, naming the brothers Sharif in the murder, mayhem and terrorism of that sad day.


A person is only as good as his advisers are. Nawaz Sharif wouldn’t score well on an IQ test; but his political demise will be from the counter-intuitive advice he gets from his cabinet. Petrified of Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s arrival and agenda, they legitimized a man who was viewed pretty much as a crazy cleric. And they introduced the syndrome of “containeritis” in Punjab to prevent PAT and PTI fans from reaching Islamabad.  


The remarkable discipline of PAT workers and their heart-warming simplicity and dedication make it difficult to believe that they are Pakistani. The widespread support of Imran Khan was seen in the PTI protests and sit-ins across the nation.


And undoubtedly Dr. Tahirul Qadri is an orator. With complete control over history, theology, politics and the Constitution, he is adept in building an argument and bringing it to a skillful climax.


Anxious to see a resolution to the political crisis, millions of Pakistanis at home and abroad have been captive audiences to Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s and Imran Khan’s speeches. Pakistanis had become accustomed to the corruption of its recent democratically elected rulers. But learning of the alleged magnitude of the Sharif clan corruption makes one angry. Former president Zardari was infamous for being Mr. 10%; the corruption within just one year of the Nawaz government has raised the commission in mega government projects, allegedly, to 30%.


The rebellion of the Islamabad police was also stunning. First SSP Mohammad Ali Nekokara refused to use force on PAT and PTI workers. So they called in SSP Ilyas who also declined. Finally Asmatullah Junejo agreed to clean out the Red Zone. Over 780 police officers refused to use force on the protestors and over 2000 police officers went to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science and Polyclinic hospital urging doctors to grant them medical leave.


Who would want to tear-gas unarmed civilians and shoot at them with supposed rubber bullets, killing two and injuring 500? The horrific police brutality on personnel of seven television channels was nauseating. Minister Saad Rafeeq said police brutality was unjustifiable and he didn’t know why it was happening. How about it happened because the order went out by the government and was caught on wireless? More jaw-dropping was Nawaz Sharif reminding Chaudhry Nisar during a parliament session to specifically mention Geo in the government’s apology. Nisar had the good sense not to. Geo personnel were the only ones that were not attacked. Nawaz Sharif exposed his Geo affiliation and his IQ, or the lack of it, further.


Yazidi tactics were seen as well. The supply of water and food to the protestors was stopped, cars bringing them in were damaged and the food and water were consumed by the police!


Nawaz Sharif asking Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to mediate the crisis and then lying about it, story-book style, on the Parliament floor is egregious. ISPR issued a statement that Nawaz Sharif had asked for the mediation.


The word democracy is bandied about by the government to hold onto power. The charge of murder and terrorism in the Model Town tragedy and violating the sanctity of the Parliament by blatantly lying are more than sufficient to be cause for an automatic resignation under the most basic premise of democracy.


That the Parliament passes resolution after resolution supporting Nawaz Sharif means nothing when one member can vie with another in the magnitude of their respective looting of taxpayer money and self-enrichment, and providing cover to each other. The Urdu aphorism really sticks: iss hammam mein sab nangey hain-in this public bath they are all naked.  


The day the crisis reached a head and the protestors moved toward the Prime Minister’s House almost everyone was convinced of an army intervention.  And this is the most important change in Pakistan’s politics. What was reflexive previously did not happen, and is unlikely to in the future.


Imran Khan is correct in demanding institutional rather than cult-oriented perversions of democracy. He gives the example of Switzerland where the prime minister’s name is not well known; Swiss institutions and processes run the country democratically.


Demanding the resignation of Nawaz Sharif does not destroy democracy; it strengthens it. For the longest time Pakistan has been hostage to personalities rather than creating processes and building institutions. Pakistan’s kursi is magical; it can turn a Sufi into Satan.


The brothers Sharif and sycophantic parliamentarians painted PTI and PAT as terrorists violating the sanctity of the parliament. Video evidence, beamed across the world, of Chaudhry Nisar and PML-N workers scaling the walls of the Supreme Court exposes their hypocrisy and is irretrievably incriminating.


Quite the parliamentary metamorphosis was members vehemently condemning Nawaz Sharif. The 2013 elections were rigged and the government is involved in massive corruption was the chorus by PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and MQM’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. Had the dharna and their demands not happened, Parliament would not have recorded this.


The brothers Sharif are desperate now. The old British maxim of divide and rule is being employed. PTI members are being enticed to jump ship and Imran Khan’s situation is also getting difficult. Dr. Tahirul Qadri has asked for school and entertainment supplies for the children in the sit-in, suggesting a long haul, but his negotiations with the government are said to be promising.


Whether PTI’s and PAT’s demands are met or not Pakistanis must applaud Dr. Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan for suddenly transforming Pakistan’s socio-politics. We have been empowered in demanding pristine elections, removal of corrupt legislators, absolute personal integrity in the government and the smooth carriage of justice. And the brothers Sharif should go. Better to leave with grace than unceremoniously. Your political careers are over.