Is Politics a Circus in Pakistan?
By Karamatullah K. Ghori
Many may remember the Biblical story of Samson whose strength was locked in his hair. When jilted by Delailah, an enraged Samson wreaked vengeance by uprooting the temple whose pillars he’d been chained to. But triggering the temple’s destruction also buried Samson under its debris.
Nawaz Sharif, deposed and disgraced by the Supreme Court is no Samson, of course. Samson was a man of honor and opted for it over his life. Nawaz is a poor loser, symptomatic of a man without pedigree. A man of right lineage, in his place, wouldn’t have chosen to make a circus of his disgraceful exit from the office of the nation’s chief executive. Samson wrote a chapter of honour and nobility in history; Nawaz, with his cheap, theatrical antics, is providing grist to those who don’t fail to underline the ironical fact that in all three of his stints as PM, Nawaz never completed one and was booted out in disgrace, every time. What a history to remind of.
That Nawaz elected to take his ignoble caravan of hired goons down the historic GT Road—whose architect was that noble King Sher Shah Suri, in the 16th century—highlighted his utter contempt for the sanctity of law that he claimed to be fighting for. What a shame for this self-proclaimed man of the masses—which he isn’t, by a long shot—that his motorcade killed a teen-age boy under its wheels but the ‘lion’ didn’t have the dignity to stop his circus and commiserate with the family of the innocent victim of his penchant for theatrics.
And what a study-in-contrast between the builder of Grand Trunk (GT) Road, Sher Shah Suri, a uniquely gifted and inspirational leader, and this pompous fool whose sole claim to fame is that through myriad ways of corruption he and his family have grown enormously rich on the fat of the land. Sher Shah Suri must be a very unhappy soul up there, in Heavens, seeing his marvel of imagination soiled by a caravan of thieves.
Nawaz might think that the political clock has stood still in its grove and he can still make a fool of the people by playing the role of an innocent victim, one more time.
But Pakistan has travelled many a mile down the road of political maturity of its people from the time, back in 1999, when Nawaz could cry foul because he’d been upstaged by a Bonapartist Pervez Musharraf.
The people of Pakistan, especially the steadily growing ranks of its civil society, aren’t a bunch of dumb, slogan-raising aficionados to be clumsily duped by a thief masquerading as a victim of a ‘conspiracy’ against him. Nawaz, this time around, hasn’t been booted out by a soldier of fortune or a bounty hunter, like Pervez Musharraf. Nawaz has been shown the door by the highest court of law in the land at the end of a long, painstakingly-thorough and transparent judicial process during which Nawaz and his thieving children were afforded every opportunity to come clean.
Raising the hackneyed slogan of ‘democracy in danger’ is old hat that no sensible person in Pakistan is going to buy. It’s standard practice of poor political losers, like Nawaz or that other rogue, Zardari, to cry the wolf when their bluff is called or when they have been caught with hand in the cookie jar. Democracy is much better served with such brazen thieves sidelined or thrown on to the trash bin of history where they rightly belong.
But Nawaz Sharif is doing even worse by fulminating against the apex court and trying to whip up popular sympathy for him by portraying honourable justices of the SC as conspirators or villains.
One must admire the cool and poise of the apex court’s honourable denizens, who have refused to be drawn into a debate by Nawaz’ cheap theatrics or dignify his ludicrous tirade against them by issuing a rejoinder. But one starts wondering how much longer the top court may tolerate Nawaz’ calculated and callously insulting verbal attacks before hauling him up, in the dock, for what’s even to a novice, a gross act of contempt of court.
Those who remember may recall that it was on Nawaz’ watch, in his second term in office in 1997, that his hired goons had assaulted the Supreme Court. He couldn’t be planning an encore of that brazen, but cowardly, attempt to bring down the ramparts of dignity of the judiciary.
With his thuggish younger sibling, Shehbaz, still ruling the roost in Punjab, one can’t rule out the possibility of hired Sharif thugs swooping down on the Supreme Court’s precincts in Islamabad. A desperate and frustrated clan, whose dirty linen has now become public property, can go to any length to settle scores with those who have put paid to their shenanigans and thieving ways.
Nawaz, the self-proclaimed defender of democratic order is posing the greatest danger to its survival and continuity by resorting to an undemocratic and uncivilised modus operandi to get even with the judiciary he holds responsible for his ignominious downfall. What a ridiculous and thoroughly risible stance he has made his signature tune since shown the door by the SC. How innocent of him to ask, with a straight face, why he has been shunted out and what was his crime?
Nawaz’ end- game is becoming increasingly transparent: He seeks to foment chaos at the level of the masses, create a state of anarchy which the men-in-khaki may find intolerable and unsustainable. They have, thus far, kept their peace and studiously avoided jumping into the brawl. But they would find it hard, nay impossible, to tolerate anarchy on the streets—which is Nawaz’ ploy—or see the ramparts of judiciary assaulted by thugs and goons. That’s what a benighted and myopic Nawaz wants: an extra-democratic finale to his circus act. Like Samson, this roaring mouse wouldn’t be averse to take down with him the façade of democracy, or democratic transition at the end of fresh elections, due next year.
Nawaz has suddenly imbibed an utter dislike for Articles 62 & 63 of the Pakistan Constitution because these are inconvenient for thieves, rogues and scoundrels, like him, to preside over a system of governance in which corruption should remain unchallenged. How dare the top court call a thief- a- thief? How dare the judges declare a proven thief unfit and unqualified to sit in the parliament and be its leader? Nawaz would much rather have all such inconveniences out of the way; he mustn’t be questioned about his enormous wealth, or that amassed by his children.
And why shouldn’t there be dynastic democracy in Pakistan with generations of Sharifs as its leading lights? So, welcome Kulsoom Nawaz, the better-half of the duo, to succeed her deposed beau. But rest assured she would be there only to keep the seat warm for Princess Maryam to eventually inherit the mantle of her disgraced father. Are there any conscientious objectors to this neat and clean line of succession? After all, aren’t the Sharifs supposed to be the 21st century reincarnations of the Great Mughals? Their lifestyle does match the Mughals’ glory, doesn’t it?
The Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani, an otherwise sober and sensible man, also seems to have been smitten by the Nawaz virus. What a stroke of genius he has come up with; a real gem of cosmic wisdom. He has invited the Chief Justice, along with the Army Chief, to come to the parliament for a meeting of equals to make a new compact of governance in the country. Really?
Rabbani isn’t such a novice to be expected to pull a rabbit out of his hat. But he has; he has made an utter fool of himself by suggesting that the head of judiciary come to dialogue with him. Is he that naïve to not know that judiciary is independent of the parliament or the executive? Is he such an amateur to really think that the Chief Justice would take his bait and come suing for peace with this showman sporting a Red Indian’s mane?
One can’t brush aside the nagging sense that Rabbani is speaking in the voice of his master, Zardari, who has quietly slipped into Karachi. It wouldn’t be so absurd to reason that he has come to quietly cut a deal with a disgraced Nawaz and do his own bit to save his skin. Thieves, after all, do have their own code of conduct; helping each other in an hour of peril figures prominently on that code.
What all these theatrics boil down to is exposing the ugly face of Pakistan’s macabre culture of politics; democracy is imperiled not by the men in khaki or the men in black robes. It’s in grave danger because of the ignoble antics of robber-barons pretending to be its guardians. Wolves can’t be expected to keep a vigil on a flock of sheep. That would be the ultimate irony of ironies. (The writer is a former ambassador and career diplomat)
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