Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Circus is in Town, Again, By Saroop Ijaz

By Saroop Ijaz      June 28, 2014

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore
A few days ago, the newspapers headlines had a statement of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, which read, “if I am allowed to complete my term then …”. Reflect on this for a moment, on the uncertain nature, almost pleading nature of the statement. This is humiliatingly and bracingly candid. And for once, Mian Sahib is not to be blamed. The missteps of the Mian brothers and this government are many and then some more, yet they have the mandate to govern for five years, and no one, not Mr Imran Khan, not His grace Tahirul Qadri, not Gullu Butt, have the legitimate authority to strip them of that right. Mid-term elections are democratic, yet those who ask for them have very shabby democratic credentials and cannot and should not be taken on face value.
His holiness, Tahirul Qadri’s precise demands are unclear. He wants the “revolution” yet will settle for protocol, armoured vehicle and live coverage. However, the desires of his heart are crystal clear; he wants a ‘coup’, ‘a military takeover’. Deep down, he must fancy himself as a philosopher king of antiquity, however, the pragmatist in him is simply hoping for the army to take over and give him some power or perhaps, merely protocol. Mian Sahib has dealt with Dr Tahirul Qadri with spectacular ineptness, yet this is no way excuse the very dangerous politics (or is it non-politics) that Allama Sahib espouses and seeks to practice.
There is little point in euphemism, Shaykh-ul-Islam wants us to believe that he is backed by ‘our guardians’, i.e., the military. The government also believes it, and that is making it shake in its boots. Dr Tahirul Qadri made it clear at the Lahore Airport that he was not willing to be escorted out of the plane by anyone less than the Corps Commander Lahore, yet, not even a lance naik answered Dr Qadri’s melodramatic plea. It is certainly premature to say that the ‘boys’ do not back him anymore (and please, let us not pretend that they have not had a soft corner for him in the past, to say the least).
Shaykh-ul-Islam is a veteran of Machiavellian politics, with no greater objective in life than himself, and is clear in what he desires to achieve (military takeover) even if hopelessly opaque in how he seeks to bring that about.
The case of Mr Imran Khan is more curious and certainly sadder. Mr Khan is not sure what he wants, except maybe that this elected government should go home. Why and how it should go home are questions that might require a few minutes of thinking, and Mr Khan clearly has not been able to find the time to do much thinking at all. The election was rigged, he says. It very well might have been. Yet, Mr Khan was the prime beneficiary of pre-poll rigging, with inordinate media coverage given to him, and the TTP extending him the assurance of not attacking him or his party during the campaign (a concession not extended to the PPP and the ANP).
Mr Khan is anti-government, anti-this system, anti-corruption and all the rest of it. The question is what is Mr Khan ‘pro’ (except for himself and just a tad TTP)? We don’t know the answer. Mr Khan is also clearly becoming angrier by the day, at this internal confusion. He has abused ‘his heroes’ of the past breathtakingly easily. Exhibit-A, Justice (retd) Iftikhar Chaudhary, when some of us (including your humble servant) pointed out that Justice (retd) Chaudhary was very fallible like the rest of us, Mr Khan and his devotees called us “conspirators against Independent Judiciary”, “apologists for the corrupt government” and other more strongly worded, lovely names. Mr Khan either loves or hates, he does not agree or disagree. Be it General (retd) Musharraf or Justice (retd) Chaudhary. Mr Khan does not like even semi-complex thoughts and loves binaries, one-liners and Sheikh Rashid.
Mr Khan said that he will himself “execute” any police officer, who tries to restrain or use violence against his workers. Take a bow Mr Khan, you have outdone your best friend Sheikh Rashid at his game, namely, crude, violent remarks. If Mr Altaf Husain’s speech can be construed as incitement to violence in other jurisdictions, then how is it any different? Short answer: it is not. The violent outbursts of Mr Khan are inexplicable, perhaps professional jealousy at Dr Tahirul Qadri stealing his thunder (and some parts of the script). In any event, Mr Khan resorts to violent imagery and the use of force rather easily except when it involves “our estranged” brothers (the TTP, in case you are still wondering). What, Mr Khan, no talking with the police officers prior to the execution, no committees, display of love, etc., are they not “our people”? This seems to be nitpicking at a stray remark, and it perhaps, is. Yet, Mr Khan does incitement to violence and if he wants to do national leadership, he will be called out on these remarks.
The spirit continues to sink ever since Dr Tahirul Qadri’s arrival. Firstly, the government made muck out of handling the arrival of Shaykh-ul-Islam, who thrives on attention and disruption. Had he been ignored, the wind out of his sails would have been knocked out. Secondly, and more importantly, the coordination and implementation capacity of the government seemed to be exhausted merely in dealing with one Canadian, this does not bode well, there is a war going on with hundreds of thousands of people displaced, Mian Sahiban will have to up their game. 
Thirdly, if Dr Tahirul Qadri and a couple of failed and fringe politicians is actually what ‘our guardians’ have come to using, well then, how the mighty have fallen, indeed; from the IJIs to clowns and retirees. Never mind, that the war should keep ‘the boys’ busy these days anyway. If ‘the boys’ have nothing to do with it, one clear, public statement from the ISPR should be enough for the much-awaited and well-deserved flight back to Canada. Lastly, the deficit of our politics has become such, that while a war continues, people are in internally displaced camps, Punjab remains the theatre of power politics, with Mr Khan, Dr Qadri, the Media and Mian Saihban prioritising it over the existential and humanitarian crises that we face.
As far as the mainstream political forces are concerned, united they will stand. Mian Sahib needs to get his act together, there is no doubt about that. Equally, there is no, absolutely no justification for anything which is ‘extra’ constitutional (which is just an oblique way of saying illegal).
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2014.
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