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State of the Nation

The mobs venting their anger on Ms Benazir Bhutto’s assassination let loose an orgy of riot and mayhem, many took to the business of violence not only for looting and pillaging to enrich themselves but to take out their frustrations on those perceived living a life better than theirs. Anarchy threatened to engulf the entire land.    We were in a state of shock, the state was in dire peril.

Instead of lamenting his wife’s death, Asif Ali Zardari peremptorily put down the secessionist cries threatening to undercut the unity of the Federation and took control of the PPP.  Superbly street smart in the political sense, Zardari ran rings around everyone, ultimately taking oath as the President of Pakistan.  This was perhaps his finest moment but there was no way he could have done all this without the tacit understanding of the Pakistan Army.  The nation’s best interests being served by democratic dispensation, COAS Gen Kayani set aside the virtual plethora of incriminating evidence that must have crossed his desk as DG ISI.

As he settled into the trappings of his office Zardari’s true self emerged, the restoration of the Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court (SC) made him into a wounded animal. Given the time and space, he countered by sustained muckraking of the country’s two major institutions, the superior judiciary and the army.   Probably the most canny politician to ever disgrace this land, nothing tangible ties him to the proxies he used.  He countered Pir Pagaro’s recent Hyderabad show gathering Sindhi nationalist and various other dissident elements under one banner by unleashing his ultimate weapon, son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.  Bilawal’s maiden political speech at Garhi Khuda Baksh evoked flashes of Ms Benazir at her best, it roused the PPP faithful. As much as many love to hate Bilawal´s father, they truly loved his mother.

Heeding the warning signals set off by Imran Khan in October 2011, Mian Nawaz Sharif got down to grassroots politicking in earnest, winning back the ground (and some) PML (N)  had lost in the Punjab because of political complacency, in KPK Amir Muqam rejuvenated the party back from virtual extinction.  Asif Zardari fouled up politically by putting Manzoor Wattoo to head the PPP in the Punjab, following by a rather desperate move of attempting to restore the equilibrium in southern Punjab, installing non-PPP Nawabzada Hassan Mehmood as Governor!  PML (N) may likely emerge as the largest party in the land (but without absolute majority), mostly at the expense of PPP, one can understand why Mian Nawaz Sharif wants an early election. He must however change his simplistic mindblock  about the men in uniform, ousted by Musharraf he carries a grudge against the whole army.  The irony, a majority of the rank and file would prefer him to Zardari anytime, but get turned off by his constant berating.

The massive Imran Khan and Maulana Tahirul Qadri’s turnouts in Oct 2011 and Dec 2012 in Lahore underscored the craving in the mass national psyche for drastic change across the body politic of Pakistan, but what change? To replace one face with another or to bring in genuine reform?  The Qadri promise for a march on Islamabad to forcibly pressurize a democratically elected regime may be “unconstitutional”, has the present democratic regime ruled the country according to the Constitution?  From the high of the NRO ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) has been sliding downhill since, “suo-moto” smoke and drama delivering no substance.    How long before the common citizen emulates Attorney General’s atrocious behavior in court symbolizing the utter contempt of the govt towards the SC and the rule of law and turns judicial sanctity across the broad spectrum of the land into a fish market?

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is already into doublespeak, Justice Fakhruddin Ebrahim came out strongly for delimitation in Karachi as per the SC ruling, reversing himself two weeks later. Aside from anomalies in the electoral rolls and requirement of delimitation across the country, what about the economic and political uncertainties?  Can the CEC guarantee controlling the forces that would be unleashed in a national political campaign?  Democratic dispensations require electoral process, with anarchy as a consequence in today’s circumstances?  A watershed in the history of united Pakistan, the Friday 13 Nov, 1970 cyclone took almost 3 million lives in the coastal belt exacerbating the feelings of discrimination among East Pakistanis .  Still going Awami League’s way, the vote would not have been so overwhelmingly lop-sided.  Once the elections took place in such adverse circumstances, the Federation was as good as gone.

For the first three years of this military rule, professionally competent Musharraf certainly ran an excellent civil administration, the cruel paradox is that in the exercise of his military functions he failed to deliver, primarily by not keeping to the merit system of promotion.  In contrast Kayani concentrated on the welfare of soldiers and revived the merit system.   With almost all the present senior military leadership today seeing active combat in the counter-insurgency in Swat and FATA, the Army has radically changed, far different from what the COAS inherited in 2007 – and Kayani deserves credit for it.   In contrast to Musharraf however, Kayani needs to exercise more control over his siblings.

The best joke of 2012 is the Finance Minister being tasked to extol the Pakistani masses about the great “economic successes” achieved by the PPP Govt.  The proposed “tax amnesty scheme” to legalise whitening of black money symbolizes the inherent criminality in our system, need one mention the reason why?   The PM could chip in with his many “successes” as Federal Minister of Water and Power making electricity into an “endangered species”.  The Minister for Petroleum could tell us about why stopping gas to fertilizer factories required importing urea fertilizer with precious foreign exchange forcing increases in fertilizer prices to the farmer, and subsequently the price of wheat.  The “Roti” in PPP’s slogan “Roti, Kapra Aur Makan” costing the common man more, he should forget the dream of a Makan (house) of his own.  Can anyone outdo Rehman Malik expounding upon his “great” successes “controlling” the law and order situation”?   One day in the week can be set aside for him to tell the truth.

Tempered by internecine internal conflict, the Army is convinced about the necessity of democratic dispensation and constitutional rule, that does not give open licence to run riot and put the most corrupt into critical appointments.  A rot destroying the credibility of each and every institution in the country has set in.  Does the letter of the Constitution carry more weight than the spirit in which it was made and the morality that it embodies?  Far more dangerous is the constant economic downslide, energy shortages affecting both manufacturing and services sectors.  One can keep borrowing from banks and printing money, what happens when the money has no value? While the Army is not going to step in at the drop of hat and certainly not without judicial direction, there is always a limit to patience, how much more will their patriotic responsibility be tested?

Incidentally, do we have the time any more to exercise more patience?

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