Political hibernation is over!

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Pakistani politics seems to be ending its period of hibernation. It is no more just rabble or sort of sabre rattling. This time it seems to be more of business as usual. It took some time for 11-party PDM alliance to tighten its belts and throw in their towels to get what their leaders promise it to be the final round. They seemed determined to sort things out with PMLN and its supporters in the army as according to columnist Ayesha Siddiqa, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his ISI DG Lt General Faiz Hameed look weak. This does have an implicated bearing on the sacking of perhaps one of the most corrupt man in uniform that has come to public expose calling for his immediate sack. He is also Army Chief General Bajwa’s namesake, he must have caused quite an embarrassment to all the honourable four-star generals and others hanging on the promotion leader.

It definitely took some time for the 11-parties to get together and sort out things to get going on a trajectory that could hopefully mean path way to their success without any physical confrontation.

While Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as leader of the martyred PPP leader Benazir Bhutto’s party—had been doing his best to keep all parties together, uniting them with the sole objective of finding a meaningful recourse minus the hooligan bandwagoners of Imran Khan and his tweeting crowd named as Tigers. It is indeed, a yeomen challenge for the 11-party alliance to face and sustain the twist and turns including about turns of Imran Khan who along with his supporters and storm troopers is hell bent in sticking to glue of power.

Remember, we must—in politics public rallies are sine quo non of dynamics for change. These could be well-disciplined, some time the participants become violent to express public anger. However, public rallies have acquired a permanent public fixture. Whether it is organised West with its disciplined crowd or the hoodlums of the like that PTI has been nurturing on the pattern of Hitler’s storm troopers, for free for all in politics, the game remains a means to the end—seeking whatever is being aimed at.

In our over 70 years of political history more than half of it has been spent under military rule and tin-pot dictators. We had three of them most prominently outrageous doing a ten-year span besides one that lasted more than three years but left the scene with most severe consequences, each outdoing the previous. In the most deplorable dispensation of power, we lost half of the country, killed our most popular prime minister Bhutto sahib followed by martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s cold bloodied murder hatched by GPM.  Surely currently the way things are being handled by IK and his gang along with the extended chief, forecasts by experts and doomsayers spell out an inevitable nemesis.   

Indeed, the present deplorable state of our economy, life becoming impossible for the poor who have no means to sustain themselves except to feed themselves on left-over or Imran Khan’s ‘glorious promises’ of cheap atta, vegetables, shelters on their heads, hospitals to die in peace and a police that has rendered Pakistan into a police state.

Remember the most serious political agitation was engineered during the dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq’s Martial Law who promised General Elections in 90 days and forgot about them for ten years. It was only divine intervention that brought the nation relief by bringing to a dastardly end to General Zia’s decade in his air crash that eliminated him leaving no traces of him except his artificial jaw that got his burial ground the title of Jabra Chowk that is being used by the bus drivers, wagoners, rickshaw drivers—as public toilets to ease themselves after hard days of driving. 

It was PNA movement engineered by General Zia and his intelligence network that was abused in the name of democracy to end democracy In Pakistan. Its after effects continue to this day.

It took at least three weeks for PDM hard core activists to organise its first public rally in Gujranwala followed by Karachi’s mammoth gathering and then Quetta by far the biggest ever in the provincial capital given a new spark to the popular movement blazing a trail for democratic aspirations.    It must be acknowledged that at all the three place stadiums were fully occupied dampening the spirit of Imran Khan. Most significant aspect of these ralies was that these were addressed by Nawaz Sharif in exile, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Maryam Nawaz and of course Maulana Fazlur Rehman, now leader of the 11-party Alliance. Indeed, Mian Sahib and his speeches have been rare specimen of extremely hard hitting and verbose outburst from the former Prime Minister. So were the speeches of PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Others who spoke as well such as Khawaja Asif, there was much squeaky sound and less of fury.

Former PM Mian Nawaz Sharif has made me wonder what has made MNS to take head on collusion course the way he spoke. Nawaz is no novice; he is experienced enough not to do all that without him being backed up by cavaliers. If there was no backing, I clearly see PMLN doing badly in the coming days when battle lines would be well drawn. We all know that his outburst against Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa and why he was openly given extension by IK and selection by the GHQ.  Nawaz accused General Bajwa heading the corps of corrupt ‘crore’ commanders such as recently sacked corp commander another Bajwa chap who is believed to have minted tonnes of money in his various capacities. And who in the final count most shamelessly resigned, to continue to build up his fortunes. Nawaz Sharif, I believe, is no doubt most probably the most shrewd political player around among the left over leaders but he has a tendency to remain on top position through what he calls politics of confronation. Indeed, I remember him making a speech in his second term claiming that his success in politics lies in confrontation with his opponents.

Indeed, all the three political rallies of no mean consequences as compared to ISI backed Dharnas of Imran Khan in 2014—seem to indicate that PDM seems to have turned the table on.

Imran Khan’s PTI jalsa of 2014 was a mix of variety of entertainers such as singer Abrarul Haq, Salman Ahmed, DJ Butt’s rocking Music enthralled the young crowd in a rock concert.

 IK and PTI were covertly supported by PMLQ, DR Tahirul Qadri’s supporters such as Khali Maqlookq and other celebrities.  Undoubted Ik’s slogan back then was very popular. IK was single and ready to mingle. The rest is history.  

It was before COVID threat. Nawaz had left economy in much better shape and commuting was easier. There was no media censorship.  IK or his team didn’t face any NAB cases, FIAs and no leader was behind bars, exile or hospital. On the other hand PDM hosted its rally amid COVID-19 fears. Numerous cases are in progress against leadership of all parties. NAB was used as the draconian arm of the PTI government, no     Censorships, no profuse use of Danda from the Praetorian masters; no plethora of defamation campaigns; new lease of life to young leadership like Bilawal and Maryam backed by Genuine followers and supporters; Only speeches were made, no concert or entertainment or Dam-a- Dum must qalandaer. According to professionals PDM jalsa was real politics while 2014 PTI dharnas were adventures on the drum beat of fauji band/baaja.

In conclusion, going back to the original comment of Columnist Ayesha Siddiqa in her article in the PRINT (Oct 27) it seems sudden turn of socio-economic events in the country have some-how made the Praetorian political pot pourrians loose their control over its engineering machinations that went so well to get rid of the elected prime minister to be replaced by a selected one. On the other hand, once supposed to be two of the most powerful war lords in the country—today find themselves in no position to dictate their orders. Perhaps, it may sound too early to forecast, but the fact is that all seems to be lost for them. They shall have to call it day and let there emerge a genuine democratic order through free, fair and fresh elections under an independent election commission with no room for the previous engineers for manipulation. Indeed, doors should be blocked for usurpers such as the Kaptaan.

(The author is veteran journalist and former Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK.)