Double Jeopardy or a Bear Trap

By Brig® Mehboob Qadirpakistan politics

Our national leadership is showing familiar signs of cracking up under mounting pressure. This conduct failure appears to be the persistent bane of their make up whenever it comes to delivering on governance  since the beginning of their ill fated political venture in early 80s.As a rule they show a lot of valor but typically fail to clear the bar every time it is set, just like the well groomed horse who makes a magnificent run up but shies away from the log jump at the last moment. This ingrained reflex eventually brings them crashing down quite unceremoniously. In difficult situations they have been found to resort to tricks rather than rise to the occasion which not only exposes them poorly but also tends to confirm certain unsavory generalities attached to them in the going public discourse.  Much more significantly ,when in a tight bind they tend to quickly run out of options and then begin to block options for the remaining players in the game thus detonating a collective collapse of the system.These are also the occasions when their street smart but incredibly iodine deficient  advisors have the better of them, lead them  by their ear over the imaginary garden path and  hasten the outfit’s dissolution. As also, they invariably omit to see the approaching sand storm from the  frightened flight of the finches around them. As a result are routed lock, stock and barrel, repeatedly.

Once again there is a similar situation shaping up,and unmistakably they seem to be on the same old page of their  quick fix handbook. Their fixation with the embedded grouses has ominously screened them off, almost completely from the fact that the game has changed dramatically in the last decade or so, and the competing participants are qualitatively more suave and appreciably dexterous. Therefore they are likely to serve back the same volley with which are sought to be defeated. Regional and global environment has drastically altered and pet nesting places may no longer be available as they have either vanished or seriously threatened. Similarly with in the country security, political and judicial paradigms are fast evolving , not necessarily in sync. Social media and a hyperactive civil society have effectively ripped official privilege, privacy and for that matter awe of the power, open and apart. Good old days of 70s and 80s are gone when excesses of the powerful were little known and unfashionable to talk about .It is no more possible to fake public concern, tamper with the ballot or swindle public money and get away with it for long.

Having said that, what we are witnessing is yet another spectacle of self cremation being predictably enacted on the national political pyre.It has all the elements of tragic miscalculation and mindless rigidity coming together in an equation of guaranteed destruction. Things began to happen in quick succession after the 11 May general elections which badly bruised the Election Commission as also winners and losers alike. Ill timed victory speech followed by strong public protests against alleged rigging and inexplicable reluctance to open a few constituencies to scrutiny set in motion a wave of indignation among the voters.The unholy haste with which a High Court stay order was sought against reopening the contested ballot bags and vehemence with which it is defended by the ruling party feeds suspicions of wrong doing. Soon the indignation turned into a nationwide hurt writ large on the faces of committed looking protesters from Karachi to Islamabad.

The alarm bells began to ring in earnest after the unprecedented indiscretion by a renowned media house with the head of the country’s premier intelligence agency and by proxy ,with the Army itself. The leadership once again committed a format blunder by appearing  to be partisan rather than neutral. Alongwith her an otherwise tainted regulatory apparatus , queerly it appeared to quite peremptorily side with the media house and needlessly persists in that position. Swallowing their hurt and pride, the intelligence agency and the Army played by the rules  and lodged a statutory complaint which ,in the process, has exposed the thin façade of official fairness in detail, a rather dismal but largely damaging performance .It set the stage for chilling of interaction and created room for rumors and mischief. Superior Judiciary, still groggy from its galloping activism and historic judicial overreach failed to grasp the significance of the moment. It not only rubbished its own code of ethics but also appeared strangely partisan when that case was referred to her for adjudication. They slammed the door in the face of the aggrieved petitioners with imperial unconcern , belittled themselves in the popular sentiment that they like to play to,  and added to the free floating angst. The result has been an unsightly  media exposure of their intimate dealings and public outbursts amounting to no –confidence in their ability to deliver justice. They too seem to persist in their error and arrogance .

In the process,  the Army has gained considerably in the popular esteem and the corresponding loss of the ruling party is still to be assessed. Unfortunately this is not  how the deck should have been laid , but this is one of the consequences of an inadequately articulated leadership .While all that was happening, govt’s gamble with peace talks with TTP failed as predicted vindicating Army’s unspoken stance that it would be so.All the losses of life and destruction of property caused by TTP attacks and bombings fell into place to make sense of the military offensive against their North Waziristan stronghold.The horrors and the massive means of murder and black mail which are being recovered from captured localities in Miranshah and Mir Ali by the troops is sufficient evidence to validate GHQ’s original assessment.

Despite the desirable progress of North Waziristan operations, our national leadership seems to be walking at a distance from the troops.Unlike Swat operations(2009) Information Ministry is nowhere to be seen.It is the ISPR which is doing all the media briefings .Not only that the responsibility to provide logistic support to a million IDPs from the battle zone has also been laid on the Army’s door.The impression doing the rounds is that the Govt didn’t have its heart  fully in the  ongoing operations but got drawn in willy nilly.This listless manner is not how states fight their existential battles.North Waziristan is the pivot around which Pakistan’s future will be contested and decided.The region’s stability and integrity also hinges upon the same pivot.We  must realize that we have a great responsibility in this regard not only to our own people but also to the region and the world at large.

At the same time political temperature in the country has been rising unabated, no less stoked by the ruling party’s band of intemperate spokesmen, both official and not so unofficial. Despite clear indications they have not been able to fully  grasp the real significance of IK and TUQ game plans except panic driven responses and a startled scramble to pad up defenses. That is not what it should have been.Instead of putting off small fires here and there, a grand strategy to tackle the twin blaze should have been devised.Their strange inclination to postpone needed response to the last moment leaves them with elapsed opportunities and evokes half baked  reactions. While IK was rallying his forces and TUQ rattling his distant saber, no effort was made to mount a political resposte. As a result some of the response have been quite  graceless.

It was rather hilarious to pitch poor Naseebo Lal’s stage show against PTI ‘s Faisalabad rally and wanton to teach a lesson to TUQ supporters ,hiding behind the untenable excuse to remove road blocks before their headquaters.It ended up in Faisalabad leadership making monkeys of themselves and Model Town gamble a terrible fiasco which has needlessly aroused a huge nest of very well organized wasps.From then on , the administration’s responses continue to look muddled and chaotic.Take for example ,the knee jerk decision to divert TUQ’s flight to Lahore and then conceding all his preconditions including hostaging of Governor Punjab was so embarrassing.More instructive has been the apparent poverty of ideas and a corresponding disregard for the possible consequences of their actions .The attempt to play the plight of North Waziristan IDPs against Ik’s Bahawalpur rally was in bad taste.

Their latest manoeuvre has the potential to be the most dangerous so far.This time the state has decided to pitch a historic national event(Independence Day, 14th August) to counter PTI’s protest march on Islamabad that day, not realizing that the two are completely different genre and the gimmick might not work as planned.The devil of this move is in its detail.Although not really expected from the otherwise economical official intellect , it has all the Machiavellian contours.Briefly, the ruling party looks like contriving to deploy Pakistan Army,foreign diplomats, civilian invitees and ulema as a shield against PTI’s rally that day.

The whole thing could unfold in many different ways but some could be really awful. It is understood that PTI workers and leadership have become ginger and more bellicose, ready to explode into violence if provoked.To be sure the planned celebration is not likely to create a dilemma for the determined PTI instead might incite a stronger reaction and diplomats and invitees might use discretion in view of imminent confrontation. Therefore a clash between PTI and PML(N) supporters is likely to occur. Police intervention could further aggravate the situation; bloodshed and deaths will result. Seeing the crowd get out of hand, if Army has to intervene, it might do so albeit differently. More likely it could bundle off the bumbling leadership back to their peacocks pens and then persuade the crowd to disperse peacefully.Pakistan Army ,as a principle, is averse to ambers of internal unrest falling on its heels when it is engaged in mortal combat in FATA. What might follow is all too familiar, however nascent democracy would be the first and major casualty. A vigorous round of prosecutions could be a possibility with little space for plea bargains, pardons or friendly foreign intervention. Yet if the administration insists on their deficient plan the country might unravel as a result.

It will be a mistake to dismiss protesters as a few thousand too little to make a difference.No one could predict that street vendor in Tunis could set Arab Spring in motion.See the colossal upheaval it has caused. Basically it is the ideology and not the numbers that really matter.PTI and PAT workers have to be viewed as a different breed. They are neither soaked sectarian zombies nor blind and bounden followers of ANP, PML(N) etc. They are generally literate, motivated and reasoning urbanites.Urbanites are the ones who would decide the future political framework of the country.Pakistan’s future govts will be formed and deformed by urban centers of population and not rural herds. Sixteen of these agile men and women have been killed at Model Town and the effect is already ballooning. PAT’s offensive is impending, and if our trigger happy police falters again, it will snowball horribly.They have quite disdainfully rejected Punjab Govt’s offer of considerable compensation for the dead and wounded.For the first time one has heard the dreadful demand to seek out children of the leadership instead, kill and pay double the compensation. Rhetoric of the demand apart, the very notion should jerk the society out of its slumber, as this can kick off a savage but unstoppable cycle of revenge killings.

If the administration is not determined to walk their talk then they better put off this so called 14th August celebration in the national interest and tackle PTI politically. There is still time and a lot could be done if dysfunctional Election Commission is revamped completely, judiciary cleansed of tainted judges, perpetrators of Model Town carnage brought to book and finally election results of controversial constituencies opened to scrutiny. Meanwhile one could expect the GHQ to be working on various contingencies arising out of the Govt’s latest move. Top of the options list might emerge a polite expression of inability to attend the audacious celebration as that will stain the institution’s neutrality irreparably, under whose impact the country might shatter.


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