He’s back


A set of challenges

The best gig in town, being a news pundit. A turn of phrase here, an amusing anecdote there and off you go smirking all the way to the bank at the end of the month. No occupational hazards here either, for speaking out against political governments doesn’t really put your life at risk. And for all the talk about accountability, there isn’t much accounting for one’s skills in this racket; consider the predictions about the fall of the incumbent government. Soon after the 2008 polls, an army of pundits has been making predictions about the demise of the government with one deadline after another falling through. Were these professionals in any other sector, they would have been shown the door. In the Pakistani airwaves and press, however, the party continues unabated.

Much egg on many faces yet again as the president’s return to the country has killed off a million predictions, all made with smug, knowing expressions. Unfazed by the forecasts gone kaput, they already churned out a new one: that the president returned only after a deal made with the army chief, promptly denied by the ISPR. It was a merely a one-minute call inquiring about the president’s health.

The job of a free media: to give a tough time to sitting governments on actual issues of governance. Given the incompetence of the current lot, they have plenty to work with. Our media warriors, however, peddle fast-selling half-baked conjectures instead.

Now that he’s back, he faces several flaming hoops. There is the Supreme Court’s hearing of the memo case, with the army chief and his ISI head taking a personal interest. Then there is the burgeoning gathering of an increasingly motley crew behind Imran Khan. Also, the gathering of a collective of right-wingers in Lahore and a mammoth rally of theirs in Peshawar (see editorial) is a sign of rising political temperatures. Amongst the allies, though the MQM has made some generic pro-democracy statements, theirs is a predictable move when (if?) push comes to shove. The PML(Q)’s loyalties could also prove to be a bit dicey.

It is a tough hand to play. But the incumbents have managed to navigate around this tough terrain till now, perhaps they can continue to do so in the future. In the meanwhile, however, a plethora of real issues besiege the polity. Governments with a paranoia about completing their terms in office rarely find time for governance.