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The Noon League loves to play off the front foot. Ironic, as Sharif the elder favoured backfoot drives in his cricketing days

Politics in Pakistan is like a video game: you start with nothing and you work your way to a reasonable position. But then, just as you’re about to reach your goal, you are blind-sided on multiple fronts by threats that you have no way of coping with at the first go. So you die, respawn and return to the last checkpoint, only to see that your flag, which once flew proudly there, has been replaced by the enemy team’s emblem. Disheartened but not defeated, you struggle to bring your flag back and plant it in the same spot, again and again and again. Each time, you are blind-sided, ambushed and stabbed in the back, forcing you to return to your last save point.

In the case of the incumbent government, this save point has been martyrdom, whether political or physical. No party plays the “Sacrificed In The Name Of Democracy” game better than the PPP. From the judicial execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the brutal murder of Murtaza and culminating in the assassination of the late great Benazir Bhutto: jiyalas embrace the idea of martyrdom like bees flock to honey. It has been their most effective tool, in the past, as well as the present. But whether sympathy is the best way to win an election or not is up for debate: it did not work well in 1997 and it just may fall through the cracks come 2013.

The Noon League, on the other hand, loves to play it on the front foot. This is ironic, because during his days playing cricket at the Lawrence Gardens, Sharif the Elder would always favour late cuts off the back foot. But it’s a shame his batting technique did not rub off on his political footwork, especially since Chaudhry Nisar and Co do not let an opportunity pass without launching a snide personal attack on the top leadership of the PPP. The last time this happened i.e., Sunday, Minister for Tie-and-Die Rehman Malik opened a whole can of whoop-worms onto the Sharifs’ collective rear end. Monday saw Nawaz Sharif do the same for our jailbird PM.

This is the problem with playing politics at the expense of others’ personal activities. To quote someone from my Twitter/Facebook timelines, “Pakistan. A country where we all live in glass houses and everyone loves to throw stones. In every direction.” Quite true, this.

Remember last year, when the Sharifs were having problems with the MQM’s overstating of certain ‘facts’? Or remember 2007, when Imran Khan was on a warpath against Altaf Hussain? Or 2008, when the Chaudhrys were the most maligned political party in Pakistan and barbs of ‘Qatil league’ would fly around freer than sparrows? As a country, we are collectively suffering from perpetual selective amnesia. Must be all the hashish fumes that waft over into our territory from across our Northwestern borders. But whatever the cause, the result is always the same: every party, irrespective of ideology or standing, has to bend over backwards to accommodate its ‘allies’. While not all allies are as all-weather as the PPP and MQM, they’re not quite as civil as the PPP and ANP are, for example. But whatever the outcome of this great debate, it has to be said that the Afternoon League, headed by the mumbling Chaudhry of Gujrat, has managed to keep the boat of democracy afloat by plugging all the right holes at the right time. And then, of course, there is Maulana High-Speed Diesel, who has single-handedly changed the dictionary definition of power-monger. In fact, if you click online to Wikipedia, the article for ‘political expediency’ features a photo of the Maulana himself, in his Friday best.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of any other political actors. Especially, the tabdeeli soda-toting Pakistan Troll Intifada, or PTI for short. Intolerant of criticism, impervious to pragmatism, these Tweety-birds have taken the media (social and otherwise) by storm. Their domination over forums such as Twitter, Facebook and Jeem TV is now as complete as Genghis Khan’s tyranny over Asia. Unfortunately, this does not for great debate make, which is something quite necessary for the survival and establishment of a vibrant democratic society.

I have never been a huge fan of democracy. My political ideology comes from readings of Plato and Machiavelli. But those texts are old and so am I. It is time that I abandon my ‘benevolent despot’ approach and look towards the future, a future full of Internet trolls and diaper-toting advisers. I look to this future and shudder to think what smartphones, iPads and Playstation 3 will do to our country’s leaders in a decade. There are some who are trying to ride the wave of technology into the new millennium. Unfortunately, their skin is not thick enough to allow them to absorb criticism so freely, since they have never before been confronted with such direct questioning over things that, to them at least, are set in stone.

The typical Pakistani politician may well be dying. In its place is emerging a new league of super solider. One who can talk the talk and walk the walk. Whether it is the PTI, the PPP or the PML(N), I welcome this new breed. Here’s to hoping they’re more tolerant of logic and memory than their elders were.

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