In a dark, blind alley


Who led us down there?

The last two years of Musharraf’s rule were a time of intense trauma for the people, for reasons too painful to recount here but mainly because they have since been dwarfed by maladies that are far more serious. Out of the frying pan into an uncontrollably raging wildfire. Though the task seemed lengthy and difficult, the PPP-led coalition has accomplished it in good time: brought about more social and political divisions, more poverty, more inflation, more suffering and more disillusionment in its four years at the helm than the impulsive commando could manage in his eleven.

Four further years of aimless drift have brought the country to a near breakdown, with the ‘prime minister’ rubbing it in by giving marching orders to a third of the country’s citizens in a CNN interview. These are the taxpayers who fund his luxurious lifestyle and official tours, all highly successful, it goes without saying. This remark reveals the unthinking and callous nature of this leadership.

The PPP’s sudden frenzy for a new province in southern Punjab was another ill-conceived decision and such dangerous gaffes are now its virtual monopoly. This needless demand made at a time of deep divisions within the socio-political fabric predictably led to the ‘mysterious’ rallies for a Mohajir province in Sindh. In the end, all this provided another pretext for more killings and civil strife.

First, a peaceful Awami Tehreek protest against the division of Sindh was attacked by masked men leaving eleven killed and over 30 injured. Later on, (ostensibly) the ‘Sindhu Desh Liberation Army’ also jumped into the fray and shot seven passengers of a private bus bound from Karachi to Kohat. Who should be held responsible for these killing of the innocents, and also for the anarchy in Karachi?

It has to be the person whose alleged shrewdness and supposed political acumen have been trumpeted ad nauseum, Mr. President himself and for two reasons.

The first is his entrepreneurial political alliance with the MQM for the sole purpose of remaining in power at the centre. In his pursuit of the requisite numbers, he has been successfully blackmailed by the MQM (no mean feat) on more than one occasion and has allowed it to get its way, right or wrong.

The second is his oft-repeated threat of the so-called Sindh card. In practice, this implies he has the capability of inciting the people to violence if the corrupt regime is unconstitutionally removed or menaced by the omniscient third force. The confrontational remarks made in this context from time to time by the head of state were most improper. They caused many needless crises within the establishment, and created much doubt about the future of democracy. So, playing the Sindh card has not exactly turned out to be a playful pastime. It has had bloody consequences. Literally.

The murderous attack on the Awami Tehreek rally and the Nawabshah bus killings are but opposite sides of the same coin. They are the ruling party’s chickens coming home to roost.

Mr Zardari has not helped matters by his often strange actions and eccentric behaviour over the past four years, beginning with his totally frivolous remarks to the Tea Party celebrity and later US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, his Sindhi card (and cap) and his sporadic persecution mania by ‘political actors’.

Mr Zardari might be a past master in manipulation, on exploiting the weaknesses of men, of putting an accurate price tag on them, and in making offers that the Aitzaz Ahsans of this world cannot refuse. But has all this street-smart slyness brought about any dividends for the country and the people? It has only been useful for clinging on to power. Old Abe’s aphorism on the problem of fooling all of the people all of the time comes to mind.

Other than the protesting-too-much MQM, the resident political genius has also roped in another strange bedfellow: to wit, the Q League, formerly the Qatil League. By extricating the scion of the former Musharraf buddies (who blow with every wind, their area of specialization being the classic stab in the back) from a delicate, caught in the act corruption tangle, he might have momentarily secured their rather suspect support, but has conveyed the worst possible signals regarding his own commitment to mainstream democracy.

Only morons can make their citizens pass through hellish suffering and still expect to be voted back to power. Consider the following proposition: electricity supply diminishes daily even as the heat intensifies, but the power rates keep going up, repeatedly, even factoring in calculations for last year, the infamous fuel adjustment charges! Now they have come up with another hoax to mask corruption and incompetence, the separate charges for day and night formula. Surely there is something wrong with this equation, this no-win situation for the citizens and the country.

At the end, one is left ruing Mr Zardari’s unfortunate situation, that of missing out on a rare second chance in life (or is it the third?) to redeem himself. Adhering to the Charter of Democracy was the best option for success on the political and economic (and other) fronts. Instead, misled by messianic delusions, egged on by cronies and pygmies, he embarked on a solo flight and overreached himself.

The country is suffering for it. He has led it to a blind alley, and it may be added, a dark blind alley.

Mr Zardari has now become his own worst enemy, an unfortunate condition for which there is no known cure. As the Chinese proverb puts it, ‘the fool guards himself from everything but himself’. And 180 million souls are paying for it.

The writer is a freelance columnist.


  1. An excellent article and I fully agree. But sir don't you think the 180 million people are also to be blamed for voting in these fools.

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