And the year that will come
Hyperbole is the hobgoblin of lazy minds. One is wary of calling a mere transition the end of an era – though it would be difficult to avoid the impulse for the year that has passed. This was the year the government changed, the year the iconic chief justice went home and the one in which the all-powerful army chief finally went home after having been given an extension earlier.
What difference the departure of the chief justice makes is not known. But if the incumbent chief justice is even half as measured a man as he is said to be, the judiciary would be able to sustain the freedoms it has acquired over the struggle of the last couple of years. Had the former chief justice been replaced by one as given to judicial adventurism as he, there was bound to have been a clash of institutions, one where the League might have been joined by the PPP and, perhaps, even the PTI. Good fences make for good neighbours. It is in reserve that the judiciary will remain a force to be reckoned with.
‘The PML-N also used to share its delusions about the war on terror with the PTI. But, as opposed to the latter, the penny has finally dropped.’
Gen Kayani leaves the army in less of a muddled confusion than when he took over it. But the cognitive dissonance that the army is facing as a result of the about-turn of the Musharraf era is problematic indeed. And that is going to be Gen Raheel’s biggest headache, perhaps even bigger than the fireworks in the tribal areas.
The year leaves the PPP in a worse way than it has been before. Why, asks the sceptic, who has heard prophesies of gloom and doom about the party before, only to have it rise from the ashes? After all, back in 1997, the party couldn’t even get the Sindh government; at least it has that now. True, but the party has always led the opposition in the Punjab. And with that gone, its role as a national party has dissipated considerably. They really need to do their homework to spring back.
The PTI is finally in charge of a government, if not the one it wanted. The party’s priorities have finally started to be criticised, even by its supporters. It has come to realise how untenable its line regarding terror actually was but it has invested too much political capital to think otherwise. At a time when the province’s police – the bravest set of men in the country – are demoralised for lack of government policy direction; when the reign of terror continues unabated; at a time where the militants are collecting extortion money, Karachi-style in Peshawar, the PTI throws dharnas against inflation. In the Punjab.
‘Had the former chief justice been replaced by one as given to judicial adventurism as he, there was bound to have been a clash of institutions, one where the League might have been joined by the PPP and, perhaps, even the PTI.’
The PML-N also used to share its delusions about the war on terror with the PTI. But, as opposed to the latter, the penny has finally dropped, it would appear. The difference: whereas the PTI simply does not understand the problem, the League understands but is scared of doing anything about it. This is going to be a bloody war, one that doesn’t sit well with the trading classes that form the bulk of the League’s support.
The League also needs to realise that it is a Punjabi party and that this was a time to reach out to the rest of the country. The proportion of Punjabis in the federal cabinet is uncalled for. But this is till one realises the parochialism of the prime minister is not of the ethnic variety but the personal sort. He likes his friends in the high places. Those friends just happen to be Punjabis. Either way, this is no way to run an inclusive government.
‘The year leaves the PPP in a worse way than it has been before. Why, asks the sceptic, who has heard prophesies of gloom and doom about the party before, only to have it rise from the ashes?’
The next year sees the withdrawal of a large proportion of American forces from Afghanistan. The aftermath is going to destroy certain delusions held by some schools of thought in Pakistan. It is this aftermath that is going to either provide for some clarity of thought within the Pakistani political landscape or further confusion down the line.