Don Quixote of La Mancha


Throwing the baby with the bathwater?



According to the PTI narrative two billion rupees of government advertisements is a form of bribe to media houses

Despite an incremental Indian military threat and propaganda warfare at its zenith, the Pakistani polity remains a divided house. The joint House of the Parliament — ostensibly summoned to give a symbolic message of unity on the Kashmir issue and New Delhi’s intransigence — deteriorated into a verbal slugfest between the treasury benches and the opposition.

The Khan of khans, heady with the unprecedented success of his 30 September Lahore rally, had already decided to boycott the parliament until Sharif stepped down or initiated a meaningful probe of the Panamagate. The PTI chief on Thursday was seen gloating over the insults exchanged between the leader of the House in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan and the maverick Mushahid Ulla Khan.

Aitzaz in his speech was critical of the government’s foreign policy as well as the strategic outlook of the security establishment. Being the architect of the TORs (terms of reference) for the Panama Leaks probe against the prime minister, he rightly criticised the government for stonewalling the issue.

As the leader of the opposition this is Aitzaz’s job description. However Mushahidullah, perhaps after a nod from his bosses, launched a diatribe against the opposition.

Khursheed Shah as leader of the opposition in the National Assembly saved the day by not making good the threat of a walk out. Otherwise it would have been an unmitigated disaster. So much for the talk of mukmukaa (deal) between Zardari and Sharif.

But the icing on the cake was a report in the media that the government had finally blinked in a huddle the other day between the civilian and khaki leadership. Reportedly in the meeting the Punjab chief minister bitterly complained how his hands were tied by the military establishment in effectively moving against terrorists belonging to the proscribed militant organisations in the province.

Of course the federal as well as the Punjab government vociferously denied the report. The military, however, chose to remain silent on the issue.

In any case the DG ISPR (inter services public relations) Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, who heads the resourceful PR wing of the army, was not present in the meeting. Despite being the eyes and ears of the chief he is simply not invited to such meetings these days.

With less than two months left for the military chief’s retirement it seems the Sharifs, true to their style, have finally found the gumption to challenge the khaki narrative. And to add insult to injury it was leaked to a section of the media.

Notwithstanding the blame game, it is becoming increasingly unsustainable to host and harbour militant organisations like Hafiz Saeed’s outfit Lashker-e-Taiaba and Jammat ud Dawa, Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Muhammad (JEM) and the Haqqani Network, just to name a few.

Some of these outfits perhaps are being sustained or simply tolerated as a cat paw for jihad in Kashmir. But as some of the parliamentarians sent on junkets to western capitals ‘to highlight the Kashmir cause’ found to their detriment, the world by and large including our friend China is sick and tired of Islamabad’s nebulous policy towards banned jihadist organisations. The logic that we are the victim of terrorism, how can we sustain them, simply does not cut ice even with our allies and mentors.

On the other hand, the military is somewhat right when it finds resistance from the Punjab chief minister towards positioning the paramilitary Rangers in the province and giving them the powers to move against proscribed militant outfits. The Punjab government, according to the report, claims that its police force if given a free hand and co-operation from the ISI (inter services intelligence agency) is perfectly capable of nabbing the militants.

However, facts speak otherwise. Admittedly the performance of the provincial police and its counter terrorism department (CTD) has markedly improved in recent years. The police force nonetheless is still undermanned, inadequately trained and too politicised to deliver on the counter terrorism front.

In any case what is good for the goose should be good for the gander too. If Prime Minister Sharif is not hesitant in dispatching the Rangers to other provinces why should his home province be the only exception?

Apart from the civilian-military divide over strategic issues being aired in the open; politics is also becoming increasingly divisive. The timing however could not be worse.

Imran Khan, after his Raiwind rally, is fully charged. He has given a call to ‘shutdown’ Islamabad on 30 October. Come what may he wants to oust the Sharif gang without even waiting for the 2018 general elections.

Like the fabled sixteenth century Don Quixote of La Mancha perhaps he has recruited thousands of Sancho Panzas to conquer the imaginary (corruption) windmill.

Or is there a method in his madness?

He knows fully wellthat he cannot trounce the Sharifs in constituency politics. So why not use his best asset of rabble rousing and oust them through his unmatched street power?

Imran has thrown the gauntlet to the Sharifs. They simply cannot allow a reenactment of the dharna in Islamabad.

Perhaps negotiations are the only way but with a loaded pistol of mustering street power to force Sharif to resign it will not be easy to talk to such a bitter and recalcitrant foe.

This time the Khan has taken a solo flight and like a ninja fighter he wants to destroy everything within his reach. In his ostensible crusade against corruption, democracy could be the first casualty so carefully nurtured.

According to the PTI chief except him and his cronies everyone else is corrupt. Asif Ali Zardari is back on top of the list. Only a few months back he had become a quasi ally. But now that he and his scion have refused to play ball he has suggested a ‘minus one’ formula (a la Altaf Hussain) for the PPP as well.

Zardari is in the august company of the Sharif family, Mehmood Khan Achackzai, Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman, just to name a few singled out by Khan as corrupt.

According to the PTI narrative two billion rupees of government advertisements is a form of bribe to media houses. Similarly certain media outlets that are critical of the PTI have been simply bought out, according to the same perverse logic.

This kind of fascist talk does not auger well for democracy. After all the PTI is the third or possibly second largest party of the country. Instead of abusing politicians, state instructions and his critics in the media as corrupt the Khan should be concentrating on bringing change through elections.

His present campaign is tantamount to throwing the baby with the bath water. Winning the next elections is well within his reach. Why squander the opportunity?


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