Political tangles

  • The entire system is being threatened, just as tangled dor is no good

Nations must learn from history but unfortunately we do not. Siasi Gunghal (Political Tangles) are once again on the rise. This is not the first time that the entanglement has been carried too far to the extent of tearing the system apart. There is a Persian saying that goes: ‘Jokes are fun as long as they do not target the beards of the elders’. In 1977 the PNA (Pakistan National Alliance) movement went too far. Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who was otherwise an honest and upright individual, grossly miscalculated the situation. He was convinced that General Ziaul Haq will hold elections within 90 days and then return to the barracks. Instead he held on for 11 years and two months. When he was blown up in mid-air there was a sigh of relief.

Those who fly kites known how deadly Gunghals are. The Pecha Masters (Contest leaders) avoid it at all costs. Being the youngest member of the kite-flying team I was always in a support role. It was my duty to keep the dor (glass-coated twine) untangled and ready for the pecha (kite combat). After the pecha it was my job to pull back the dor and then rewind it. In case of any gunghal my father would insist on discarding the gunghal dor while I tried to untangle it for reuse. While I never got a chance to become a Pecha Master, as my elder brother took over this role after my father, but the lessons learnt have been lifelong. Gunghals cause immeasurable damage to the dor. It is very difficult to untangle them and even then the thruki (weakening) cannot be identified nor removed. They invariably show up at the critical moment resulting in Bo Kata (cutting of the kite).

Politics is much more complicated and long drawn than kite flying. Leaders must emerge on solid credentials of service to the people and efforts for common good

If Bo Kata has to be avoided gunghals must be avoided and taken very seriously. General Zia inserted the 8th Amendment in the Constitution under which the President was empowered to dismiss an elected government and dissolve the assemblies. Zia used it once, Ishaq Khan twice, even the democrat Farooq Leghari used it once to dismiss the government of his own party. In India, though this provisiob is a part of the Constitution, no President has ever invoked it. Finally in Pakistan most of Zia’s draconian amendments have been annulled through the 18th Amendment, and only a few remain that should also be removed to cleanse the sacred document.

During the Rajiv Gandhi era there were serious charges of corruption in India over the purchase of armaments, called the ‘Bofors Scandal’. There was a tiff between the Prime Minister and the President, then Giani Zail Singh. On the refusal of the PM to investigate, the President thought of dismissing the government. It was a major gunghal. The elders intervened and the pecha (contest) was avoided to protect democracy. Both leaders completed their terms and the system was saved.

In the USA, when President Richard Nixon was being impeached for the ‘Watergate Scandal’, the White House Chief of staff Gen Alexander Haig advised the President to send the Congress packing. As Commander-in-Chief the President had the authority to impose emergency and take complete control. Nixon decided against the recommendation, resigned and went home. In best national interests he avoided both the pecha and the gunghal. It was a test of his leadership. His parting words were, “My mother said it is not bad when people think bad about you, it is bad when you think bad about the people’.

Yes indeed, thinking bad about the people is bad. One must focus on the common good for society to grow. This approach has been missing in our leadership. Instead of pecha masters we have produced luteray (robbers, or those who go after others ‘kites; and dor). To be a pecha master one has to go through an extensive training drill. Being the youngest in the family I was denied this opportunity so I learnt the Short pecha which is also called hath marna. In this format the dor is pulled in at speed instead of being released in a Long pecha which is also called dheel ka pecha. Over the years, kite flying has been ruined as there are no pecha masters left in the arena, Luteray and hath mars have taken over.

Politics is much more complicated and long drawn than kite flying. Leaders must emerge on solid credentials of service to the people and efforts for common good. Luteray cannot lead as they are trained only for loot as we are witnessing today. Instead of coming clean on the charges levied against them, the political leadership is producing gunghals and more gunghals. Together with crafty lawyers and some unscrupulous judges the process is being unnecessarily complicated and delayed. Only Khawaja Saad Rafique is talking about the past mistakes of the politicians. Gunghals will get us nowhere. In 1958 they propelled Ayub Khan into power, in 1977 they provided an opening to Ziaul Haq, in 1999 they paved the way for Pervez Musharraf to take over. Better sense must prevail in 2019. Imran Khan was elected in a free and fair election in 2018, he is constitutionally bound to go for another electoral exercise by 2023. If the system is made to collapse through gunghals the constitutional statute of time will become irrelevant. A fresh start has to be made, otherwise it will be Bo kata once again. Kite flying has suffered enough already; the nation should be spared this time around.