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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The March Madness of May

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 10, 2012

If anything the former Premier Nawaz Sharif, along with another former skipper, Imran Khan, ought to be saluted for, it is invigorating health consciousness in Pakistan. The call for rallies and marches are meant to remind the masses that the best defence against bad cholesterol and boredom is a long and hearty march. The former PM has decided to compel the sitting PM to resign and the former captain wants to demonstrate his unyielding solidarity with the ‘independent judiciary’. By the way, Pakistan is perhaps the first country on the face of the earth where people come out on the streets to show their appreciation of the judiciary in this manner. I presume it is to show their appreciation for what they are paid to do all day long.

The self-proclaimed ‘Lion’ has roared in Taxila and the angry middle aged man has taken his love for the judiciary to the streets of Islamabad. Both have started their respective campaigns — let us say election campaigns — ahead of schedule. Both have chalked up additional turf and territory to cover during this month. I am sure the summer will be hotter than ever with the rising temperature on the political scene. There is some noise from the incumbents too that they will respond with similar marches from all four provinces and so on and so forth. Hence, the title of this write up is what you have read earlier.

I wish these marches were truly about fitness and health consciousness. But as some high-pitched anchors opine nightly, people have nothing to wear and no food in their stomach. They can barely survive — how in God’s name can they care about their health? Hmm, high-pitched nightly drama, where politicians and especially incumbents are painted as the real culprits and the true scum. How convenient. The public sees this nightly circus with all its doom and gloom and becomes overly depressed. By the way, this is an old military tactic called ‘Psy Ops’. By no stretch of the imagination am I trying to defend the proverbial ‘scum’. In any part of the world, this scum, the so-called smooth operators, is needed. These are slick sales people selling dreams to the otherwise hopeless masses. This is a job too and someone has to do it.

The political parties sell ideas and those ideas need buyers. As long as people are willing to listen to the pitch, laced with sound bytes, the politicians are willing to go on and on. There is heavy duty selling that goes on; promises are endless and the sound bytes get more and more creative. If you are as old as me, and have been to other countries in the world, you know that much of it is, let’s say, a stretch. Hidden somewhere in the sermon is the reality. Smart people are those who are able to read the truth between the lines and make their ‘buying decision’ of the ‘lesser of all evils’, among the pack. People who remain stuck solely on the pitch, punch lines and much of its fluff, are found very disgruntled, post-election. Despite all its shortcomings, the only way to go is to select the right salesperson. As flawed as the system may be, that is the only way that works and perfects itself with time.

Getting back to our scene of physically fit salespeople, Mian Nawaz Sharif has sung his own self-praise for building the magnificent Motorway and the magnificent bomb. Another subject altogether for another day. Whereas the former ‘Kuptaan’ has uttered the word ‘corruption’, perhaps for the billionth time by now. His admiration and solidarity with the independent judiciary is unquestionable. Our great Khan has championed marching for the cause of the judiciary. There is one minor detail though; there is no request from the honourable and utterly independent judiciary. Nor there has been any sign from the bench, which invites, or let us say, drags the so-called ‘political players’ into a purely legal matter. But as I said earlier, the election campaign has begun. The Khan, and rightly dubbed Noah of our times, has started to build the Ark.

Mr Khan’s call is purely political. To prove my point, had the independent judiciary spared the prime minister and found his conduct satisfactory, would Mr Khan still be out on the streets, glorifying the verdict? I think not. I have argued here and at other venues in the past that just by calling itself ‘independent’, the honourable judiciary of Pakistan cannot absolve itself of its excesses of the past. The overarching belief of turning a new leaf one fine day, which will erase everything, is completely flawed — so long as it is limited to one particular institution. Similarly, the military cannot wipe off its blunders and say, ‘Let’s move on.’ The politicians are chastised for being corrupt and beneficiaries of an unconstitutional ordinance. Has someone questioned the other integral organs of the state as well? Because the ghosts of the past will keep haunting us, until we either make every historical wrong right, or bury everything for everyone and start a new day. A selective ‘pick as you like issue and justice’ is, in fact, a travesty of justice. Those who put too much faith and stock in any particular institution and elevate it to the ‘holier than thou’ level are actually fooling themselves. In a true democratic form of government, all institutions are open to scrutiny. In a truly equitable system, there are no sacred cows. Till this reality dawns on us, let us keep on marching forward.

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