Apr 222008

Standing next to Pakistan’s rising geopolitical challenges, most Pakistani politicians appear pygmies. Take the federal minister for sports, for example. China overrides opposition in international circles to letting the Olympic torch pass through our country. Yet the honourable minister refused to receive the torch, apparently because of his dislike of the president.
Now, our president, Mr Musharraf, plays a deft hand in the Great Game by inviting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [read: China and Russia] into Afghanistan to break NATO’s monopoly. Yet our honourable prime minister picks the torch relay ceremony –China’s most important news event of the day – as a venue to remind ‘everyone’ [read: Musharraf] that the new ‘democratic’ government will have the upper hand even in sports. One Chinese translator appeared confused at how to make this relevant to the officials who came down from Beijing.

It is admirable that Shahbaz Sharif personally visited the family of the poor man in Lahore killed earlier in police custody. But how to explain the absence of rationality in the first action of Punjab’s stopgap new chief minister who announced he was turning his own secretariat building, built by his predecessor, into a university? The building housed offices previously scattered all over the expanding metropolis. Isn’t this blind political revenge? Punjab’s new administration would have scored some badly needed points for civilized politics in this country had it said something nice about at least one good thing that Punjab’s former chief minister did, like launching Rescue 1122.

But the biggest failures of reason, civility and common sense continue to be reserved for the ‘judicial issue’. Anyone who believes this is some kind of an epical battle for good-versus-evil needs to take a good hard look at doomsday video games, the last bastion for such epics. Aitzaz Ahsan hijacked the genuine activism of the legal community for political gain. Mr Ahsan decided to keep one foot in the lawyers’ movement and the other one firmly entrenched with political parties. He then smartly used one against the other. So if he doesn’t get a ticket for a by-election from the PPP, he can always count on the PML-N.

Now he wants both feet firmly in politics, effectively jumping the lawyers’ ship. He wants to join a parliament whose boycott he championed. If Mr Ahsan’s position is right and ethical, how come Imran Khan, the APDM, and the rest of the boycotters are not following Mr Ahsan’s lead? The real lawyers — those who are not politicians — have belatedly woken up to this reality, when the movement has effectively become subservient to the usual dirty politics. One party used the movement to extract a better ‘deal’. Another is using it to get back at the president. No wonder former presidential candidate Justice (r) Wajihuddin Ahmed is taking swipes at the politicians in power. Lawyer Mr Ali Ahmed Kurd reminds politicians that they are back in power thanks to the lawyers’ movement. But, more ominously, both are warning that parliament’s authority will be challenged in the streets if demands were not met. This is like having the judiciary — and not the military — execute a coup, for a change.

The lawyers’ movement would have gained unquestionable credibility had former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ensured that the movement remained de-politicized. To prove it, his angry speeches should have mentioned, in addition to President Musharraf, political parties that continue to have in their ranks major offenders of the law and people who created a worldwide precedent by mobbing the building of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Surely this last offence was as ugly as dismissing sitting judges, if not uglier.

So, good-versus-evil? Revenge and politics are more like it. If this was about democracy, Justice Chaudhry would have been the first one to step down for taking oath from a military chief executive and abandoning his colleagues of October 1999, who quietly faded into oblivion. As Pakistani citizens, we need to ask more probing questions than the cliched ones that less than 30 liberal television commentators are recycling on different networks and posing them to us as ultimate truths.

And, please, if someone dares talk openly, do not be quick to link them to the presidency. Last week, one of the several published letters to the editor published on these pages even suggested that this newspaper should fire me. I am all for investigating my links to the presidency, both direct and indirect, especially since I don’t have any. But I have political opinions and some of them are approving of the president. I know some other columnists have strong views favourable to the PPP and the PML-N. Should they also be investigated for their apparent bias?

Trading ideas is far better than trading accusations.

The writer works for Geo television. Email: aq@ahmedquraishi.com

 Posted by at 7:46 am

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