May 082008

Fasi Zaka

Pashto sayings are often about valour: no compromises, and no surrenders. There is a huge romanticism in the obstinacy and individualism of the culture. I am often enamoured by its singularity and exceptionalism, it’s out of place in a largely servile subcontinent.

But, of course, every individual cannot always have their way. As society has moved on in the NWFP (and regressed in other parts), new sayings have emerged. My favourite is, “Khar ghaiyarat uko, Truck oowakho.” Loosely translated it means “A donkey that holds its ground in the middle of a street on principle, because it has the right of way, will get hit by a truck.”

I really wish right now that some of our politicians were like that fabled donkey. It’s not that I want the main politicians of the current PML-N and PPP become road kill, but that they take the high road of principle and damn the short-term consequences of personal benefit.

It’s fairly obvious that the election pledge of reinstating the judges is becoming nothing less than a farce. One deadline has passed, and the day the new deadline for reinstating the judges was declared, there is already grumbling from the PPP that they won’t be able to meet it. To be fair, Asif Ali Zardari already gave us fair warning that his own statements should be doubted, because, as he said, “It’s not a Hadith.”

But I think no one was under the impression that what he said was to be treated with the verity of a religious commandment. However, the public did believe him to be a reformed politician who was in the habit of saying the right things after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Maybe, with the elections over, he has just shed the winter clothing that had everyone in awe.

The one election promise that seemed ironclad has just been exposed as an issue that was encrusted in cheap sheet metal. Even Nawaz Sharif seems to think that the judges can be tinkered with to keep the government running, even though he could leave on principle and still support the government in the legislative process.

I find it interesting that several commentators and magazines now seem to think that the deposed Chief Justice is politicised. While he may not be politicised, it is true he is becoming demonised as the sole obstacle in the process of the reinstatement of the others.

The problem is that in the run-up to the elections everyone was cued into the message with little deviation. Now the slightest deviation on the judges’ issue smells of politics. The PPP’s sudden interest in the welfare of the PCO judges, appointed by President Musharraf simply to block a deposed judiciary that recognised no political masters, is hollow. If, as Asif Ali Zardari says, President Musharraf is not a constitutional president, why is there this interest in protecting one of his constitutionally deviating measures and the appointments made within the ambit of that move?

The PPP has to make up its mind, the goodwill post the elections will not last forever. There has been no major protests post the elections on the highly questionable characters put back into the bureaucracy. Ahmad Mukhtar protested the need for professional heads of PIA when he was questioned on his brother’s performance as head of the airline, and now somehow he has been appointed the new chairman.

Thanks to the disarray in the chain of command mala-fide intentions are slowly being exposed. Rehman Malik’s latest fiasco in the dates of the by-elections is a case in point. Everyone rushed to blame the Presidency to create an air of victimisation. While the Presidency has been guilty of a lot, it seems like it is now being used as a cover for all the malfeasance self-generated.

With the issue of the deposed judges, a disturbing truth is emerging. The democratic forces are happy to appropriate the excesses of President Musharraf through dubious argument. The judges’ issue has been expropriated without the intention of reinstatement. The rule of law is dangerous for the PPP leadership, because there is no way they can be certain that the judiciary will keep mum on the NRO.

One could almost argue that everyone except the PPP and the PML-N actually realise how buoyant the people of Pakistan were on their election. The fudging, the delays, the misleading, it’s chipping away against the goodwill they have. If they don’t get their act together and begin to adopt at least a few monolithic views, the upheaval will be bad for everyone. And who it will hurt the most is the PPP because without Benazir Bhutto, the party will not able to withstand a loss in the moral authority of Asif Ali Zardari. If he gets discredited, as he is slowly beginning to, the weave that led the elections to victory will be unwoven into fragile threads.

The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: fasizaka@

Source: The News, 8/5/2008

 Posted by at 9:08 pm

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