Love’s dangers and follies —Sarah Humayun


Oscillate between any two poles of thought too long, and what you get is a condition falsely resembling detachment. When the resignation did finally happen, we realised that it did, after all, matter. It is the same world, and yet it is different

As is the case with these things, when Mr Musharraf resigned it seemed almost everyone was past caring. He could go any minute; he would never go. Nothing would change without him; things would be transformed utterly.

Oscillate between any two poles of thought too long, and what you get is a condition falsely resembling detachment. When the resignation did finally happen, we realised that it did, after all, matter. It is the same world, and yet it is different.

By now the implications of Musharraf’s resignation have been pretty much spelt out (and it is only the third day). First, that the loss of Musharraf means the loss of an excuse that could be hustled up to account for most coalition woes. Judges, economy, war on terror, you name it.

Second, that now the coalition partners will ease into postures that come more naturally to them. Proximity to Musharraf has divested the PPP of its populist, anti-establishment reputation to a considerable extent (though cold reason tells us that its policies were never untarnishedly populist or anti-establishment). It might try to rectify that now, and in the process face internal tensions if not implosion.

The Nawaz League, on the other hand, has been thrown lately into the role of democracy police, which it has played with relish. Yet observers who remember its genesis in dictatorship and development through opportunism, greed for power and reckless confrontation have never let go of their misgivings about it. A not very charitable now-we-shall-see mood is discernible in the commentariat.

Third, there isn’t too much hope on progress regarding the judges. Now that Musharraf is not there to distort the picture, it should become clear what the coalition members actually want to do with them, and what they are really afraid of.

Finally, there is even less hope on what are sometimes called the ‘real issues’, terrorism, counter-insurgency, the economy, poverty relief, health, education. The coalition will have to flourish or starve, it is felt, on a diet of pure politics.

There is, against all that, the fact that Musharraf is gone. And the manner in which he went. It is not only Pakistan that has survived Musharraf; Musharraf, too, has survived Pakistan.

There was a point some time last year when speculation regarding the way Musharraf would go was rife as an infection. The dreadful question was would he be allowed to make it into exile or not. Whatever else might be said, it is a mercy that this presidential unseating has not played out as another abrupt or bloody end. Whether Musharraf is allowed to go into exile or made to stand on trial, it is hoped his personal safety would not be compromised at any cost. That would be to lose one of the small clear victories that have been won.

If hope resides in anything, it is in sheer continuation: that the coalition partners would just keep hanging on to each other, despite the very considerable odds, and that both the good and bad done in Musharraf’s eight years would unfold and be contained in time, enough time. Apart from this, all is speculators’ gimmicks.

As for the man himself, we got some inkling of what was going on in his mind from his farewell speech. Whatever politics forced his hand to the resignation, and despite the touches of bravado, his last speech was subdued, self-revealing. Pakistan mera ishq hai, he said at one point, a little disturbingly. Mention love, and what comes first to mind, to some people’s minds at least, is the danger of self deception, the possibility of mistaking one’s own desire for the loved one’s good.

Musharraf, if he is to be believed, ran the full gamut of love’s dangers and follies. I will not enumerate them; the papers are full of them. Listening to him, I thought of the old idea of the expansion or transfiguration of love, which was supposed to redeem love from itself. Here’s TS Eliot on this, in the Four Quartets:

love of a country
Begins as attachment to our own field of action
And comes to find that action of little importance
Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

Far cry from the mess of politics? Or perhaps not.

The writer is former Assistant Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times and loves to find affinities in objects where no brotherhood exists to common minds

Source: Daily Times, 21/8/2008

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