Somebody, and I forget who, said that those who fail to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. History, it would appear, never happened as far as our current political masters are concerned, and they certainly don’t appear inclined to learn anything from it were they ever to find it! Watching events unfold there is a numbing predictability about it; you know what is going to happen next. In one of my occasional discussions with a colleague recently, I talked about the dreadful magnetism of the political brouhaha that we see daily as the presidential race (what race…we already know the winner) gets into gear. The closest analogy I could make was to the ghoulish pleasure we get from disasters – plane crashes, train wrecks, car accidents. We may be driving along without a care in the world when suddenly we spot an overturned car on the other carriageway. We slow down, crane our necks, gawp at the wreckage. I remember many years ago a plane crash in the UK. The airliner came down close to a road and within an hour the road was blocked by cars and people who had come to look at the disaster. We seem unstoppably drawn to the sight of destruction and tragedy – and there is plenty to view these days.
Perhaps the most chilling of the many unpleasantness-es that have paraded before us this week is the public strangling of truth and honesty. If ever the rest of the world needed confirmation of the perception that Pakistan was a land of cheats and turncoats they had only to look at the twists and turns that go with the increasingly opaque matter of judicial restoration. Agreements, duly signed by the political parties, were reneged on within days of their signature. It was breathtakingly blatant in its duplicity. A document that one side believed to be binding was signed by the other in the knowledge that their signature was a sham, worthless. No matter what ones political allegiance may be it is impossible to gainsay the entirely justifiable sense of outrage that was both felt and expressed by the PML-N. They had been duped, and nobody likes being made a fool of in public.
This came hard on the heels of the terminal illness of the coalition; just seven days after Mr Musharraf left to spend more time with his family. It had lasted less than six months; its demise was entirely predictable and at the end inevitable as its raison-d’etre had ceased to exist as well. No Musharraf – no coalition.
Untruths propagate like rabbits. You start with two and six months later the place is overrun with them. In the hours after the trashing of the agreement to restore the judges within a day (a day!) of the ouster of Musharraf the airwaves were awash with PPP spokespersons claiming they had been ‘forced’ into signing the agreement. ‘Forced’ by the inflexible and ‘hostile’ (could they be confusing ‘principled’ with ‘hostile’, I wonder?) position of the PML-N. ‘Forced’? Was a gun put to their head? Their families taken hostage until they signed on the dotted line? Unlikely, and what is more probable is that they signed in the foreknowledge that their disavowal of the agreement could be cloaked in the mantle of ‘normal politics’. As in ‘things happen’…’nothing is set in stone’…’this is a piece of paper, not holy scripture’ – and if we feel like using it to light a fire under the opposition then that is what we will do.
Us ordinary Pakistanis – and I feel more and more Pakistani and less and less English these days – look at all this shoddy politicking and wonder whatever happened to the dreams of the founding fathers. We can plainly see that the lessons of history are unlearned and that the mistakes of the past are endlessly re-run. But we are not mere spectators of this particular car/train/plane crash, we are actually on board, helpless passengers strapped to our seats and watching in bewilderment as those at the controls steer us yet again into a brick wall. Any possibility of somebody pressing the ‘pause’ button? Nope.
The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The News, 1/9/2008