EDITORAIL: A sorry looking lot
President Asif Ali Zardari’s return to the country and declared intention to get back into harness at the earliest possible has left his detractors with egg on their face. All manner of rumour, gossip and speculation had been unleashed as soon as the news of the president’s illness became known. Every flight of fancy was considered fair game, from the allegation that the president was no longer able to discharge his duties and should therefore, in accordance with Article 47 of the constitution, be removed from office, to the impending departure of the government. The fact that the presidential spokespeople were consistently conveying that the president had recovered and would soon return cut no ice with those whose visceral hatred of the president and the PPP-led government has blinded them repeatedly to the ground realities and plunged them into folly after folly. No nuance, real or imagined, was overlooked by our hyperactive media in prophesying doom for the incumbent president and government. The wish list of the forces that could, in overheated imagination, be mobilised to unseat the incumbents included the military and the judiciary. Why has this phenomenon of forecasting doom and gloom repeatedly become the leitmotif of large parts of the media and political players?
There are perhaps three sets of actors tilting at these windmills ever since the PPP government came to power almost four years ago. They comprise: 1) Those with an unflagging visceral hatred of the president and the PPP government for ideological, political, and vested interest reasons. 2) Those who may not have begun life in the first category but have become increasingly disappointed and disillusioned with the performance of the government since it assumed power in 2008. 3) Our permanent establishment and their satraps that may still harbour suspicions about the PPP despite the latter’s bending over backwards to keep the former sweet. Taken in order, there seems little hope of rescue for the first category, blinkered as its vision is. The second offers at least the possibility of being persuaded that whatever their view of the present incumbents and their performance in office, efforts to see the back of the incumbents must not stray into territory where along with the bathwater (the government) the baby (democracy) also gets thrown out. To those who pooh-pooh democracy because they feel it has failed to deliver, there is only one counsel: patience. Democracy does not offer guarantees for the solution of problems per se. What it does offer is a participatory political process under the umbrella of the freedoms that are an inherent core of any democratic system worth the name. What use are these freedoms, the detractors ask? Freedom to organise, express opinions and exercise the right to oppose through peaceful and constitutional means offer the possibility of putting forth a new, or amending/changing the existing national political agenda. In other words, the struggle for solutions and rights can be waged openly and without fear. The more democratic a system, the better able are all the diverse forces in society to advocate and ‘fight’ for their special or even general concerns. Since we in Pakistan have little or no experience of genuine democracy and true freedom, and far too much than is good for our health of autocracy and dictatorship, we soon lose patience with the seemingly slow pace or non-existence of desirable change under democracy and reflexively start harking back to strongman rule of one kind or another. Nothing has been learnt by such minds from the history of damage done to state and society by such non-representative dispensations littered through our relatively brief history as an independent country.
Prime Minister Gilani, in a relaxed mood at a private wedding in Lahore on Sunday reiterated what some analysts (and this paper) have been arguing since the (now) pricked balloon of memogate and other fulminations have been trying to portray. The ‘crisis’ is more overheated imagination than ground reality. The institutions of state that these agitated minds have ‘clashing’, seem wiser and maturer than those who have been egging them on to bare their knuckles against each other. The meeting between General Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani cleared the air considerably and saw them arriving on the same page. The honourable Supreme Court Chief Justice (and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif) is clearly committed to opposing any extra-constitutional intervention to upset the applecart of the present democratic dispensation. Those with axes to grind will therefore have to take a deep breath and relax. And those in our ‘free’ media who have been proved wrong and way over the top in recent days should take time out to reflect on the ethics and sense of responsibility of a truly free media that intends to stay that way. *
SECOND EDITORAIL: Hate speech at a bigoted rally
Difa-i-Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defence Council) held a grand rally in Lahore on Sunday. The cast of usual suspects was present, including PDC chairman Maulana Samiul Haq, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, former ISI chief General Hamid Gul, Ijazul Haq and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed among others. It is beyond comprehension why the Punjab government gave permission to the Difa-i-Pakistan Council to hold a rally when those who were going to address it are people with extreme views. They were bound to cause embarrassment to Pakistan in terms of their hardline stance and condemnation of a number of countries and this is exactly what happened. Vowing to attack the US, Russia, NATO forces and India, these extremists then turned the tirade completely against India. This was expected since the JuD is just a front for the banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT).
At a time when Pakistan is trying to normalise its relations with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks said to be conducted by the LeT, Hafiz Saeed and company declared jihad against India at the Difa-i-Pakistan Conference. Pakistan is quite rightly trying to resolve disputes with India through political and diplomatic means. Terrorist groups should not be allowed to derail the peace process. Despite being banned by the UN Security Council (UNSC), Pakistan has so far not officially banned the JuD. The PML-N is known to have a soft spot for militant organisations but this does not mean that an ostensibly banned organisation should be allowed to hold rallies in the country. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan could not attend the rally but sent a note that was read out there. PTI’s tacit support of extremist organisations will not do any favours to the party’s image.
Those at the rally condemned the war on terror and urged the government to get rid of it. What they failed to mention was that Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, as opposed to the sacrifices we keep harping on about, has been intervention through its proxies. Over the last 40 years, supporting extremist formulations have led us to a mess. Hate speech by jihadi outfits will further add to Pakistan’s problems. *