VIEW: What’s up Doc? —Shaukat Qadir
We now have it from the Emperor himself that he had Mukhtar Mai’s name placed on the ECL. Kudos to him for accepting responsibility. I suppose one should be grateful that this decision was considered of sufficient import to be taken at the highest level
In the cartoon films featuring Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, the former perpetually asks the latter, “What’s up, Doc?” This is a question that can be asked vis-à-vis our domestic scene as well. Often this question has been directed at me! Not being privy to any inside information, I can usually only hazard a guess. This question did arise at a recent dinner with friends and the gist of the discussion follows.
The present government is the product of an alliance brokered between various factions and the mysterious establishment, with the blessings of our Emperor. Consequently, frequent demonstrations of existing fissures, through conflicting statements, should not be a matter for concern. The fact that each one requires an intervention by the final authority to smooth over matters only demonstrates how unnatural the present dispensation is.
Negotiations between the PPPP and the royal establishment have added a new dimension to the political scene, making the current dispensation in power insecure and uncertain of its future. If the PPPP manages to broker a deal with the establishment to return to power in the next elections, what will be the fate of the loyal PMLQ? There is always room for individuals to present themselves as the “best choice” or as “indispensables” to the establishment and find a niche for themselves in future dispensations, even if the collective fate of the PMLQ is uncertain. This is one aspect of the current “behind-the-scenes” drama.
However, the PMLQ, collectively, also needs to find a future for itself. If its loyal performance in the initial period of “real democracy” is insufficient to guarantee a place in the next political dispensation, it needs to find some other means of ensuring its relevance.
Two other developments are also apparent: a) the government-friendly opposition, the MMA, no longer appears very government friendly and b) the fissures within this holy-unholy alliance also seem to have increased. Consequently, if an establishment-PPPP deal is brokered, it is likely that the MMA will also cease to be relevant to the establishment.
This is probably the reason for MMA’s internal disputes; Qazi Hussain Ahmed labours under the belief that the MMA has established itself politically and will benefit by challenging the establishment, while Maulana Fazalur Rahman hesitates to go beyond acceptable limits in challenging the establishment. Whichever way the MMA goes, its umbilical cord with the establishment risks being cut off.
This means that if the PMLQ has to find an alternative means of establishing its relevance in Pakistan’s future political dispensation, what better than to join hands with the MMA and pose a greater threat to the political scene protected by religious injunctions. This perhaps, is the other behind-the-scenes drama that is presently being played. Time alone will tell which way the cookie crumbles.
Then there is the inevitable question of Mukhtar Mai, that unbelievably courageous woman who humbles us mortals by her courage and determination in the face of all odds, including the royal establishment. We now have it from the Emperor himself that he had her name placed on the ECL. Kudos to him for accepting responsibility. I suppose one should be grateful that this decision was considered of sufficient import to be taken at the highest level.
When her rape initially hit headlines in Pakistan, it was just one among the thousands that occur annually. However, it was her courage that captured the imagination of the international community.
The first thing the international community learnt about Pakistan in the context of this incident was that an innocent woman could be raped under what could be deemed the quasi-legal authority of the Panchayat, supposedly the village council of elders. The council meted out “justice” by punishing her for the sins of her 12-year-old brother who was accused of illicit relations with a woman in her 30s, which, if true, should have led to the woman being accused of child molestation. Simultaneously, the international community learnt that in Pakistan there were woman of such courage and determination that they could inspire any citizen of the world.
The next thing they learnt was that despite the fact that the entire village had witnessed the rape of this woman the prosecutor was unable to produce irrevocable proof. Consequently, though the accused had been convicted by the ATC, the decision was set aside by the high court. Even such incidents, though far and few between, are not entirely unknown in more developed countries.
But we just didn’t stop here. We achieved the crowning glory that has no parallel in any country that claims even an infinitesimal hint of morality. This woman, whose courage and determination helped the Pakistan flag fly higher, was placed on the ECL by royal decree, lest she bring disrepute to the country! Did no one realise that by going abroad and talking about it, she flew our flag higher? Did no one realise that we were cutting off our nose to spite our face?
The comic character is right, ‘What’s up, Doc?’
The author is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)