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Humayun Gauhar | 17 MAY, 2015

‘Doggie’ in the Well

Protest in Pakistan for electricity


First things first. I’ve been absent for the last two weeks because of too much travel piled atop so much work on my plate that I thought that I had become a mental and physical wreck for the first time in my life and felt that I needed a break. Let me tell you that mental fatigue is much worse than physical fatigue.

On top of this came the birth of my grandson named after the first man and the beginning of history – Adam, a universal name. Births are normal everyday occurrences but my daughter Fazila decided to make a production of it, so I faced five days of acute tension to top off my fatigue. My wife was the only person who remained calm and composed and took sensible decisions and actions. After all she has produced four and knows what its all about. Having rested somewhat I felt that I should hit the keyboard again. So here goes.

Its sad: so much to say yet nothing new to say. Lots of seemingly directionless activity while moving backward or staying in the same spot. It is the worst of times and the worst of times, getting bad even for those few for whom times were the best not so long ago. Karachi has no water, not because of the lack of it but because of the lack of electricity and the lack of intent and honesty by useless governments. The water ‘Tanker Mafia’ as its called is making a killing by providing dirty water. The police and civilian administration cannot stop it because they have great stakes in it. Water tankers are selling for between Rs. 3,500 to 14,000 thousand each. A sage one said that when people have to buy water the end of civilization is nigh. If they piped adequate water in Karachi the Tanker Mafia would go out of business. How can that be allowed when protecting the racket is more important than providing water to the people? Can you imagine? Governments that cannot even provide clean water to their people should stand automatically dissolved, but our governments hang on like leeches sucking the last drops of blood of the people and making hay as long as they can.

Large swathes of the country, including the much-vaunted Punjab, are bereft of electricity, some virtually permanently but the finance minister with the IMF in tow would have us believe that the economy is improving. How can it without investment? How can there be investment without water, electricity, gas, communications, security and, yes, no kickbacks and commissions. They really strain our credulity.

Everyone is agog with so many court cases about the integrity of the May 2013 general elections that it makes one’s head swim. Lawyers, judges, politicians and media analysts are busy splitting hairs, none saying outright that we don’t need mediocre careerist judges to tell us that elections were blatantly rigged because we saw and suffered it for ourselves. We don’t need pedestrian judges to tell us so, judges whose useless colleagues presided over and oversaw the elections as returning officers and infest our federal and provincial Election Commissions. To compound it further, we have election tribunals comprising more clapped out judges take years to decide whether an election in a particular constituency was rigged, and if they do decide that they were rigged the Supreme Court ‘suspends’ the order with alacrity saying that it will take more months to decide. It’s a joke. But we are hostage to procedure and what passes for due process and justice in this benighted country of ours, a system that is used to justify wrongdoing and delay correction. If football were played with cans we would be world champions because we are so adept at kicking cans down the road. Obviously: beneficiaries of a corrupt system protect one another unless justice becomes unavoidable.

A provincial government led by its chief minister marched to Islamabad last week to demonstrate against the federal government. Government against government is a profoundly bizarre testament to the utter failure of our politics and the system that spawns it.

Prisoners on death row are singing like canaries, models carrying hot cash are being arrested, launches carrying even hotter cash are being caught, Zardari’s one-time crony Zulfikar Mirza is disrobing him publicly over a quarrel – not over principles mind you but over sugar mills. Damning evidence is piling up against not just Altaf Hussain of the MQM but all party leaders including Benazir’s husband and General Zia’s prodigy Nawaz Sharif who has, amongst other charges, a mass murder case registered against him and his brother. None of them can explain their rags to riches stories.

Looking at the headlines of last Sunday’s DAWN newspaper that I read on a flight from Karachi to Islamabad. I wondered what kind of country I was living in but remembered that there are others far worse off. “‘93,000 votes’ thumbprint in NA Speaker’s constituency unverified.” “DSP shot dead in Karachi.” “Who owns Bilawal House?” because its ownership papers are not on record with the Federal Board of Revenue. “Mirza gets pre-arrest bail for 10 days in three cases.” “Homeopath killed in ‘sectarian attack’.” “Fudged wheat figures feed GDP” – so much for the finance minister’s bombast and the IMF approval of our economic performance. How else could they release the tranche of half a billion dollars which they must for political and geostrategic reasons to prevent Pakistan from going under? “Balochistan CM concedes failure in tracing ‘missing’ persons.” Note the single inverted commas in each sentence where they appear. It tells you something. “Launch of KP’s first DNA lab facing delay.” “Losing candidates seek re-election in PK-95 under army”, which shows loss of trust in the civilian administration, the Election Commission and the judiciary. It paints a sorry picture of chaos. It’s a mess, a total mess utterly.

The only silver lining DAWN could find was in one of its editorials that – wait for it – 10 British Pakistanis have been elected to the House of Commons in the recent UK elections. Yippee!

Now we have over 43 peace-loving and industrious Ismailis massacred in a bus in Karachi. I’ll say more about this later.

There are rumours and rumours of rumours. The kettle is so full of steam that it is about to explode for want of an orifice. Something has to give. What? A military coup is not the answer and neither is it about to happen. Some well-meaning ‘theorists’ – desperate dreamers really – talk of a judicial coup knocking out the federal and provincial governments and parliaments by declaring the last elections null and void due to large-scale rigging. The Supreme Court would simultaneously order a caretaker government and give it enough time to clean up the mess and correct the system with the army providing it clout and the judiciary providing it legitimacy as always, but the other way round this time – pre-legitimization instead of post-legitimization – and then hold elections under the new system that hopefully will throw up better governments that deliver good governance. Pipedream, given the inadequacy of leadership in all our institutions, but nothing is impossible in this Pakistan of ours. Some see signs that things are going in that direction. I doubt whether any such thing could happen without America on board and they would come on board only if they see an self-interest in it.

The other option is to let the system continue while hoping that it will self-correct. This means taking the risk of Pakistan evaporating, but what other option do we have? Each one of us has the right to make the choice.

My own view based on the bitter past is to let this wretched system continue till it collapses under the weight of its own infidelity and contradictions. The PPP was allowed to rule for its full term of five years and it destroyed itself, winning the last election only in rural Sindh and becoming a sub-provincial party. Now even it has lost whatever little support it had there because of the crass failure of its provincial government. Rural Sindh suffers from a leadership and political vacuum and is there for the taking if a charismatic leader like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were to emerge. If the PPP’s demise becomes certain Asif Zardari could play the ‘Sindh Card’ perhaps in tandem with the MQM that is desperate for survival.

Now, if Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N could get its full term it would almost certainly destroy itself too. Its called giving them a rope long enough to hang themselves.

Those who look to the army should remember that it too is part of the system. It moves in when there is utter political failure, but only to bring the system back because it is one of its prime beneficiaries too. Don’t expect a revolution from the army because a coup is not a revolution; army rule only provides better governance and economic progress for a while, not difficult given the utter incompetence and bad intent of our politicians.

In short, every time the army rules it takes hundreds of buckets of dirty water out of our polluted well but doesn’t take out the dead dog in the well polluting the water. The doggie in the well is our Constitution of questionable legitimacy that begets our putrid, man-eating political system and is the source of our problems. Unless this doggie is removed from the well and replaced by a pure bred one, not dead in the well but alive and out of it this country is going nowhere.

I’m getting tired now, so I’ll end. Having theorized for years without making the a jot of an appreciable difference, I’m beginning to get a sense of futility. I don’t see any person, party or institution capable of taking the doggie out of the well. If I were shown the army’s plan to save the country (if it has any) I could decide but why would they share it with me? If it did and it makes sense to me, only then would I give it my desperate support.

What has to be has to be. Not all my tears will wash away a word of it. The writing is always on the wall. Still, “a man has to do what a man has to do”. The battle goes on till death. Never give up. One day, we will talk about what breed our new doggie guarding the well ought be.

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