2014: Of Empire and Umpire

Source:  Pakistan Herald Published in Politics on Friday, January 2, 2015

It is a tale of two narratives. One of a popular leader sweeping to a capital overcome with sleaze and corruption to sweep out the old and bring in the naya. With him were masses whose votes were stolen, who were tired of being governed by the Lords of Misrule. With hope in their hearts and fervour in their eyes they followed a man of unimpeachable honesty and character; a man who, to them, embodies all that is good and in whom they vested all their hopes and dreams.

Those dreams vary from a wish for a Pakistan where merit triumphs over nepotism, to a desire for low fuel prices and a working education system. Fuelled by this passion, they reached the capital where, despite repression and brutality, they held the course. Sure, they may not have gotten the PM to resign, despite hundreds of twitter hashtags and internet memes, but they awakened the nation.

But here’s another story.

This is a tale of an Empire that, after seeing its power and privilege threatened by an emerging civilian disposition, struck back. They’d done it before, but this time a coup was impractical and a memo(gate) not devastating enough. Thus they chose an approach that they were all too familiar with; that of using proxies.

Chosen for the purpose were Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, who willingly played the parts the hidden scriptwriter wrote for them. And why wouldn’t they? After all, the happy ending they were promised was one in which their common enemy floundered after being fingered by the Umpire, paving the way for them to gain the power and justice that they were respectively denied.

Luckily, reality is relative. One can believe, as one does, whatever one chooses to. And certainly there is plenty of evidence to support either narrative, or plenty of holes you can poke in each story provided you are willing to suspend credulity and disbelief.

But here’s the thing: both stories can be simultaneously true. This deepest of states does not use a proxy that is not capable of delivering, and our political classes have never been shy of seeking help from any quarter that offers it.

Even a blinkered reading of Pakistan’s political history tells us that the gardeners of our nation love to prune, and sometimes transplant, the tree of democracy out of a belief that saplings should bear fruit overnight. There is no denying Khan’s public appeal and support; to view such as created by the Establishment is foolish, but it is equally foolish to ignore the tell-tale signs of manipulation.

In this version the hidden hand wrote, and having written, moved on. After all, its goal was not to elevate Khan, who in any case couldn’t bring the millions he promised, but to neuter Sharif.

Is this ambiguous? Does it not answer the question one way or the other? Yes, it is and it does. But that too is the nature of the land we live in. We never get any real answers, we reject the ones we get and hound those who dare to speak truth, whether they speak it to power or to the powerless.

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Written by Zarrar Khuhro

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