End of a crisis

Source:  Dawn.com Published in Current Affairs on Monday, April 21, 2014

WELL, that was quick. The great crisis is over. Democracy is back on track. Constitution Avenue won’t be seeing tank tracks anytime soon. It’s back to awkward handshakes and reluctant smiles.

So, what the hell happened?

The same thing that’s happened before: wanting something isn’t the same thing as being able to get it.

But there’s also a step before that: why was everyone so sure they knew what the boys really wanted?

Nawaz in handcuffs, Musharraf on a plane out of Pakistan — the conspiracies were peddled with such unbridled glee that you had to wonder if the peddlers were making it all up.

There was even the bit where Raheel, annoyed by Nawaz dodging him for days, took a chopper to the PM’s house and GHQ only informed the PMO of the chief’s arrival once he was already in the air.

That, according to another bit, was what caused Nawaz to unleash Saad Rafique and Khwaja Asif.

Really? It sounded like an episode of a particularly bad soap.

But what had set off the boys in the first place?

Oh, that’s easy. Nawaz had promised Raheel that Musharraf would be allowed to leave the country once he was indicted. But then Nawaz reneged and the boys went on the warpath.

Uhuh. That sounded like one of those particularly bad propaganda movies the ISPR finances.

OK, but we know they were enraged, which means there must be a serious problem. So, what is it?

Musharraf? The manner of Musharraf’s trial? The TTP? Certain prisoners the TTP will ultimately want released? All of the above? None of the above?

Who knows, who cares. The boys were on the rampage and that’s all that mattered.

Wait, let’s rewind to just last November.

Hadn’t everyone parsed all the candidates’ records minutely and decided that Raheel had no chance? Because, well, doesn’t matter; he just had no chance.

Hang on, he was too docile and irrelevant to be picked just five months ago and got picked precisely because he was a careerist and would be beholden — then what the hell happened in the last five months?

Take your pick. Either way, it’s delicious. Raheel has to prove to the boys that he will always keep the boys’ interests first. Or there’s something in that chair that gives its occupant an itch.

Cue Raheel chucking out his benefactor, derailing the democratic project, putting Musharraf on a plane to somewhere and then — what?

Ah, look at that sly Asif, turning up just in time to goad the naïve Nawaz into reacting. Now, Nawaz will pull a Nawaz and will be sent packing, opening the door to a PPP comeback.

Wait, so the PPP can win an election now, a year after being wiped out? Oh, the boys can make anything happen.

OK, but no, the boys are going to kick out Nawaz to save Musharraf, only to let Asif — didn’t they like really, really hate him? — back in?

How does that work? Never mind. Let’s not interrupt the conspiracy train.

Fine, let’s work with that for a minute. They want him out. The boys want Nawaz out. Raheel wants Nawaz out.

It may even be Musharraf. Let’s just say it’s Musharraf.

How do we go from the boys wanting something to the boys getting that something? What’s the leverage here?

The chief goes to the PM and tells him a trial will cause too much trouble, so it’s best to drop it. The PM says he understands the concerns, but he sees things differently and believes that a trial should go ahead.

Then what?

Either immediately or some time later, Nawaz is chucked out.

To do what? To save Musharraf? To stop the dialogue?

Yes, to do that. Raheel either takes over directly or installs a front.

But what about the governments in the provinces? PPP in Sindh, PTI in KP, nationalists in Balochistan? Surely, they’d have to go too.

And what about the judges running around telling us that the door has been slammed shut on dictatorships? Well, a bunch of them would have to go too.

Fine, they go home too.

Now what? Your biggest problem is the narrative. How do you sell the ouster to the public?

The economy has stabilised, Punjab isn’t under attack, Karachi is stable-ish, there’s been no sell out on Kashmir, the Americans aren’t invading, dialogue with the TTP isn’t unpalatable, nothing is imploding or exploding — all you have to sell is your anger over Musharraf?

Try spinning that into the national interest.

OK, somehow you sell that too. Then what?

Then you have to run this damn place. And everything you do, someone will be unhappy and everything that goes wrong, everyone will blame you for.

Sure, but that’s the masochism of those who crave power.

Ah, so Raheel craves power; saving Musharraf is just the pretext to grab power. That actually simplifies everything.

Raheel wants power, but power comes at a cost — what’s the price he’s willing to pay? And what can he offer to the public to live with his power grab?

Bling growth for the urban middle classes mixed with pandering to religious conservatism? Hell, that’s what the guy you just kicked out was doing.

And that’s the problem with conspiracies: they eventually collide with reality. Reality is often a lot simpler than conspiracies allow for.

In reality, it’s possible for folk who don’t understand each other, don’t trust each other and don’t agree with each other to still work with each other.

Call it the new civ-mil.

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Written by Cyril Almeida

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