The system under welcome assault
THE status quo, this malaise which has got us down, turning a promising country into a basket case - it's hard to remember but we did have promise decades ago - would be the Republic's death if allowed to persist. How much mediocrity and corruption can any society endure?
In 1965 our GDP was bigger than that of South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. The Gulf emirates were nowhere. Cadets and officers considered it a matter of pride to train in our academies. Staff College, Quetta, was highly regarded. PIA was not the joke it has become. We were a more dynamic country than Hindustan. And you could have a drink without forfeiting your lease on the Hereafter. Look where we now are.
So anything that shakes the status quo, any blow to it, is good and to be welcomed. The Middle East got its shakeup, its Arab Spring, through the masses. That mood has turned sour but it was good while it lasted. Pakistan is getting its Arab Spring not through the masses because the masses, bless them, are fast asleep but - hold your breaths - from the army. (Although expect not the liberati, tuned to a different sort of music, to acknowledge this. The liberati are still living in a different age.)
The democrats were flinching and making excuses. So they cowered before the forces of terrorism. Their standard response to any emergency was that circus, far superior to anything pulled by the Lucky Irani Circus, called an all-parties conference. There, fortified by biryani and meat, they would talk for hours and come to none but the most vapid conclusions.
And the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan would be laughing up their sleeves and bomb another bazaar and ambush another military convoy and the democrats, solemnfaced, would brandish another olive branch and belt forth another love song to peace and the virtues of negotiations.
The army, let us not forget, was the begetter of our sorrows, nursing notions of 'jihad' and strategic depth from which arose the various founts of terrorism. But it has corrected course and decided on a new path, taking on the challenge of terrorism not only in Fata but Karachi and, sporadically, also Punjab. Malik Ishaq was considered untouchable. He and his leading players stand eliminated.
Now comes news that Brahamdagh Bugti - who as the real successor to his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Bugti, commands respect not only in his own tribe but the broader penumbra of Baloch nationalism - is open to negotiations. No better news has come out of Balochistan for a long time, which is again a reflection of altered circumstances. The security forces now seem to have the upper hand. But since the call to arms is never enough, Brahamdagh's offer should be taken up. It is high time young men stopped 'disappearing' in Balochistan and high time the Baloch came in from the cold.
On the political front the MQM leadership is running out of options. Its resignation ploy may have had some effect on the federal government and such of its allies as that all-weather thermometer, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, but very little on the army which is behind the operation in Karachi. Meanwhile the money-laundering case is gathering pace in London - and Altaf Hussain's harangues on television are mercifully heard no more. If on no other count but this, the Karachi operation would be deemed a success.
And Asim Hussain, long considered the closest thing to Asif Zardari, has been taken into custody. As principal sidekick to the former president he had earned a reputation for his real or alleged exploits in the financial field. After the raid on the Karachi Building Control Authority - also said to have a close connection to that bottomless pit, Bilawal House - Mr Zardari had threatened fire and brimstone (the Urdu translation is more colourful but let that pass).
Then wisdom dawning he thought it best to repair post haste to that last sanctuary of every high-placed Pakistani, the princely emirate of Dubai…from where he has not been heard of since. Khurshid Shah has spoken of Asim Hussain's plight, but from Mr Zardari there has been not a squeak.
Strangely enough the person wearing the longest face, longer even than Asif Zardari's and Altaf Hussain's, is someone else: the prime minister. Whether at the Convention Centre on Independence Day, sitting next to the army chief, or at the Presidency at the swearing in of the new chief justice, the prime minister's countenance was a study in glumness. What's the source of his unhappiness?
The cynical view is that he and his coterie are finding it hard to digest the army's ranking in public opinion. The more plaudits the army wins the deeper and more marked becomes the PML-N's depression…so talk the cynics, and as we know there is no shortage of this breed in our climate.
But this is hardly the army's fault, nor that of the cynics. When the country was in a bad way last year democracy's champions were not even fiddling. That at least would have been some entertainment. Like a flock of pigeons they had closed their eyes…and were locked up in their own pursuits. Left to them the country would have been at the mercy of the Taliban, and begging for terms from them.
Other worries have cropped up too. Out of the four constituencies Imran Khan had held up as examples of rigging, the decision in three has gone against the PML-N. And the party while putting on a brave face is reeling from this outcome.