The sys­tem un­der welcome as­sault

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Ayaz Amir

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.

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