Islamabad: So Parliament’s longest ever joint session ended with just a cosmetic admonition to dharna-wallas to behave and then go home. And if they didn’t they would still not be thrown out.
Those who expected Parliament pass harsh strictures in the end to root out the rogues camped outside were obviously disappointed. But it made sense, as the government knew that a sterner resolution might jeopardise the Parliamentary unanimity. It didn’t need to use force as dharnas were headed to their natural death.
Nawaz Sharif seemed to have backed out from his earlier fervor to accept almost 5.75 of PTI’s six demands. Elementary, my dear Watson. Nawaz Sharif is not the only one who thinks that the PTI balloon stands pricked. Imran Khan missed the opportunity when he could have walked out waiving victory signs. Even if he gets most of his demands accepted now he would not look like Khan the Victor. It would be more like the loser who returned home without Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.
The feeling of survival was writ large on Nawaz Sharif’s face when he lambasted the PTI for its “unacceptable demands. It was a different Nawaz Sharif from the worried and anxious prime minister who feared that his third government was slipping from his hand, sand-like, after a year in government. This was the prime minister who had weathered a very tense month with dark clouds hovering all over. Now, he is all set to leave for his visit to the UN with the comfortable knowledge that, whatever the results of the PTI/PAT sit-ins, two things ain’t happening: the so-called umpire has pulled back and the PM can return home to sign off the undesirable elements with ease. We are told Nawaz Sharif is not likely to stir any unnecessary fuss over who gets replaced at Aabpara and would go along the Rawalpindi recommendations. Why should he? Whoever comes to the ISI is likely to correct a very wrong and dangerous precedent set in the last eight years. Kayani was the first ISI head to become the Army Chief, if we disregard Ziauddin Butt’s example. This made ISI’s somewhat skewed counter-intelligence thinking the mainstream mantra of the army which had a deep impact on the institutional thinking. Kayani brought the legacy of interpreting our domestic and foreign policies through the ISI lens. This anomalous thinking continued to impact his nominee in the ISI even after Kayani’s retirement. That tradition might break now and the army is less likely to see the world through the ISI binoculars. Or so we wish!
Secondly, the PTI/PAT rallies got de-fanged after the PTV attack fiasco. The option of using violence to pressure the government is now off the table. Any foolhardy attempt by PTI/PAT is likely to be responded with equal force. And this time much of the public support is more likely to be against the marauding hordes than otherwise. In the meantime, Islamabad IG Tahir Alam will continue to pick up the suspects of attacks on Parliament, Secretariat, and the PTV. It can take months and years for those in jails to get themselves cleared from the heinous charges. This might break the back of Kaptaan’s middle order batsmen who shudder every time they see their pictures in the newspaper that they roll their pakoras in.
So the onus of keeping the fires of D-chowk aflame lies with the mighty Khan and his cousin Tahirul Qadri. Of course, dharnas are a double-edged challenge. Imran is striking a certain chord with those who want quick solutions to their daily problems. The masses who may have become sick and tired of the oligarch that sits in Parliament and fails to address their basic issues. Perhaps Imran needs to understand that it’s not the polls that are rigged but the system that asks voters to choose the lesser evil. Even Imran got pressured to give electoral tickets to the very ‘electables’ that he is supposed to be fighting against. They all come through the system of patronage based on the misuse of thana-katchehri. The man in the street can be swayed by his emotional rhetoric but may not get enamoured by his repetitive double-speak. It remains questionable how many sympathisers he may be losing from his confusing diatribes.
Power lobbies are surely scared of his mercurial daredevil adventurism. Big business might see him a threat to their elitist interests. No bureaucrat would be comfortable with Imran Khan after his naming secretaries, Police IGs, DPOs, even SHOs in public meetings. It’s obvious that he could be swayed into robotic action through paper chits given to him in a public meeting or whispering misinformation into his ear by the most dubious characters around him. Intelligentsia may view him as an irrational demigod who, it seems, learnt his half-baked history in bits and pieces with lots of chapters missing. Now we know that Oxford too admits sportsman because of just sports and they return home as blank as they had come. Perhaps one learns about Westminster politics by attending its proceedings and not by jogging around it. Even the khakis might be suspicious of Imran’s waywardness. His views on the postponed China visit clearly showed that either he does not understand the dynamics of diplomacy or is misguided by shady advisors. It remains debatable whether he is gaining or losing by his daily harangue - depending on what side of a very polarised aisle you stand.
ANP’s Shahi Syed was definitely on the other side of the political spectrum when he ripped apart Imran’s thesis on rigging through an emotionally charged speech. He literally made people cry with his description of how he buried 17 comrades who got killed in the election-day violence. He definitely stoked the Pashtun sentiment by recounting how they were being butchered from Karachi to Waziristan while the KP leaders were dancing in Islamabad. He had a point for parties like the ANP and the PPP when he said that the election commissioner was not Fakhruddin G Ibrahim but Hameemullah Mehsud.
Tailpiece: It is amazing that the story of flood fiasco has not been picked up by the opposition or the media. One just has to see water inflows and outflows from Mangla Dam and Rasul, Khanki and Qadirabad headworks during the crucial 20 days before September 6 when water was held despite clear Met forecasts of medium and high floods. Ironically, IRSA was predicting 20 per cent shortage of water for kharif despite flood warnings issued by Met office on August 14. If only someone had watched water levels in Jhelum and Neelum in Azad Kashmir and released water from Mangla before September 6 this would have enabled Jhelum water to cross from Head Rasool to Trimu before it got mixed up from water from Marala, Khanki and Qadirabad. If a lay weather reporter can understand this why can’t the Einsteins of IRSA and Water and Power Ministry get it! Crux: It’s man-made disaster which was avoidable.