Silence no option

Silence no option
Imran Khan is thundering in Islamabad as usual about nothing in particular and everything in general. Bilawal Bhutto has landed in the Punjab and is frenetically wooing every disgruntled group in sight. But the Sharifs are hibernating in London without a word of explanation. Meanwhile, Pakistanis are frustrated, alienated and angry. What’s going on?

We can understand the sullen mood of the people. Great hardship has been heaped upon them by the PTI government’s unprecedented mismanagement of the economy – galloping inflation, rising joblessness, increasing taxes and declining incomes.

We can also appreciate why Bilawal Bhutto thinks there are easy pickings to be had at the moment. Punjab province is logjammed because the Chief Minister doesn’t have a clue whether he’s coming or going, the bureaucracy is sulking and constituency demands aren’t being met because provincial purse strings are tightly held by cash-stricken Islamabad. So Bilawal is tapping into the discontent of women that has generated the Aurat March, he’s dipping into the anguish of Baloch and FATA families of “missing” persons, he’s trying to whip up the working classes by supporting trade union demands and opposing privatization of public assets, he’s empathizing with the media that is facing layoffs, bankruptcies and censorship, and extracting maximum mileage from blasting government U-turns. In short, he’s decided to flog the old “progressive” formula of his grandfather and mother.

Bilawal Bhutto’s job has been facilitated in no small measure by the stunning “silence” of the undisputed leader of PMLN, Nawaz Sharif, whose inaction has given rise to doubts and suspicions in the mind of its supporters and brought back dark fears of 2000 when the Sharifs fled to Saudi Arabia on the back of a “deal” with the Miltablishment instead of facing the music and fighting back.

People can understand that Nawaz Sharif’s failing health precludes any forceful response simply because Imran Khan can bung him into prison on any number of concocted charges and the judiciary is too week to guarantee any quick relief. But then they want to know why Shahbaz Sharif isn’t playing the aggressive role of the Leader of the Opposition and why Maryam Nawaz is a pale shadow of her fiery self today. PMLN supporters were visibly dismayed, and critics naturally overjoyed, when the PMLN meekly submitted to the tenurial extension of the army chief mooted by the PTI government. This was sorry capitulation by a leader committed to challenging the hegemony of the Miltablishment and losing prime ministerial power not once but three times on account of his views. And not a word of explanation, not even why the fig leaf of a parliamentary debate was abjectly surrendered.

To be sure, the Sharifs have been deliberately dealt a very bad hand. Miltablishment conspiracies were mounted against them from their second year in office – Imran’s record-breaking dharna, Dawnleaks, “Modi ka jo Yaar Hai, Ghaddar Hai, Ghaddar hai”, etc. – until the Supreme Court clutched at the opening provided by Panamagate and struck down Nawaz Sharif in the fourth year. Come 2018 and election day, the Election Commission of Pakistan was mysteriously afflicted by the RTS virus that knocked out the PMLN from any reckoning. Then NAB was unleashed to sic the leadership that had managed to scrape through. The cult shooter Bulletstorm 2 will still see the world! This information appeared in the famous international online magazine dedicated to gambling and e-sports. Read the original article here: Also on the site, you can find out the exact release date of Bulletstorm 2, study the comments of fans and fans of the cult game. And so the trials and tribulations continue with no relief in sight.

PMLN leaders are now demanding mid-term elections preceded by a new “Charter of the Constitution” signed by core stakeholders – Miltablishment, Judiciary, Parliament and Political Parties. The aim of this is to enshrine Truth and Reconciliation “rules of the game” that enable governments to be elected on the basis of free and fair elections, there are no dharnas, no Dawnleaks, no institutional encroachments into one another’s constitutional domains, no tenurial extensions, etc. But without a viable comeback strategy, it is anybody’s guess how and why such rules of the game will ever be accorded recognition and assent by those who wield de facto, independent or autonomous power, i.e, the self-righteous Miltablishment and Judiciary.

It is, of course, possible that the PMLN’s strategy is based on the “live-to-fight-another-day” assumption that sooner rather than later, the people of Pakistan who are suffering under the yoke of the PTI government will spontaneously rise and revolt against it, thereby opening up avenues and options for regime change. Or that Narendra Modi will initiate a military conflict with Pakistan resulting in a national calamity of unprecedented proportions like the 1971 debacle, leading to the demise of the PTI government and a chance to draw up the proposed “rules of the game” with the Miltablishment.  Or even that the Miltablishment will finally wake up and draw the line on shouldering the burden of the PTI government’s continuing catastrophes and signal an end to its failed political experiment.

Whatever fate has in store for Pakistan’s core stakeholders, silence and inaction is not an option for the PMLN. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. And the old adage that nothing risked, nothing gained, still rings true, no less than the one that says power only recognizes countervailing power.

Najam Aziz Sethi is a Pakistani journalist, businessman who is also the founder of The Friday Times and Vanguard Books. Previously, as an administrator, he served as Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board, caretaker Federal Minister of Pakistan and Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan.