Hoor Asrar looks at the fast complicating situation
The Aiming at Islamabad of hot war of words accompanied by a march appears to be a recipe for disaster and that is the state of affairs that is taking place in the country. Imran Khan with his band of ardent followers is proceeding steadily towards Islamabad from Lahore blaming all responsible for managing the governmental affairs for the mismanagement of the country and appealing to people to join him to rally with him to topple them. He is all too open in his challenge and publicly shuns any overture to negotiate though there are reports that PTI is in secret parleys both with the establishment as well as with the coalition government.
Skeptics however are of the opinion that this long march is very well scripted and quite cynically planned by the forces that matter that have some scarily hidden results in mind that could not be deciphered easily and may well be very intricate in nature. If this is not the case then the situation is simply precarious and clearly hints at apparent breakdown of decisive authority at the places where it matters.
By the looks of it the PTI march is proceeding undeterred by the establishment despite a rather peppery press conference of two top generals that was supposed to be the final warning about crossing the so-called red line but to no avail indicating that the PTI has taken into account all possible fall out of defying the status quo. As proclaimed often no jumping the ship process has started and all companions of Imran Khan are holding steadfast and are seen with him on the long march container enthusiastically supporting the cause. All negative propaganda regarding the long march has fallen on deaf ears and Imran Khan has managed to show that his crowd pulling power is intact. The powers-that-be may be changing the tack as was indicated by the perceptible change in the stance of the apex judiciary that appears to be belatedly waking up to the risks posed by the unbridled up-and-down marches undertaken by PTI since the last many years seriously disturbing public peace.
The fractious path PTI has taken in the political field is now many years old and has badly divided the polity and many consider this divide as virtually unbridgeable and deeply harmful for the country. As far as storming Islamabad is concerned it is the second attempt of the PTI to do that this year only as it did last time on 25 May after its government was removed after a perfectly legitimate no-confidence vote that it lost. PTI could not muster enough support to successfully browbeat the government last time round and after changing tack this time it is now charging on the typical fast bowling mode by running distance and picking up speed before delivering the fast ball. The problem has become acute for the coalition government as the march actually is not against it and it loathes carrying out action against a follow political party yet it is also the custodian of law and order. In these circumstances they would, however, prefer to let the establishment take the matters in their hands but that is precisely the problem and has created a serious issue.
The result is that the issue has been given the shape of a confrontation between the establishment and a populist force led by forces militating against the forces of evil that have kept the country under their vice-like grip for the last many decades. In the process the ambiguity is deliberately kept as such forces on the civilian side are amply defined whereas on the establishment side few individuals are blamed and rest of the institutional control is kept conveniently above board. This is a vast sweep and its hint was provided inadvertently during the press conference when it was mentioned that the future army leadership wants to remain dissociated from political affairs. There is a lot to read between the lines and probably saner political minds have started to do precisely that but the solutions are all very blurry at the moment.
There is hardly any doubt that the country is passing through a very tough time and this is the worst possible moment to engage in agitational politics. It is very clear that the PTI is fighting a battle for power and not a moral war and certainly not a struggle to bring eternal freedom for the people of Pakistan. The populist strain of the PTI is all too familiar a political mantra and Imran Khan is the latest in the series of charismatic political figures who hog the national scene for a while and then disappear from the scene. Though the gauntlet thrown by Imran Khan may be different in nature by many in the past yet its outline is not very dissimilar as it is woven around the familiar anti-establishment profile. It is quite obvious that there is no other issue to attract the people of this country except malgovernance and those responsible for it with finger invariably pointed towards the hidden hand. There is therefore nothing strange and new in this long march except the biting social media that has given it an extra vicious ring.
PTI’s challenge appears more credible owing to record inflation that is the result of wrong policies of its own stint in power and whose burden was taken on by the coalition government on its shoulders probably on mistaken assurance by the establishment that it will make matters workable for it. This decision has put the coalition on the receiving end and it has not recovered since and has provided PTI with a unique opportunity to come back with a vengeance and pounce it with impunity. It is a tough game to play and it is certainly nerve wracking and it is to be seen who blinks first but it appears certain that all players are prepared to go to the end as the stakes are high. For the moment PTI is on the attack and no one knows how this attack will be met as the march is rather far away from Islamabad and there are no chances of any party to back down from its stance.
The country is now bracing for a bitter show down and the people are rightfully nervous about the outcome of this confrontation. They feel that all prudence has just disappeared and everyone is busy adding to the ongoing tension-ridden atmosphere. Even the circles that are chipping in with some sane advise have nothing credible to offer as they are not privy to actual situation and are usually beating around the bush. Quite obviously the decision makers are very tight-lipped about the future course of action and would not even hint at how matters would work out and are unwilling to divulge anything. It is certainly futile to expect that the decision makers will show their hand at this crucial juncture as there is so much at stake and it is in their interest to keep their cards close to their chests. The situation is very dicey and no one could predict the result with any degree of certainty. TW