The container politics
The container is ready — yet again; preparations are in full swing, and the game is to resume shortly. Players on the two sides are the same, but their roles have reversed. Those on the attack then, are to defend now — and vice versa. Both sides, however, mean to save democracy — one by marching against an “illegitimate government” and the other by defending an “assault on the people’s mandate”. Our political history is replete, in fact, littered, with such games — games that are played in the name of democracy and in the ‘interest’ of the nation. Political calm is needed for the rulers to focus on issues of core concern for the country and for the people like the economy, global diplomacy and internal and external security. But with the local political scene dominated by protest marches, rallies, sit-ins and lockdowns, the much-needed political calm has eluded the country during much of its existence.
The protest season is here again. The focus of all attention this time is a religiopolitical party, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Fazl (JUI-F), which is not a mainstream party like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). But the party — led by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman who has been a part of all parliaments, but the current one, over the last three decades — boasts quite a lot of support in northwestern parts of the country that form Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and, therefore, has the potential to put up a good street show and make life difficult for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government. The party plans to launch its anti-government movement on October 27 and is confident of sending the “illegitimate and incompetent” government packing with the support of businessmen, lawyers and doctors among the “hard-pressed” masses. The party chief believes the build-up of the movement will make it difficult for other political forces to stay away.
As if moving in a circle, we have come to a stage we had crossed triumphantly only recently.
For all of Britain’s problems and the inherent racist undertones of the campaign that led to Brexit, it is true that immigrants, or at least their children, are ‘stealing’ jobs from Brits of a certain shade. Right now, at least two top government jobs that had never been held by a non-white person are held by the children of Pakistani migrants who barely even spoke English. One is Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London. The other is Sajid Javid, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer — equivalent to a finance minister. Coincidentally, both men’s fathers worked as bus drivers after migrating to the UK. Both are also from large families — Khan is one of eight children and Javid is one of five. Their parents worked hard, both at their blue-collar jobs and at home, to give their children the inspiration and values that would one day turn them into leaders of men.
Despite their lack of familial ties with the communities around them, Khan and Javid were able to become popular enough to win elections without famous parents. “Mummy, tu kaddi sochiya si appay ithay hongay? (Mummy, could you ever imagine we would be here one day?)” Javid asked his mother in Punjabi at the recent Conservative Party conference in Manchester. It was a powerful moment and one that does require some imagination. Are Pakistanis rising to power without a hook? It can happen. Just not in feudal Pakistan. Here, what passes for merit is often a sad joke. Whether it be the two major opposition parties; or most smaller ones, which have always been helmed by their respective ruling families; or even the ruling party, where a number of lower-ranking elected and appointed members share biological ties with the party’s big guns, including the PM; true merit — seniority, achievements, and contributions to the party and the country — is seldom a factor in decision-making.
As long as Bilawal Bhuttos become party chiefs as teenagers, Ali Tareens are nominated for their fathers’ seats, or younger Sharifs get party posts ahead of lifelong workers, the only place Pakistanis will find meritocracy is outside Pakistan.
Rising street crimes