Opinion: Twinkle, twinkle, political star

WEB DESK: The national standard may have a lone star but our political landscape has stars spangled all over. Indeed, the surfeit of stars on our political firmament serves to throw in contrast the telling dearth of intellectual, cultural or sporting stars. Political stars have enormous entertainment value as well – witness the daily ritual of talk shows where the only thing serious is the seriousness with which the anchors and participants take themselves.

We have had occasion to tango with the economic stars. We celebrated the rising stars like the Accountant and the Governor. We commiserated with faltering stars like the Engineer. We empathised with the wannabe stars like the Professor and the Investor, the latter conflating foreign investment with stealing candy from a child.

Frolicking with political stars, however, is a mightier business, if for no other reason than their abundance and their longevity. Economic stars come and go, and are nothing without their patrons: what would Shoai be without Ayub, Ghulam Ishaque without Zia, Shaukat without Musharraf, Dar without Nawaz?

Our political stars, on the other hand, come and refuse to go. That most were born before the country was also tells us something about entry barriers! Can one think of one political eminence walking into the sunset of his own volition? They are old soldiers who never die – just fade away.

‘Is our political constellation poised to fade away?The London star, who could blind all, virtually at will in Karachi, has lost its shine. The serial migrant – from India to Karachi to Chicago to Karachi to London – has dropped his last ball. He is a lost star with little chance of rediscovery. We are going to miss him, not for his bellicosity or his bombastic rhetoric, but for causing laughter and fear in equal measure. We hope Bhai relishes his badly needed rest.

We have a twinge of regret for the religio-political stars. One for not being political enough and the other for being too political. JI represents all that we ‘ask’ for from the other parties – clean, non-elitist and non-dynastic, internally democratic, driven by values. Seems what we ask for is not quite what we want. The JI star has been around a long time but never really lit up the skies.

The JUI(F) star has been somewhat brighter and, amazingly, blazed a trail in Balochistan and KPK without much effort. There is little to distinguish it from the other star-led parties that revolve around the leader. Maulana, malleable as they come, is a delightful presence. The entertainment channels will be so much poorer without his easy to clone persona.

We do not quite know where to situate PAT: politico-religious or religio-political? Is it the meteor that burns bright and then disappears; or is it the tsunami that creates havoc before it rejuvenates? Are the Allama’s soldiers disciplined holy warriors or the goons of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco? Is the message right but not the messenger?

Then there are the other stars who have been around, and going around, ‘leading’ the aptly called ‘tonga parties’ – and as out dated as that nostalgic mode of transport. But they manage enough votes to get into the parliament for some unabashed logrolling – indeed, one of them managed to get all his brothers into office!

That leaves us with the brightest stars: NS, AZ, IK. All have established ability to rise from the ashes. NS for the third time, AZ on the wings of his wife, IK despite the dharna fiasco. AZ seems to have taken early retirement, but with him one can never be sure: has he had enough, is it succession planning, or is he only recharging his batteries? We do not know what this ultimate political magician might pull out of his hat when the NS and IK troops get into combat positions, as they surely will sooner than later.

With AZ in the wings, and his party yet to be reimagined, and with IK throwing everything into the Islamabad lockout, it appears we will be left with only one star before the year is out. And where will that leave us? Whoever wins, we will be left with an unchallenged potentate. Scary thought. And where will that leave the ‘Establishment’? Damned if I do, damned if I don’t? Scarier thought.

The good folks who time and again allow the same lot to play with their destiny are sick of the whole lot. Elections may throw up different faces but never different policies. The good folks have the votes but not the voice. Helpless to change the deck that is stacked against them, once they have cast the vote, freely or otherwise, they can only hope – and they never learn. Even an unelected dispensation is no different, and will be no different if it fails to recognize that the majority belongs to the have-nots. If you truly believe in democracy shouldn’t the needs and aspirations of the majority shape your policies?

Pakistan is not unique in its frustration with the establishment, something brought out so strongly in the fight for the White House; or the resurgence of the right in France, Germany, or Austria; or indeed Brexit. Of course, their definition of establishment is different from ours, but anti-establishment sentiment is growing the world over. There are clear signs of repudiation of political correctness and rejection of neo-liberal conservatism. Tired of the same kind of people – the insiders – they want to take a chance with the outsiders, despite all their trumpery.

If IK prevails will things be different? Of course everyone condemns corruption in high places but does everyone eschew it? Remember the Musharraf experience? He rode in on the anti-corruption slogan and ended up adopting the ‘Nabbed’ ones! Besides, would ‘no corruption’ translate into betterment of the masses? Has KPK produced the right template?

One look at team Imran and you know it is not going to happen. The team has a habit of changing liveries – of this political party or that king’s party. ‘The devil you know’ argument doesn’t work either. You know the devil too well.

The other devil you know may have disavowed his old ways but his past has become his present. The NS star can twinkle for a bit but it won’t be the diamond in the sky. shabirahmed@yahoo.com

Source: Business Recorder