In my recent interactions with fellow bloggers and other civil society activists, both the homogeneity and staleness of their criticism against the current government raised cause for concern. Their clichéd view of both the situation and the way forward does not offer a viable solution to the myriad problems faced by the Pakistani State.
There seems to be certain fixation on the following:
1. Zardari is corrupt.
2. Bhutto and Benazir were poor leaders because their Urdu accents sucked.
3. The current government has to go.
4. We need a revolution.
5. Zardari deserved to be in jail for over a decade even if the
charges against him could not be proved after 2 decades of anti-PPP
6. The PPP killed Taseer by abandoning him.
You get the drift. While I am the first to admit that the ruling PPP has some serious issues that it needs to redress immediately, both for the health of the country and the party. However, in order for us to address these problems, we have to move past the clichés liked the ones highlighted above.
For starters, if this government goes, what is our alternative? It is fine and dandy to pretend as if Imran Khan has acquired a Jeffersonian perspective or that MQM has decided to forgo its ethnofascist and criminal tendencies. Unfortunately, that is not the case. While the PPP, ANP and MQM have Sipah-e-Sahaba voters, the next largest party, the PML N is in a tacit coalition with both the Sipah-e-Sahaba and cannot look past its support base in North and Central urban Punjab.
Some of us who supported the Judiciary did so on the basis of principle and also realize that a Judicial dictatorship ala Bangladesh model is not going to work; it didn’t even work in Bangladesh!
In moving past clichés, we also have to confront some stark realities. The ghastly murders of Governor Taseer and Minister Bhatti have brought home the grim reality that even our elected government is not safe from the Jihadi adventurers that were created by our Deep State and are not threatening the very future of Pakistan itself. Today, Sherry Rehman is under constant threat as is Fauzia Wahab; for that matter so is President Zardari if we are to consider the written threats against him by murderers of his loyalist minister, Shahbaaz Bhatti.
We can no longer afford to simply blame the PPP for the murder of its own ministers and have to face the grim reality that today, the religious coalition has been revived and the victimized Barelvis and Shias have also joined the very religious parties whose subsidiaries have bombed Sufi Shrines and Imambargahs into submission.
If the PPP has abandoned the legislative drive to amend the blasphemy law, Islamist parties like PML N, PML Q and PTI are actively campaigning with the Jihadis to fortify their vote banks with the mullahs and MQM is too busy in black mailing the PPP for a greater slice of Karachi to be overly bothered with such civic niceties as confronting extremism.
After all, aside from cosmetic support, confronting extremism would alienate the MQM from its real support base, the revolutionary generals. I have yet to see my fellow bloggers ever hold MQM accountable to the fact that they cannot pretend to be the opposition even as they enjoy the benefits of being in the ruling coalition!
However, I have noticed that my fellow bloggers and civil society activists rarely if ever talk about this. For them, bashing the PPP is a convenient and easy way to side step the real issues. PPP too makes it very easy when ministers and members like Babar Awan, Aitzaz Ahsan, SMQ, Rehman Malik and Iqbal Haider to issue the some of the most inane, reckless, dishonest and insenstitive remarks.
The Government needs to be held to account and wishing it way will not solve our problems. However, in order to move the narrative ahead, we need to get past flogging clichés that sound good in air-conditioned
drawing rooms over a single malt and Juliet cigars!
We also need to get past a pervasive denials about the real power brokers in this country. Criticism has to be even handed and honest and till we cannot engage our elected government by being cognizant of its constraints, we are essentially just engaging in intellectual masturbation.