Dr. Haider Shah

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance (Plato).


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The making of ‘NRO 2’ —Daily Times, 30/12/11

OVER A COFFEE: The making of ‘NRO 2’ —Dr Haider Shah

The producers are doing everything humanly possible to make the sequel win critical as well as box office acclaim. Unlike the past experience, this time heavy investment has been made on the media to keep it on board

“People knew what was coming but they did not know how to stop it from coming. And they needed to know it very quickly.” I have stolen these lines unashamedly from the opening of my eight-year-old son’s story, which he is writing with a mixed inspiration from science fiction movies, kids’ horror novels and Xbox games. He is clearly setting up the scene for some strange and powerful aliens who are unstoppable. I am, however, using the lines for a new political thriller that is near completion and would soon be released in 2012 to enthral audiences in the lacklustre political cinema of Pakistan. ‘Mission Impossible 4’ was released on December 16. Its hero, Tom Cruise, toured many parts of the world including India and attracted crowds amid a lot of fanfare. Similarly, ‘Don 2’ was also a mega budget production and before its release on December 23, Shah Rukh Khan did a lot of promotion of the movie. Both movies rocked the box office as anticipated. But the biggest movie with ambitious box office targets is yet to be released: ‘NRO 2’.

The original movie, the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), released in 2007, proved a flop at the political box office in Pakistan. The main scriptwriters in the US, e.g. Condoleezza Rice and some local scriptwriters did not attend to the details of the plot carefully. Not only the marketing team was incompetent but there were gaping problems at the outset. The hero and heroine of the movie were at odds and the local scriptwriters were also tweaking the main plot. Whether the heroine was eliminated under the tweaked plot or it was an accident we do not know. However, after her exit, awarding the main role to an unpopular actor, Mr Zardari, took the gloss off the movie. A hostile media proved the death knell for the discredited movie.

Once bitten, twice shy. The producers have learnt from their past mistakes and the sequel to the original NRO movie is being produced much more professionally. This time instead of making a politician hero of the movie, glittering personalities from the celebrities list have been chosen for the main roles. If Bollywood can produce super hits with their Khans why can a Pakistani Khan not prove successful too? So a cricketing hero has been chosen for the sequel along with glamorous stars from the pop music industry. In fact, years ago during Benazir’s era the local scriptwriters had tried this idea for a local level production by including Abdul Sattar Edhi in the cast but the elderly charity worker proved too chicken-hearted to do a major acting role. The movie project was therefore abandoned. However this time, as the international scriptwriters have shown keen interest, the project has been launched with a renewed vigour. For various character roles many professional actors of political cinema have been included in the stars’ list. The latest inclusion is Javed Hashmi who is expected to be the equivalent of Amitabh and Naseeruddin Shah in the new thriller.

The producers are doing everything humanly possible to make the sequel win critical as well as box office acclaim. Unlike the past experience, this time heavy investment has been made on the media to keep it on board. The most important private network has been hired for a promotional campaign till the actual release of the movie. The logo lines of the movie — ‘change’ and ‘status quo’ — are being made household words and pop singers are lending their voices, instruments and faces to popularise the cast of the movie. Premier shows are being held in all major cities of cinemagoers. Many multinationals have opened up their coffers and even NATO supplies contractors are lining up in getting associated with this promising investment project. A good salesperson is one who can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Like Shah Rukh Khan or Tom Cruise, the superhero of the ‘NRO 2’ movie can do anything. Both Aasia Bibi and Mumtaz Qadri feel equally hopeful that they would be freed from their captivity by this amazing hero.

The producers and leading actors are very secretive about the actual plot of the sequel. However, some leaks and inferences can help guess the storyline. In its central theme the sequel is not much different from the original movie. A government with a popular political base is set up in Pakistan, which would receive support from the US. The government will help the US in reaching an understanding with the insurgents and safeguard its regional interests. As the new government will be headed by the superhero who is worshipped by his admirers like a god, there will be no problem for the US to implement its AfPak policy. In order to ensure that the movie produces the desired effect, experienced actors Khurshid Kasuri and Awais Leghari have also joined the crew.

The most thrilling part of the movie is the sudden appearance of a commando. No, not Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. The role will be played by Pervez Musharraf. The superhero, Mr Khan, looked very annoyed with this leak of the story and angrily denied in an evasive manner when he was asked whether Musharraf was included in the cast. The scriptwriters have done their homework and have worked out how the commando will make his daredevil appearance against all odds. The leak is that he would be supported by the MQM for a Senate or National Assembly seat. However, the commando’s eyes are firmly fixed on the President’s House. He will then have immunity and hence all small time villains will be left nursing their wounds much to the delight of the excited viewers. Love me, love my dog. The superhero has already loved his puppy and will extend tacit support to the commando. What Maulana Fazlur Rehman did in 2008 can be redone by a different actor this time.

The Karachi premier show of the movie made clear the dominant theme of the thriller. The MQM will field its candidates in Karachi to which the superhero’s party will extend full support. The superhero will be left to clean Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of all status quo villains. In the end, the superhero and his ally MQM will enter the headquarters of the villains with their army and will establish a caliphate of the righteous. Action, romance, and melody! With everything to offer, I do not see any reason why this adrenaline-pumping thriller should not prove a box office hit with the viewers.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com


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OVER A COFFEE: Demystifying status quo and change. Daily Times, 24 Dec,11

OVER A COFFEE: Demystifying status quo and change —Dr Haider Shah

It does not matter through which party gates the Makhdooms, Kasuris and Legharis enter parliament. The only measure of success is whether Imran or any claimant is able to show the courage and sagacity to deal with the three basic constraints

Various buzzwords can serve as the chapter titles for narrating Pakistan’s turbulent history. Of late ‘status quo’ and ‘change’ have become the buzzwords in the political discourse of the country. Some more examples are ‘roti, kapra aur makaan’ (food, clothing and shelter) in Bhutto’s government, ‘Islamisation’ during Zia’s dictatorship and ‘accountability’ during the Musharraf regime. ‘Changing the status quo’ is the marketing gimmick of the new entrant on the political scene. Whether the new product is genuine or not, the fact is that sales are surging and the new enterprise is expanding its market share with aggressive mergers and acquisitions.

A new business enterprise always needs a well-coordinated marketing campaign to penetrate a saturated market. Imran Khan is lucky to enjoy the support of the two kingmakers in Pakistan. The men in khaki have always been instrumental in deciding who will sit on the throne but now they share this power with another powerful player: the electronic media magnates. On the country’s biggest private TV network, promotion of the new brand is being run like a cola company advertisement campaign as the network’s singers and caricaturists are busy round the clock popularising the new brand.

Investors in the new enterprise are of three types. First, those non-political aspirants who think it is a good opportunity to explore a political career at a time when the party is less crowded compared to the mainstream parties. Second, those stranded politicians who, like Robinson Crusoe, were waiting for a ship to rescue them. Third, those who always need nods from our spymasters to make such decisions. The weight of the electronic media, however, might prove the most crucial factor in getting Imran Khan enthroned. In one of my previous pieces I had stated that personally I like him but am fearful of some of the shades in his multi-coloured personality. Reassuringly, a gradual softening in his anti-US rhetoric is noticeable. His statements like ‘Khulfa-e-Rashida ka nizam’ (system of the Great Caliphate) can be ignored as a political gimmick because one can see many liberal women in his bandwagon who will not like to go back to that era in the 21st century nor would the religious minorities like to pay any jizya (Islamic tax). If Imran wants to lead us ahead into the modern 21st century, he better leave these phrases to the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam.

Whether it is a doctor examining a patient, or a mechanic inspecting a broken car or an organisational development consultant implementing a change management programme, one simple principle is common to all. You cannot fix and improve anything unless you know the source(s) of the problem. The times of divine interventions have long gone, says Faiz in one of his verses. Yes, charismatic leaders are always important for facilitating change but no leader can do this with a magic wand. First, the sources of the status quo must clearly be understood and only then can it be possible to measure the success of a leader in removing those sources and hence open the doors for change. So what are our main constraints? We can identify three. One, we have big ambitions with a small kitty. We wish to be a regional power like India and China without having the economic muscle of either. Second, there is no rule of law in the land. Due process of law is not only missing in day to day governance but its absence becomes even more conspicuous when disregard of law pertains to the military. Third, our weak budgetary position, as our income is always less than national expenditure, thus forcing us to seek expensive loans and foreign aid. ‘Changing the status quo’ thus means removing these three constraints that have held us back from performing to the optimal level.

Since both kingmakers are spearheading Imran’s campaign it is possible that the new enterprise soon grabs a major market share. But whether it is Junejo on the throne or Nawaz or Gilani or Imran, sooner or later all are confronted with these three interrelated constraints. Every incumbent prime minister discovers that in order to deliver the promised relief to the common people, megaprojects are urgently required. The projects in turn require heavy investments that put pressure on the fiscal budget, which in turn causes balance of payments (BOP) problems. In order to correct the BOP problem, exports need to be enhanced. If the last 10 years’ export data is examined, it can be seen that our biggest export partner is the US and up to 70 percent export trade is with the US, European Union (EU) and the Gulf states. When war hysteria defines our foreign relations we put this 70 percent export at risk, which then has a knock-on effect, resulting in a restraint on megaprojects.

Every new premier soon finds out that in order to boost revenue, new taxation measures are needed. Both India and Bangladesh have adopted VAT but we are still reluctant on that. Another possibility to ease the pressure on the fiscal equation is to rationalise expenditure. The other day I was listening to Imran Khan and found his comments on cutting extravagant expenditure, including defence, reassuringly sensible. He did mention that the prime minister lives in a small house in the UK. He should have also mentioned that there is no tradition of maintaining a full brigade of servants for polishing the shoes of military personnel in the UK either. In the recent spending cuts, the British Secretary of Defence announced cuts in military spending and made thousands of sailors returning from war redundant. In Pakistan, one-third of national expenditure is on account of defence. No doubt some of this huge expenditure can be reduced by minimising waste under tougher parliamentary oversight. However, significant reduction in military expenditure can only be possible if the causes of threat perceptions are minimised. This in turn would require a new policy initiative with regards to India and Afghanistan. Again, here the prime minister, whoever he or she may be, will have to deal with the status quo of the GHQ-driven security paradigm.

It does not matter through which party gates the Makhdooms, Kasuris and Legharis enter parliament. The only measure of success is whether Imran or any claimant is able to show the courage and sagacity to deal with the three basic constraints. Only then can the much hyped ‘status quo’ be changed.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com


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OVER A COFFEE: Memomania to Veenamania: honour is skin deep? Daily Times,17/12/11

OVER A COFFEE: Memomania to Veenamania: honour is skin deep?—Dr Haider Shah

Some gatekeepers of public morality find the holiness of our spymasters damaged. Laughter is the best medicine. That is why Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi advises us that we should develop the habit of laughing at ourselves. This would lessen the national stress level that keeps surging

Our media has an insatiable
appetite for bringing down the heavens over petty issues. And as addicts would welcome a fresh supply of a new dose, our fun-starved viewers also demand that nonsensical tirades should be unleashed upon them all the time. While the television sets were already ablaze with Memogate discussions, Veena Malik’s images have poured oil over the raging fire.

Hardly had I begun writing these lines when on the TV screen I started seeing images of more than 50 Pakistanis, holed up like chickens, in a seminary with chains on their feet. The images of the battered inmates of the seminary reminded me of Bethlehem asylum (or bedlam), the world’s oldest institution specialising in the mentally ill and now renowned for psychiatric treatment. However, two centuries ago the institution was notorious for atrocious conditions and the patients could be watched by the public as ‘freaks’ for a penny. The visitors were even permitted to poke the caged patients with a long stick. Therefore, what a fashion model does with her body, which is entirely her own property, does little to dishonour me. But the fact that in the 21st century bedlam in much worse condition exists in Pakistan, where children as little as eight can be locked up in chains with adult addicts, strips me of any sense of honour. What honour is left when parents themselves provide chains to the perpetrators of inhuman treatment? What national dignity are we talking about when people, instead of seeking medical attention, send their loved ones to pirs and seminaries for curing their mental or physical ailments?

I would have protested most vehemently if Veena’s pictures were published in my 11-year-old son’s textbook or in one of his storybooks. I would have objected very strongly if I was forced to watch her show on TV at 7pm when my kids are in my company. I would have been furious if I was forced to purchase the magazine containing Veena’s pictures. Whether the pictures were nude, artistic nude or erotic, they were meant for a men’s magazine in India. In this case I can exercise my choice as I deem fit. If I feel the pictures are distasteful or potentially harmful, I can keep myself and my children away from them. How come honour creeps in? Some gatekeepers of public morality find the holiness of our spymasters damaged. Laughter is the best medicine. That is why Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi advises us that we should develop the habit of laughing at ourselves. This would lessen the national stress level that keeps surging. Beauty and danger often go together as metaphors. For instance, in Urdu poetry the metaphors of sword and dagger are used for a beloved’s eyebrows. There is a famous Michael Jackson song ‘Dangerous’. In India, the ISI is a byword of media for danger. Veena in the picture was therefore personifying danger. If we are not duty-bound to see all trivia through the holiness lens, then the act could have been laughed away without causing any uproar.

The extent to which honour is associated with the human body is culture and time-specific. For instance, in a very rigid Muslim orthodoxy even a male should be fully clothed. In the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, football players in shorts were punished for violating religio-cultural norms. Muslims in other countries, including Pakistan, do not have this level of sensitivity. The extent to which an average male in a given society demands a woman to cover up her body can be termed the sensitivity index. This sensitivity towards the female body is different in different cultures. For instance, in the predominantly conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is unlikely to see women without a burqa in Pashto-speaking areas. On the sensitivity scale, we can say that men in that cultural setting are extremely sensitive to the whole body of their womenfolk and hence women have to cover themselves up even in humid hot summers. In urban Punjab, the sensitivity is comparatively less stringent so women can move around without covering their faces. In Karachi, the sensitivity scale is even more on the lower side and women wear sensual dresses like saris without risking social disapproval. Even in a country like Britain, sensitivity towards the female body has not always been the same. In Shakespeare’s time, stage plays did not have female actors and female roles were performed by male artists.

Nature has gifted the power of sensuality to females in addition to other faculties. In Engels’ seminal work on the origins of private property and the family, it has been argued that when the institution of private property evolved, strong men captured weaker men and women. The muscular strength of enslaved men and sexuality of females became his personal property. We see that gradually the stronger man’s control over weaker men’s muscular power and women’s sensuality has become less overbearing. People learn to respect the naturally gifted powers of both sexes. It has become acceptable that everyone has a right to swirl the stick as much as he or she likes, provided it does not hit other people’s noses. At the same time, other people also do not poke their noses in the personal matters of other individuals.

To what degree Veena and other showbiz personalities should factor in our cultural sensitivity to the female body is an issue on which we all may have opinions. But the answer should better be left to these individuals as we should not assume the responsibility of imposing our cultural tastes on others. Otherwise, we do not fare much differently from the Taliban who banned wearing of shorts by footballers or punished barbers for shaving beards. Why should we be bothered by a showbiz aspirant who is doing what she thinks is best for her and is on a route that is treaded by thousands of models every year? If we do not feel dishonoured by the violent paths adopted by Faisal Shahzad and Siddiq Hussain and dismiss their activities as their personal acts, why should we think a fashion model represents us and hence should not be left alone. If we are not ready to keep our noses to ourselves then perhaps Veena should have known that in Pakistan not only beauty but honour is also skin deep. And she is entitled to remind us that in order to lose something it is necessary that it should be owned in the first place. After browsing our 64 years of history, can someone tell when was honour actually earned?

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com


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OVER A COFFEE: Moving in circles, Daily Times, 10/12/11

OVER A COFFEE: Moving in circles —Dr Haider Shah

Creating this kind of war hysteria is neither healthy nor advisable. The role of an opposition party is not that of a suicide bomber. It is doing its job well if it is highlighting the failures of the ruling party and offering alternative policies

Visits abroad have been a noticeable feature of Asif Zardari’s presidency. Even on the eve of the great floods in Pakistan he was seen visiting France and the UK. But the latest dash to Dubai has caused ripples in the Pakistani media. The reasons are not incomprehensible though. From Liaquat Ali to Maulvi Tamizuddin, and from Fatima Jinnah to Z A Bhutto, Pakistani political melodrama has remained underpinned by palace intrigues and ugly conspiracies. Pakistani history has been jolted often enough by hiccups caused by pricks to the sensitive egos of civil or military officials.

Like in the myth of Sisyphus, we are moving in circles. Military dictatorships give way to democratic order amid great optimism. But every time the system gets derailed within a few years and we begin from zero again. Not that I am an apologist for the current government, as the list of its acts of omission and commission is a long one and I have been expressing my concerns quite regularly in these pages. However, if the PPP-led government were sent packing through a soft or hard coup, it would prove a pyrrhic victory for Zardari’s political opponents, especially the PML-N. While in other countries like Burma and Turkey the role of the army establishment is receding, men in uniform have staged a comeback with a vengeance in Pakistan.

Had the present government been voted out in a free and fair election, it would have strengthened the democratic process. But when two grade-22 officials of the government decide the fate of the political order in the country behind closed doors, we are back to square one. The situation is a bit more alarming now that there is another overbearing player in the game as well. In the Roman Coliseum spectators would yell ‘iugula’, meaning kill, generally by slitting the throat of the defeated gladiator. Today we see many ambitious talk-show anchors encouraging the zeal of blood seeking adventurists. In this situation any new government that comes to power will find the going very rough. The problems Pakistan is facing today are very deep rooted and complex. Any potential solution would most probably end up cheesing off the military establishment. Sovereignty cannot be divided and shared as there can only be one boss. And the boss will not like a serious challenger winning the race.

The organisers of gladiator sports in ancient Rome were known as ‘editors’. Our important media personalities do not appear much different if one listens to their rhetoric these days. For instance, the other day I was listening to the editor of a major English news daily. The honourable editor was castigating the PML-N for not coming out on the streets to bring down the government. Creating this kind of war hysteria is neither healthy nor advisable. The role of an opposition party is not that of a suicide bomber. It is doing its job well if it is highlighting the failures of the ruling party and offering alternative policies. Expecting a political party to be a congregation of holy monks is also not a realistic expectation. Nowhere in the world are politicians considered the epitome of virtue and purity. Surveys reflect very low public opinion of politicians even in the UK. A political government should, therefore, be assessed on the basis of its responsiveness to public perceptions and complaints. However, certain media outlets appear to be in cahoots with the scriptwriters for enthroning the old kid on the block.

In an earlier piece on memo-mania I had raised my concerns about the ascendancy of the military establishment. The PML-N is fooling itself if it thinks that it will be the beneficiary after the dust settles. When a new boss ka aadmi (the boss’s man) is available, there is little likelihood of Nawaz Sharif winning the blessings of an emboldened establishment. Imran Khan qualifies as a better choice in many ways. He is a flexible and multi-coloured personality. One evening he is enjoying a glamorous evening show with Sushmita Sen and the next evening he is seen sipping tea with Zaid Hamid and General Hamid Gul. One morning he is cursing Musharraf for selling out the nation, and the next he is playing with his gift puppy. Behind which mask hides the real Imran Khan is an intriguing question. At times he sounds ambitious, flexible, pragmatic and playboy-ish. And at times he sounds as if General Hamid Gul is using him as a mouthorgan. It is this chameleon like character of Imran that raises both hope and fear.

The boss seems to have done power calculations for the next elections. It is not hard to infer from Imran’s rhetorical discourse that the evergreen MQM is going to be part of the next ruling arrangement as well. There are indications that the MQM will offer rent-a-rally service to Imran on December 25th if he goes ahead with the planned rally. An impression of solidarity and peace will be created to set the stage for power sharing. Similarities with Musharraf’s game plan are strikingly similar. I will not be surprised if Musharraf also became a part of this new ‘mufahimat ki policy’ (reconciliation policy). Learning from past experiences though, the boss would not like to see Imran becoming too powerful. Perhaps it has been decided that Imran’s party should bag 20 to 30 seats in the next elections. With support of the MQM, independents, PML-Q groups, forward blocs of main parties, FATA members, and pliant sardars from Balochistan a ‘choo choo ka murabba’ (mixed fruit pickle) coalition will be installed under Imran Khan. Not all game plans succeed fully as there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. The gullible youth have been promised that a revolution riding on the shoulders of pir (spiritual master) Mehmood Ghaznavi Saani (Shah Mehmood Qureshi) and Musharraf’s reconditioned team is coming. Perhaps it is our destiny to keep moving in circles.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com

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OVER A COFFEE: The boss and ‘boss ka aadmi’; Daily Times,5 Dec,11

OVER A COFFEE: The boss and ‘boss ka aadmi’ —Dr Haider Shah

When Nawaz Sharif entered the scene with the blessings of the boss, his strong personality did not wait too long to become independent and for the first time in Pakistan’s history a serving army chief was sent home

The manner in which new political outfits suddenly emerge on the eve of major turning points in the chequered political history of Pakistan reminds me of a joke I read in a children’s book. A servant was asked by his master to look after a big pot in which some food was being cooked while he was away. After a while the master returned and asked if everything was okay. The servant replied that he saw a small mouse jumping into the pot. The master asked alarmingly, “Then?” The servant replied, “Do not worry, I have put a cat in the pot.” The furious master shouted, “Oh now a cat is also inside the pot?” The servant calmly replied, “Do not worry sir, I have seen a stray dog outside. I am going to get it for the cat.”

The boiling pot of Pakistani politics has been dealt with not much differently by the establishment. In the beginning the civilian bureaucrats exercised a firm control over power when they wore the mantle of power. When under the spirited leadership of Maulvi Tamizuddin the then Assembly endeavoured to regain its power, the move was thwarted by Ghulam Muhammad with the active connivance of the then judiciary. As the throne passed over to the army generals in 1958, they dealt with the challenge posed by the civilian politicians in two ways. One, by direct intervention and declaring martial law. Second, indirectly through pliant politicians or other ambitious public figures.

In 2001, I was assigned the task of supervising anti-smuggling intelligence in Balochistan. Conventional wisdom suggested that a good rapport with a resourceful organisation would be very helpful. I would refrain from naming the organisation as it is considered sacrilegious to say the sacrosanct name, especially if you are not ‘bawazoo’ (ablution). We are not uncivilised like the British and the US who openly name the CIA or the MI6 in media reports. So like other civilised media persons of Pakistan, I would also call it a sensitive agency. To cut the story short, I first telephoned the director and after receiving a positive nod reached his official premises. There I had to sit in the waiting lounge as the ‘boss’ was having a meeting with an important local politician. Those were the days when plans were underway for electing Musharraf for further five years as president. I could see officials of the organisation going to the boss’s office along with their prized ‘catch of the day’. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were being brought together to help the humpty dumpty stay firmly seated on the throne. I waited for many hours observing the hustle and bustle and finally came to the conclusion that far greater issues were being attended to there so I left the scene leaving the netters deal with their fish.

From Burma to Pakistan, the boss likes to retain ultimate control in his hands in our part of the world. ‘Boss ka aadmi’ (BKA) is never allowed to grow too big for his boots. When any BKA starts showing signs of independence, a new BKA is recruited to take the place of the old BKA. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a BKA during Ayub Khan’s era. He saw the opportunity of exploiting the anti-India and anti-US fervour of Pakistanis and after mixing a bit of leftist ideas with a bit of jingoistic pan-Islamism, he was able to launch a successful political party. The former BKA could not last long as an independent leader and was eliminated from the political scene altogether. Mr Junejo emerged as a new BKA after the party-less elections of 1985. Political leaders and parties gradually grow, leaving behind their past roots in royalty and the establishment. For instance, the modern Labour-Conservative political divide was ‘Whigs vs Tories’ (Court party) rivalry in the 18th century Britain. Junejo was considered a very docile personality by Ziaul Haq and hence was made prime minister by the ‘boss’. But after becoming the chief executive even a soft-spoken Junejo started asserting his power and trespassed the forbidden territory of Afghan policy. No wonder he, along with his Assembly, was sent packing.

Confronting political parties and their leaders head-on is not always very productive. The boss therefore uses the formula of the servant in dealing with potentially troublesome parties. In order to keep the tide of the PPP under control, the MQM in Sindh and the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) in Punjab were launched. When the MQM became threateningly too powerful, the MQM (Haqeeqi) and ‘Punjabi Pakhtun Ittehad’ were created. Benazir Bhutto was reluctantly handed over power in 1988 but was compelled to agree that foreign policy was a no-entry zone. “George, be a king,” was the advice given to King George by his mother. If Junejo could also not resist listening to the inner voice of becoming a PM, how could an assertive and popularly elected leader like Benazir play second fiddle for long? As the governance perception was not very impressive, the task of the boss was made easy to show her the exit door soon. When Nawaz Sharif entered the scene with the blessings of the boss, his strong personality did not wait too long to become independent and for the first time in Pakistan’s history a serving army chief was sent home. But the boss staged a comeback and Nawaz Sharif was soon behind bars.

Historically the political forces of the smaller provinces have remained anti-establishment while Punjab had always been the bastion of pro-establishment politics. In an ironic twist after the 2008 elections, the smaller provinces-based parties are either pro-establishment or at least not anti-establishment while the Punjab-based PML-N emerged as an anti-establishment political voice in national politics. As the present government suffers from a credibility crisis, the establishment is worried that the former BKA would prove very dangerous in his new populist anti-establishment role. So a new BKA was deemed necessary and the ever ambitious Imran Khan was ready to play this role. He, along with Mehmood Ghaznavi Saani (Shah Mehmood Qureshi), has now promised the youth that a revolution is coming riding over the shoulders of Musharraf’s former team. Up till now it was only Musharraf’s dog that had been welcomed at Imran’s residence. Now almost the whole team has been greeted by welcome banners. The PPP government deserves some credit here. Now even the harbinger of revolution is using ‘mufahimat ki policy’ (reconciliation policy) as the core doctrine of the promised revolution. It is Pakistan. Our Che Guevaras and Fidel Castros on a nod from the boss can turn the tide of revolution against any former BKA.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com

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