Pakistan is building itself as a regional economic hub and a gateway nation-state. Investment in structures built for the purpose is underway at a regional scale. There is, thus, much increased chance that instability in Pakistan will have a bearing on other countries in the region, China being the most prominent among them. The West too will be impacted because Pakistan has been described as critical to its” war in Afghanistan.” Instability in Pakistan will invite foreign intervention at a scale hitherto not known in recent international affairs. The US has a self proclaimed security stake in the region where it is busy “exterminating existential threats to itself.” China has invested far too much in Pakistan to watch Pakistan go down while sitting on the fence as mere observer. India is waiting in the wings for its chance to reclaim parts, if not whole, of Pakistani territory for its commercial benefit. Afghanistan’s current leadership would want the Durand Line resettled. Pashtuns may want to live as one instead of continuing to live as they are now, divided across Pakistan and Afghanistan. The plausible battles that would ensue, should Pakistan lose its structural equilibrium, and the violence that will grip the region should Pakistan relinquish its political sanity, will be unparalleled in international affairs, way beyond what the world has watched in Lebanon and Yugoslavia in recent history.
And yet, during the last two months, the ruling elite in Pakistan has behaved in a manner that not only defies logic, but also exhibits utter disregard for Pakistan’s current political imperatives. A very serious corruption scandal faced the nation when the Sharifs’ appeared in Panama Leaks. The judiciary took notice of the matter and ordered a probe which took place but was not telecast for the benefit of the nation. The probe into the assets of the former first family should have been telecast, not only to ensure transparency, but also to ensure stability by preempting nasty retaliation by those who would obviously want to resist receiving the rough end of the shaft. I wrote in my blog on June 4, 2017, (titled “The Evolving Course of Events in Pakistan,”) that such a telecast is desirable. Sure enough, the absence of live telecast of the JIT probe gave Nawaz Sharif the opportunity to (incorrectly) describe his ouster as one (unfairly) being due to him not receiving salary from his son, and for possessing a work/residence permit in UAE. There was no countervailing narrative that echoed in the streets of Pakistan during the election campaign for NA 120 because Imran Khan, the de facto leader of the opposition, was not allowed by the Election Commission of Pakistan to campaign. Ever since Nawaz Sharif decided to politically contest his ouster, only his narrative has been publicized because the judiciary cannot issue public rebuttals and the opposition is busy doing God knows what! It seems to have allowed the ruling PML(N) to amend the constitution in late August, to facilitate the come back of Nawaz Sharif in future, by simply not being present in the parliament in enough numbers when the vote took place!
The former first family’s political heir apparent, Mariam Safdar, has displayed political acumen of the level of Marie Antoinette. Oblivious to what is at stake for her country, she has tried to mobilize the masses while campaigning for her mother’s election by attempting to inculcate mass antagonism against the judiciary and the security establishment of Pakistan, i.e., the two fundamental pillars of statehood. The election to fill in Nawaz Sharif’s seat in parliament was held under rules not comprehensible to ordinary Pakistanis at all. Imran Khan, the head of the opposition, was not allowed to campaign for his party’s candidate, while the daughter of the ousted Prime Minister was given a free hand to campaign for her mother, in a province that is ruled by her uncle Shahbaz Sharif, the powerful Chief Minister of Punjab. The ousted Prime Minister’s wife has won the election with a margin of votes that is far less than what it used to be when Nawaz Sharif contested from the same constituency before Panama Leaks. Nawaz Sharif has decided to contest his ouster but not in the court of law! The new PML(N) appointed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has won hearts and minds within a short period of time by taking his job serious domestically and by standing up for Pakistan internationally. Yet Pakistanis watch his tenure with anxiety as the ousted PM seems in no mood to allow his party to function under a head other than himself. Nawaz Sharif now re-occupies the seat of the head of the party and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has declared that ‘psychologically,’ he considers Nawaz Sharif as still “his PM.”
The ruling (and no longer ruling) elite is busy cooking a recipe for disaster and is, in the process, showing a breathtaking disregard for the dangers Pakistan is currently facing as a nation-state. God forbid, should a political tragedy occur in South Asia of unprecedented proportions, history will be describing the current political events of Pakistan as its prelude.
Will some-one please steer the wheels while there is time!