In the Red Queen’s topsyturvy world behind the looking glass, the people had to run as hard as they could in order to stay in the same place. In the uncharted domain of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Co. all their befuddled running seems contrived only to lose rather than gain ground. The objectives, if any, get further by the day. Mr Sharif claimed the other day that he was not a man of the ststus quo. He has not yet given much practical evidence of that, and whatever breaks from the so-called status quo he has caused to happen, or given moens of being in store, hold no promise of leading this benighted nation into the future. They make the past, the 50s, 60s, and even in some part the colonial years, look a shade or two like Shangri-La.
In politics, the small-mindedness of what is current is bewildering. The style, the tactics, the manner of speech the PM and, no doubt at his bidding, his satraps have adopted towards the opposition has, in less than a year, made politics an obscenity. This attitude of the government has inflicted wounds that look impossible to heal. It has set precedents that only a worse catastrophe might help erase. Last week’s speeches in the National Assembly or the PM’s earlier campaign assaults in his public rallies were only the latest exhibition of this consuming passion.
While Mr Sharif plays cricket, a myopic pettiness becomes rampant. Messrs Jam and Marwat in Sindh, for instance, are only tools, if shrewdly chosen for their boundless malice, ruthlessness and absence of scrupled. It is the choosing and assigning of the mission to them that merits all the credit that is due. Similarly, IJI’s cohabitation with the MQM may be normal politics, but doesn’t the purposes this has been put to fall in the category of thuggery? Consider the seeds of poison this cynical politics of convenience has sown. There can only be a whirlwind of disasters to reap. In tackling the alarming law and order situation, too, the government has shown a similar lack of imagination. In a society notorious for police excesses and for its liability on one procedural count or another to miscarriage of justice, the government’s paroxysms of bloodthirstiness promise no progress towards a millennium. It only augments the repressive levers of a repression-prone government without doing anything at all to control lawlessness.
The drum-beating over the NFC and water accords has not ceased and already both are threatening to come unstuck. Above the loyal back-thumping, a distinct grumbling about having been short-changed can be heared from all the provinces. There is also griping within the ruling coalition over such aspects as the royalty for NWFP electricity and who should pay it and whether or not the Kalabagh Dam will have to be built over somebody’s dead body.
As for the privatisation spree — it does promise to fill a part of the states empty coffers. The juma bazar held the other day for 100-odd units did not exactly cause a stampede, but there were a few bids for about 80 profitable concerns. However, the manner in which the process is unfolding threatens an even worse disarray in future. In the absence of infrastructure and institutional facilities, industrial power will again, as in the 60s, begin increasingly to get concentrated in a few hands, more so given our present rulers’ tendency to heap favours on their chosen few.
In the public sector, longer term development planning remains on ice. The annual development plans, such as they are, are haredly being pursued with any earnestness. And the much-touted Tameer-i-Watan programme seems designed to do tameer only of the political future of some loyalists. As for sectors like education and health, housing and labour welfare, even the government’s statement-issuing machine is at a loss.
Where in all this is there evidence of a desire to break from the status quo? A government whose principal pre-occupation is to paralyse if not eliminate the opposition, a government which governs to the extent that it can politically shore itself up, cannot really cultivate the vision or the resources for an imaginative break from the abominable past. It cannot advance towards a harmonious and reconstructive national order. It can only create a topsy-turvydom like the Red Queen’s, where, among other things, punishment came first, trial next, and crime last, if at all.