Today, the IJI is demanding the resignation of the Bhutto government and fresh general elections as though elections were a weekly performance like “Neelam Ghar”. A former prime minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo, who should know all about destabilisation and being ousted from office prematurely, is in the front of this band-wagon. His erstwhile former rival in the Muslim League, Mr Nawaz Sharif, is leading the anti-government troops. The opposition has no leadership, no common ideology and is torn apart by a kind of factionalism that makes an anthill look like a haven of peace. Nevertheless, they are temporarily united in trying to topple the federal government and bring the entire election exercise, carried through with such difficulty and tension, down on its knees. They are not just drifting towards catastrophe, they are taking us by the hand and begging us to enter the abyss.
The PPP government has fought long and hard for democracy in Pakistan and deservedly won a national mandate to rule in Islamabad. However, it was not given any such right in the provinces of Punjab and Balochistan. Notwithstanding these facts, the PPP, whose ranks include some of Pakistan’s best human rights workers and constitutional lawyers, finds it difficult to pull along with the IJI. Despite their high sounding and moralistic rhetoric, the PPP walas also have little time to practise democracy.
The IJI is determined to undo the democratic gains of post-Zia Pakistan. Its campaign is focussed on accusing the PPP of selling state secrets to India, of being an American footstool and agent of Zionism; in short of blocking government at every level.
In any civilised country, treason is a charge not lightly made, let alone kicked about like a football. When the word ‘treason’ enters your political vocabulary in such a footloose fashion you have the seeds of a real political catastrophe. The cleavage within the power elite is now so severe that it is beginning to look like it can never be mended.
It is depressing to have to write like this and probably even more depressing to have to read it. But the proverbial man in the street is more deeply worried than he has ever been. This situation cannot be explained away by some whipped up foreign conspiracy theory. This is made in Pakistan, by us, in just six months.
The charges of treason, and the intolerance from both sides of the political divide, must be shed or the next martial law may be much more severe than the types we have been accustomed to living with. The fireside philosophy of Generals has always been that we are not fit for democracy. If the present confrontation continues, we will end up proving them right.
Politics should be an honourable profession. But politicians of all sorts are rapidly losing all public confidence because they have muddied their own pool. However it is still not too late to pull back and start talking of give and take, live and let live.