Writing on the wall By Lt Gen (Retd) Ghulam Mustafa - 12th septemebr 2014

Myopia does not explain it. In fact, nothing does. The madness which has gripped the entire nation for the last so many days was explained away as a mere storm in the teacup. It may well be true. Then why the joint session of the hollowed Parliament which has talked of nothing else but the threats looming large and wide to our constitution and the resultant democracy. Those sitting outside also claim the same. Where is the problem then? The two groups are similar in many ways. Both claim to be fighting for that elusive ‘democracy’. Both have laid siege to something called the ‘constitution’ and ironically, both claim to be its true defenders. What and who is the problem? Repetitive, rhetorical, yes, but that’s the crux of the great debate going on inside our Parliament.
Both groups are fighting, very hard too, but not each other. Their battlegrounds are different as are their perceived enemies. Their weapons are dissimilar as well. Both refuse to see the writing on the wall. In fact, they refuse the very existence of the wall. They battle on regardless of banging their heads against the unacknowledged wall, are being bloodied in the process and have yet to ask or answer the vital question. They don’t seem to be bothered about theconsequences or the possible outcome of the battle. They have been assigned a task by their lord and master and they shall perform to the best of their abilities or perish in the process.
Live transmission of the proceedings outside and now inside the joint session appears to have given a very large energy boost to everyone. The great debate inside is a rhetoric aimed at displaying one’s loyalty to something which does not exist — democracy — and defending something which is being battered to death by these very warriors — the Constitution. Depending on how one looks at, the army bashing as its central theme, the joint session of Parliament has achieved the ultimate. So far, it has outdone the PTI and the PAT. The Parliament has come out as its own worst enemy. The Parliament has proved to be archaic, divorced from reality and a confirmed club of a mutually supportive, self-serving group of political ‘elite’. One can see the tension and fear on faces as speaker after speaker stands up lashing out at the unseen enemy. They are on the defensive and have barricaded themselves behind the garb of their brand of democracy and their interpretation of the Constitution.
They don’t know it yet but they have played their last card. Ironically, as I said earlier, they played it against the wrong enemy, their perceived third force, the so-called script writer who, according to them, is the cause of all their troubles. In the process, they have unveiled the fragility of the very system they are trying to protect. A personal spat between two of their stalwarts was about to bring the whole ‘democratic’ system tumbling down. Is their brand of democracy so fragile? Or are we imbeciles? What else can come out of the joint session of the great Parliament? A resolution asking the army to clear the capital? Or a charge of the red brigade? There is our Supreme Court though.
The brave people outside that building at least know their enemy, or so they think. Vague objectives, little or no planning and popular sounding claims were all they had. Dedication was and continues to be a force multiplier for them. Thus equipped, they were given to believe that success was theirs to be had. That they have survived so far adds another force multiplier to their armoury — perseverance. Rhetoric, incomplete ground work and lack of clear vision to see the effort through its required conclusion appear to have negatively impacted their enthusiasm. They had come to fight and win a battle. They are now in the middle of a war, improvising as they push forward. They were the ones on the offensive. They had all the initiative to begin with. Confronted with a united and politically shrewd opposition, they find themselves in a logjam. They don’t seem to have any contingency to meet this unexpected turn of events. Initiative appears to have shifted sides and a stalemate-like situation is on the cards. If only it were so. It is indeed a difficult position to be in. Unfamiliar as well. Extraordinary leadership, inexhaustible levels of dedication, perseverance and foresight would be required to get out of it, regain the initiative and achieve their objectives. They must understand that after stumbling a bit, getting beaten around and suffering defections in their ranks, they can now claim to have laid the foundations for the change. The process has begun. Actual change will take time. Patience would be a very useful commodity at this stage. Their leadership must break away from rhetoric and get their crowds accustomed to reality.
This truly is a defining moment in our history. The eternal battle between status quo and change has begun to tilt in latter’s favour. Very serious questions have been raised on the efficacy of the type of democracy we have in Pakistan. What kind of democratic dispensation massacres unarmed innocent civilians by the state apparatus in a provincial capital in broad daylight? How can you bring this tragedy on the negotiating table? How and with whom do you negotiate ‘14 dead and 81 seriously injured’? Has anyone accepted that the whole operation was illegal to begin with?
How can one claim legitimacy for a government in which everyone is crying foul? It is being done on the floor of the very House which is supposed to be a rule onto itself. God forbid, are we being told that this House can, and is therefore, going to condone what it knows to be illegal? There is this wall, as large as this august house, which carries this statement in capital letters:-
“Listen to the people outside. What they say is true. Do not analyse it in terms of defeat or victory. Look at it from the national perspective. Embrace the need to change. Make it your own before it swallows everything”. There will be change. Make no mistake about it. Sooner than later. Look at China. Look at the Soviet model. The process of change shattered an empire. Russia survived and is thriving once again because of its leadership and huge resources.
Will we?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2014.