Daily The News: Early spring
Friday, January 04, 2013
The last few weeks of 2012 weren’t that bad, given how most of 2011 had played out, especially recovering from the exogenous shocks of a failing US-Pakistan relationship – and that too right in the midst of when Afghanistan seemed headed for closure.
Mohammad Asif of Jhang won the World Snooker Championship; he wasn’t sponsored by anyone and went at it alone borrowing the money needed for his ticket. Pakistan’s long faded glory in hockey seemed to resurrect some with the green-shirts ousting India from the Asian Championship title. In itself this was a remarkable turn-around, but the manner of the game and the score-line, 5-4, is what made it especially sweeter. It was a game built around the strategy of offence, and when once unblocked from its self-restrictive fear of defeat, the team re-learnt the value of self-confidence, never-say-die, teamwork and the spirit of winning against all odds.
Cricketers have followed the act with a remarkable display of similar values. What had always seemed an insurmountable task hitherto – of defeating India in India – has now turned almost into a habit. For a team that has been shunned the opportunity to host games in its own country, this is sweet revenge. The one game that Pakistan lost in a T20 game was a moral win. Scoring at an equal rate against a mountain of a 192-run target, 181 was as good. In times not too far back Pakistan would have simply wilted under the pressure of the task. One swallow does not a summer make, but the odds are looking good. I can sense purpose, commitment and a will to overcome. Where institutions may have failed to make amends to their debilitating state of functioning, individuals in small groups have taken it upon themselves to turn Pakistan’s fortune around in their areas of work.
Sur Kshetra has been another India-Pakistan match of competitive melodies sung by selected amateurs from both countries. The show, judged by none other than Asha Bhosle of India, Runa Laila of Bangladesh and the indomitable Abida Perveen from Pakistan, all fascinating crooners and masters in their art, ran for almost four months in India and Pakistan. And while India can boast of an internalised culture of dance and music in its genetic make-up, in Pakistan dance and music is restricted either to some singing families or the very select few who are bold enough to defy apparent societal aversion to it. It is another matter that Indian movies premier in Pakistan on the same day as in India, and that the Pakistanis revere the likes of Lata Mangeshkar, Rafi and Kishore Kumar and swoon to their enchanting voices.
Our combined societal disposition, not only in singing but in most matters, is rarely a direct summation of the majority choices, instead remaining inexplicably distorted exhibiting little of how we individually think or prefer. In simple words, such distortions are termed diabolical and hypocritical. And yes, despite such serious anomalies in our individual choices and cumulative preferences, a proud Pakistani, Nabeel Shaukat Ali, won the title. He is an outstanding singer, by all standards. Maybe we need some more of these India-Pakistan match-ups in other spheres to bring some confidence back in this desolate Pakistani nation.
This brings me to our current obsession, Professor Tahirul Qadri. Not all about him is bad. He espouses popular concerns. He seeks to break the logjam of political status quo and the hold that the PPP and the PML-N perpetuate through instruments like the Charter of Democracy. He shuns dynastic politics and the hereditary passing on of leadership from father-to-son in our political families. He challenges provisions of the constitution and electoral laws that perpetuate such hold. He seeks a level playing field for all and questions loading the system against the dispossessed. This is not all bad.
Yes, he may have on his mind a personal agenda too and may simply have tested waters by holding the event at Lahore, and yes he may like to see how the success of that one political event may translate into a ‘long march’ that just might kindle popular imagination and begin a mass movement against exploitative politics of the status-quo proponents. Having seen the success that mass movements have brought in the Middle East, he may simply be replicating the process here with the hope that it just might give him an opportunity to lay stake at the altar of political power. For the moment he is game for the interim slot too hoping he just might be able to perpetuate the stint longer than it is meant to. He may just be a political carpetbagger. But, he has credentials of another kind and can instill imagination of the crowds in different ways. He just might be our man for this season especially when all others of the religious genre have failed to offer an alternate strain to the one which has now become the driving narrative of this land.
For all the nobility, literal as well as derived, that one may attach to Professor Qadri’s holy self, he unfortunately is unlikely to succeed. One, because he has formulated his propositions wrongly – electoral laws and any amendments needed in the constitution can be authored only by parliament, and this one is unlikely to comply; two, the time given by him to institute those changes is far too short even if the current wielders of the political power are willing to look at some; and three, the military’s support to his cause, which can cut short the route to political power, is unlikely to be at his service. The current setup in the military has borne a lot of speculative bile to see the democratic system succeed, and being reviled for it in public perception because what went in the name of democracy was rapacious and revolting. It is unlikely to upset the apple cart when the elections can give new hope for course correction.
Despite all this, the professor remains a breath of fresh air in this rather stale and stagnating political environment. Pakistan’s biggest problem is the absence of leadership, any leadership, to nurse it out of its predicaments. Announcing an election schedule and a transparent plan for the interim setup will be the first step towards filling the void. It will also squeeze the space for hopeful adventurers. In days long gone the military would seek such an opening to ride the pile to the top; not now. It therefore remains within the precincts of the political class to rise to the occasion and prove worthy of the challenges ahead. People like Professor Tahirul Qadri can sometimes force greater focus in those who take their exclusivity for granted. That is a service we can only be immensely grateful for.
Otherwise, Tahirul Qadris will always remain in play. This one may not succeed, but another will, at another time. It may be difficult to imagine in this frigid cold, but early spring may just be round the corner.
The writer is a retired air-vice marshal of the Pakistan Air Force and served as its deputy chief of staff. Email: shhzdchdhry @yahoo.com