Hundreds_of_thousands_of_Bahrainis_taking_part_in_march_of_loyalty_to_martyrs

Make history, don’t become one

 

Let’s forget about who is right wrong and who is wrong. No judgments, no prejudice against anyone. Let’s concentrate on only two questions: How can this situation be resolved amicably; and why it is necessary to do it as soon as possible?

Are the demands legitimate? Is the modus operandi adopted for this purpose constitutional? Are there 7,000 people present at D Chowk or does the number of assembling people runs into hundreds of thousands in the evenings? These and such other questions seem to have lost their relevance at the moment. The only relevant concern of the people seems to be that we are at the brink and we must address the situation on ground as soon and as realistically as is possible.

How can the Gordian knot be made loose? It’s simple through give and take by the opposing parties. Everyone is telling that. But what can that ‘give and take’ be? That’s easier said than explained. But even then, there are literally more than one ways for the parties involved to reach some mutually agreed solution.

Consider.

Government and PTI agree on, 1) the formation of the electoral reforms committee, headed by Imran Khan, to give recommendations in a reasonable time period to be approved by the parliament and made part of the constitution; 2) term of elected government is brought down from five to four years, to avoid impatience in future, and provide an opportunity to the system to achieve some semblance of stability; 3) making local bodies’ elections part and parcel of the democratic system that can’t be constitutionally and legally avoided; 4) it is agreed that no one in future will be doled out lucrative assignments on the basis of his/her relationship with the democratically elected rulers/representatives; 5) as 2014 is nearing its end, 2015 is earmarked for the proposed reforms (electoral, election commission, caretaker government, and governance-related, etc.), and it is agreed that elections will be held before the end of that year or sometime in during the first quarter of 2016 to pave the way for a constitutional change; 6) and last, but not the least, agreeing on some mechanism for protests by all sides (and sparing Islamabad and important venues in other big cities to be used) for long marches and dharnas for the purpose of an otherwise illegal or whimsical overthrow of democratically elected governments in future.

But why should a breakthrough be made sooner than soon? It is because: a) first, the agitating parties failed to bring the promised/expected number of people to the venue and now they are fast reaching a point where even the initial number and zeal of the supporters may become difficult to maintain; b) these factors are leading the two big protesting leaders to desperation which can result in some potentially dangerous decisions; c) some third party can take advantage of the situation to create chaotic conditions in the country and make it unstable politically; d) if the talks prolonged for an indefinite period – apparently with good prospects of success – some important leader among these parties can be physically harmed that will eventually lead to a widespread bloodshed and ultimately the fall of the system; and, e) the apparent breakdown of the government machinery and an unending political stalemate can suck in the all-powerful military establishment which will obviously be the derailment of the democratic process that is in vogue for the past six years.

Both the government and the protesting parties carry equal responsibility to save the system from total collapse. But since Qadri and Chauhdry brothers are nothing more than political nuisance, therefore the main responsibility for anything untoward will largely rest with Imran Khan and the government. Rather, it will be mainly IK who will be held responsible tomorrow if the current democratic system gets derailed today.

Why?

Why should IK show more flexibility in the prevailing deadlock? It is because there are more personal and political damages for him to suffer in case things go wrong. On personal level he will be considered a non-serious leader who cannot be relied upon in future; he will be blamed for damaging democracy; he will prove to be one of the same – a leader who couldn’t rise above his personal interests for the sake of democracy and his country; and he will prove himself to be visionless – which is nothing less than political death for a prospective leader.

There are other reasons as well for IK as a leader and PTI as a party which demand a more careful and responsible behaviour. Leading democracy and the country into a blind alley will have its price which PTI along with other stakeholders will be liable to pay. At the moment there are no powerful arguments with the party to convince majority of the countrymen why it has opted for such brinkmanship and why it can’t resolve this political crisis through dialogue. The excuse of delay on the part of the government in responding to PTI’s demands and grievances regarding electoral rigging is already not going well even with political analysts extremely critical of the PML-N government and its leaders’ governing style. Same is true about IK’s demand of PM’s resignation and mid-term polls, which are commonly considered childish.

Both the government and the protesting parties carry equal responsibility to save the system from total collapse. But since Qadri and Chauhdry brothers are nothing more than political nuisance, therefore the main responsibility for anything untoward will largely rest with Imran Khan and the government. Rather, it will be mainly IK who will be held responsible tomorrow if the current democratic system gets derailed today.

Analysts are apprehensive that if Imran Khan didn’t mend his ways soon, it will be hard for him to offload the political baggage he is heaping upon his young political party’s shoulders at the moment. It is also a fact that PTI, due to its isolationist approach and apolitical behaviour already stands isolated. Prolongation of the dharna is turning that isolation to antagonism with the rest of the political parties operating in the country. This is mainly due to the impractical and non-political demands of its leadership plus the derogatory language it has been using against the leaders of almost all of the rest of the political parties; excluding itself. Such an approach is normally adopted by revolutionary parties and groups but only when the overall environment is conducive for achieving its stated political objectives. Here, not only that mass support is found divided and lacking but also that the objectives remain unclear. The only thing most of the participants of the million march are clear about is ‘change’; the rest is shrouded in mystery and is generally camouflaged in the ‘unmatched determination’ of the Kaptaan.

But leaving aside personal and political ramifications for IK and his party, the long-term consequences for the system also seem to be negative as all the PTI roads lead only to one unhappy destination. There are many scenarios (all with same results) likely to develop in case IK sticks to his demands, PTI does not budge, the gridlock continues or even the ‘Changians’ and Revolutionaries succeed in achieving their goals. These can include:

i)                    Prime Minister resigns, government overthrown and federal and provincial assemblies dissolved (all unlikely but let’s assume). So a legal vacuum is created where nothing lawful exist to ensure a legitimate transition to the next phase.

ii)                  PM refuses to resign, the army intervenes and compels the warring parties to agree to some undesirable solution under duress.

iii)                Stalemate persists, some untoward occurring takes place and bloodshed ensues which compels the army to intervene.

iv)                No solution is found and military is sucked in, politicians are sidelined and a ‘neutral’, ‘non-political’ interim government is installed for an extended period of time to overhaul and revamp the electoral and governance system as demanded by the politicians themselves and which has brought the country to that deadlock in the first place.

v)                  Finding all other options closed, the military intervenes directly, pointing to the ‘performance’ of the political class, asks for the verdict of the people in a generalized or specific way, and moves ahead with an agenda and programme of its own.

All these hypothetical scenarios have one thing in common: derailment of the current democratic system and subversion of the constitution – whether in a big or small way. And whether the army actually helped in painting the situation into this blind corner or not, these will largely be politicians, especially IK and NS, who will be blamed for rocking the loolly, langdhi democratic boat. This certainly will not be a position any politician worth his/her salt would like to be put into. Tahirul Qadri is not a politician. He has no stakes in the system neither is he likely to have some in the foreseeable future. Nor will he matter much if IK reaches a workable agreement with the government (though there seem brighter prospects of some kind of a deal between him and the government). Forget about the exaggerated noise he will be making for some time, his inqilab balloon will deflate just like that once IK comes in the loop with the rest of the stakeholders for the sake of the system.

It, of course, is the government which can allure the maverick to join the mainstream by accepting his lawful demands and addressing his legitimate grievances. But much depends on Imran Khan now to realise that he has gone too far and that he ought to return to join the caravan of democracy and do his bit to improve the system while remaining in the confines of the constitution. Those who are busy making him believe that any flexibility on his part now will ‘bury his politics in the grave dug for Metro Bus’ are in fact scaring him away of finding a political solution to a basically political problem. They are not his friends; they simply want to use his political clout and strength to serve their own purposes. But even then, there should be no problem for a leader like Imran Khan to say he is ready to do that if the choice is between burying his own political career and the long-term interest of the country he wants to change for good.

After all, if the erring one comes home before dark, he can’t be termed a wayward. Come back, Captain. You have already played a remarkable role to make life difficult for those who will even think of stealing the mandate of the people in future. And you have a much bigger role to play in future. Don’t let yourself get mired in the moment which is going to pass anyway. Don’t drown yourself in the ocean of your ego and take away the hope of a better Pakistan the future generation has pinned on you and your party. Make history, don’t become one.