Software Update

It is difficult to comment on politics when elected representatives of the people overtly accept that the game is no longer determined by them. While analysts often term the real powerbrokers of the country simply as the ‘establishment’, a ubiquitous word which offers sufficient plausible deniability, the truth is now out in the open as to who really controls Pakistan. 

We didn’t pay heed to opposition leaders who cried foul time and time again about the involvement of non-democratic forces within our political system or to journalists and political commentators when they claimed, in thousands of columns and shows, that there was merely an illusion of democracy in Pakistan. No sir, we weren’t convinced with this substandard evidence.

A boot on the table was all it took. Claims of polishing it, even licking it were made, not by a journalist or an opposition leader but by an honourable federal minister who seemingly represents the views of the government. 

By putting a military-style boot on the table at Kashif Abbasi’s show, Faisal Vawda has directly accused the PML-N leadership of grovelling to the military and in effect has claimed that it is in fact, the military which has given respite to major opposition parties who have sacrificed their narrative of civilian supremacy to protect their interests. 

Unlike most commentators, I commend Mr Vawda for speaking the truth for a change and shattering all doubt in anyone’s mind as to who runs the show in this mighty Islamic republic. 

Why does everyone have a problem with the truth? Why are we so shy of accepting that it is the institution of the military which is behind most meaningful achievements and failures of this great nation? Is it because we like to pretend that we are a democratic country in periods where the military is not directly in control? Let’s stop the pretence and accept the truth boldly narrated by the honourable Minister for Water. 

While Kashif Abbasi has been banned from conducting his show and appearing as an analyst on other shows for two months, Faisal Vawda has barely been given a slap on the wrist by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has forbidden him from appearing on talk shows for a measly two weeks. Whether Mr Vawda will bring the boot to his next show is anyone’s guess. 

A changing spectrum of public opinion management is being witnessed in the corridors of influence as many believe that the balance of power has slowly but surely shifted away from confused Islamabad to secure bounds of Rawalpindi. 

There doesn’t seem to be any tug of war between the civilian and military leadership but a challenge between different civilians as to who will be favoured by the all-powerful institution. By backtracking on their previous stance of civilian supremacy, the opposition has proven that it is willing to adopt a more practical strategy which offers almost certain access to power instead of a principled stance which might have changed the course of our history. 

The ease with which all mainstream politicians complied to pass legislation which enabled the extension of the army chief is testament to the fact that Mr Vawda is right.

Representatives of the people have vilified each other to the extent that people’s trust in politicians and democracy has greatly diminished. However this mantra of aggressive politics has exposed the inner workings of the system in Pakistan by bringing disrepute to those who claimed that there were “neutral” power centres in the country beyond political parties.

We will get a clearer picture in the times to come, now that Pakistan has gone through its latest software update.

 

By Hamza Azhar Salam – MA Interactive Journalism, City University of London