A gridlock of monumental proportions - BY: Shaheen Sehbai ( with thanks to Nizami Khaled)

No one seems tall enough and strong enough to get up and get going. The saying, ‘the tough get going when the going gets tough’, does not seemingly apply to usA unique situation has developed in the country and apparently no one is either confident or keen to end this national stalemate.
The salient features of this situation can be summed up as follows:

-The Parliament has become almost dysfunctional. As the biggest beneficiaries of this system, the elected leaders are unable, or uninterested, to run the Parliament in a way that generates confidence in the democratic system.
-The government (read: cabinet) is in place but it looks like a gathering of headless chicken, running helter-skelter with no aim or purpose in sight.
-When ministers who are supposed to follow and execute laws, provide VVIP protocol and drive in droves behind a family charged with multiple crimes, where should anyone look for the closed fist or strong arm of the law?
-When the Finance Minister refuses to resign and the PM not just refuses to fire him but helps him escape the courts and the law, a new definition of screwed governance starts emerging.
-The ruling party is also posing as the largest opposition party of the country, presenting itself as an innocent victim of an illusory autocratic dictatorship, crying and moaning before the cameras and tweeting endlessly as if someone has slaughtered all its goats and camels without permission.
-Other political parties are in a mess, trying hard to survive or save their leaders who are either caught in the accountability net or fear they might be the next target in line.
-Politics as such has become meaningless, unprincipled or simply unethical. When parties in the Upper House vote for a convicted leader to become eligible for party leadership and no one attends the Lower House, democracy looks like standing on its head, topsy-turvy.
-A deadly confrontation appears to be developing involving the government, the ruling party, the judiciary and, by implication, the security establishment.
-The country’s apex court has heard the Panama Papers cases in detail and then given considered judgements spread over thousands of pages but those who have been convicted and charged do not want to accept these verdicts. Instead they want to be the guardians of law to administer justice to others.
– Another stalemate appears evident after what the SC seriously viewed as ‘institutional capture, seizure and subjugation of all the important institutions of the State including NAB, SECP, FBR, SBP, NBP, IB through cronies and collaborators of the person at the peak’. How can these institutions be allowed to function under the same cronies and for how long? Who will stop or remove them? Who will perform the tasks these state bodies are required to do?
-At yet another level, the gridlock has also engulfed the upcoming elections as conflicting interests have almost blocked fresh delimitation of constituencies, fresh voters’ lists and related changes after the new census. Some parties have already started election campaigns without even knowing whether the system is ready now or if it will be ready in a year or two.
– Amid this on-going confusion, the Pakistani response and well considered policy positions on critical developments in our region and the Muslim world are only being handled by the army, as politicians have practically taken themselves out of the equation. Is that a good sign? May be not, but someone is trying.
-The Parliament has become almost dysfunctional. As the biggest beneficiaries of this system, the elected leaders are unable, or uninterested, to run the Parliament in a way that generates confidence in the democratic system
-Above all, the economic threats and challenges that the country faces (the debt crisis, the deficits and upcoming repayments of loans) have mostly been forgotten in the noise of internecine political and personal survival wars between groups, political parties and interest lobbies.
-The Paradise Leaks have added 193 more juicy names to the already dripping and slushy catwalk of Panama papers. The Paradise spectrum of rich elite engulfs every field — from generals to admirals, media tycoons to journalists, businessmen to babus, bosses to cronies, and of course the biggest political mafia heads and godfathers. If the current accountability process extends to these guys, not many would have the courage to raise their heads above the dirt ponds.
In short, this is the world we are now trapped in and no one seems tall enough and strong enough to get up and get going. The saying, ‘the tough get going when the going gets tough’, does not seemingly apply to us.
Two US comedians of the past decades have made statements that very aptly describe our scenario. One of the best comedians of New York, Groucho Marx, has said, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”
And Will Rogers, an entertainer and humourist who made 71 movies and wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns before 1935, famously said about politicians, “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”
Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash in 1935, also made remarks about judgements, which still remain relevant: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement.” For media men he commented: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
The immortal Abraham Lincoln quote about fooling all, repeated by the SC this week, however, takes the cake. The fact is we are all fooling ourselves, all the time, and succeeding as well.


The writer is a senior journalist

Published in Daily Times, November 10th 2017

Posted on Nov 22, 17 | 12:04 am