The title of this column comes from a viral video trend where people introduce themselves, their commute, or friends and then they inform you that they are partying. Since the few seconds clip that broke the internet is the epitome of innocence and good-natured merriment I had to mull it many times before using the word pawry with the thing that passes for politics in this republic. Why? Because it is neither innocent nor good-natured or fun. It is like a long barefooted walk across a burning desert with no amenities, no company, or end in sight. But the thing with the newly minted word pawry is that it is not quite but almost there. Just like our party politics. So, with due apologies to the original creator, I am borrowing this word to comment on the perverse. Let the record show that it is not by any means intended to reflect on her good work. More power to you young lady!
After this long-winded explanation let me congratulate the members of the still young Pakistan Democratic Movement and thank them dearly for proving every word of their detractors right. The art of the possible, when coupled with the graphic footage of and the blow by blow commentary of the making of the sausage, can never lose its charm. See everyone, we want you to respect the vote and while we are at it let us also show you how to destroy a vote. We want an open ballot but not this time because this time secret ballot most likely will help us. Money? What money? We are not corrupt. But yeah kindly keep the packages reasonable otherwise if the words get out everyone will want the same amount. When someone defects from our side it certainly is the work of that sinister establishment but still at the end of each vote we will chant slogans praising Zardari. Ek Zardari sab pe bhari. One Zardari dominates everyone else. The same when someone defects from your side. Orange is new white. And Zardari is the new establishment. When money talks only those with the endless supply of it can stand the ground.
Given the theater of the absurd, that plays out in the neighboring and alleged largest democracy of the world I have been telling myself that Pakistan is doing better and things could be far worse. But is it really? A man who was disqualified and removed from the office of the prime minister for not writing a letter to implicate Zardari against the court’s order is plucked out of the backyard of history and hoisted upon the federal capital. Everyone looks at the numbers and is surprised by the move. How could it be? The PDM does not have the numbers. But then we see videos upon videos. This is how it is done.
My problem with all these developments is simple. South Asia is in the habit of constantly rewarding bad behaviour. And the worst elements possible. In neighboring India, they expressed frustration with a savvy statesman and intellectual like Manmohan Singh and surprise surprise, brought in Modi. Nothing proves Charles Darwin wrong like this. In Pakistan, the sale and purchase of votes is openly being celebrated. And by whom? An alliance that calls itself a democratic movement and is headed by a religious cleric. How is that for good behaviour?
And oh the feudal spirit. Everyone is expendable. Except for the leader. The leader who repeatedly shows through bad choices that he believes in no restraint or limits of personal power. When Aitzaz Ahsen starts getting big because of the lawyers’ movement the great leader does not just take exception to the movement but makes sure that the man goes down with the ship. When people praise Raza Rabbani for his hard work in putting together the eighteenth amendment and bringing the parliament to the centre of national discourse, the leader removes him from the Senate chairman position and plucks a man out of obscurity and with zero parliamentary experience and anoints him as the new Senate chief. I know it is not the fault of the man who was appointed but can there be a better example of the feudal spirit at work? When memogate surfaces every child would know that an ambassador cannot do much on his own. But upon the great leader’s instruction, he is expected to throw himself under the bus. When the Dawn-leaks scandal breaks who is scapegoated? A common man. Let’s also talk about the man who pulled off a surprise in this Senate election. He was once the premier. Then he was not. Why? A court ordered him to write a letter to reopen a case against the great leader and he did not. Could the said letter do any damage? Certainly not. It was about a corruption case that was already dying because of the death of one of the co-accused. But the great leader could not let his name be besmirched by a letter written by his minion. So off he went. A sacrifice for the great leader.
And the minion is not supposed to have any volition. The great leader asks him to stand up. He stands up. The great leader asks him to sit down so he does. Good boy. Yesterday you were the PM. Today you are asked to be the Senate chairman. So be it.
And the proverbial cherry on the top. Always blame the victim. We were buying your votes but ask your members why are they always ready to be bought. We will do whatever we want. But how dare you object to what we are doing. It is for the greater good. It is for democracy. It is for the constitution.
The constitution that we wrote. And don’t expect us to abide by it. We are above it. For we are democracy incarnate and what we say goes.
That’s what pawry politics stands for. And if it does not trouble you about the nature of politics in our dear republic nothing will. If you want to see how long their unity lasts offer them some power. But before that pray give me leave for I cannot bear the burden of the South Asian politics upon my soul.