Perpetual illusions - Hussain H Zaidi - Monday, December 20, 2010

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P1: The Wikileaks revelations have divested us of whatever credibility we had been left with. Since they have brought into disrepute our entire breed, with few exceptions here and there, we need to form a common cause against these obnoxious disclosures.

P2: I’m at one with you on this. We should avoid point-scoring against one another and dismiss the leaks as purely nonsense.

P1: Now you understand why my party has always looked upon freedom of expression and other such liberal notions with suspicion?

P2: Personally, I’m as much against civic liberties as you are, and let me tell you my leadership is also on the same page. Left to themselves, these whistleblowers end up raising storms in a teacup. While we may put up with their activities in the name of democracy or good governance, it is unpardonable that they should expose the skeletons in our cupboard. But somehow my party has come to be associated with these liberal notions and we find it difficult to put them down. Nevertheless whenever we have our way, we repudiate this trash.

P1: But presently you people are using your liberal credentials up to the hilt. As for the perception that among us you are the most liberal, either you couldn’t have made it to the corridors of power or would’ve been thrown out a long time ago.

P2: Well, this is what politics is all about. If you can’t use a situation to your advantage, you are a failure. And it’s here, I would say, that your power prospects tail off. Our masters believe that you have positioned yourself as too conservative, at times reactionary, to be trusted with the government of the country. There was a time, no doubt, when these credentials were in high demand. But since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge and what was once an asset has turned into a liability. So if you want to be back in the saddle, you’ll have to erase such perceptions. But let’s talk about the leaks.

P1: To me the most astounding of all disclosures is the request of our dear Maulana to be considered for the prime ministerial position. I wonder even if he was chosen for the slot, how would he cobble together a majority since his party has only a few seats in parliament?

P2: In our system, it’s not difficult to turn a minority into a majority. It’s just a matter of a bagful of carrots and a handful of sticks.

P1: But if our conservative credentials spoil our chances, how could the Maulana have succeeded?

P2: Your question betrays that you are still to know a lot about him. Have you ever pondered why every major political party - right or centre - and every regime - democratic or despotic - woos him and he always gets more than his pound of flesh? Herein lies the answer to your question also.

P1: What do you make of the remarks of a monarch considered an elder brother by us about your big boss?

P2: The remarks of elder brothers hardly matter to us as long as we enjoy the backing and blessings of Uncle Sam. But I’m surprised why people fail to understand that power, no matter where it is located, needs our deepest respect. If our leaders court the goodwill of the most powerful country in the world, they are only doing the right thing. They should be appreciated rather than condemned for their pragmatism. Actually, our people are rather na├»ve. They labour under the delusion that it’s they who are the powerbase and therefore the leadership should rather seek their confidence and goodwill than that of any other power. But they don’t know that popular support or opposition is never a sufficient condition for a political party to enter, or be forced out of, the corridors of power.

P1: It’s we who make the people believe that they are sovereign and that our fate is in their hands when it’s elsewhere. And it’s your party which makes the most use of the ‘people’s power’ catchphrase.

P2: Politics, my friend, is the art of creating perpetual illusions. If we don’t create such illusions, the people will not vote for us and we’ll seldom be in a position to bargain for power. A politician is like a magician who makes his audience hear and see only what he wants them to. The most successful politician, like the highly acclaimed magician, is one who makes his audience believe in the most incredible things.

P1: I guess I have a lot to learn from you.

P2: My pleasure. We are birds of a feather.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi

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