Give reconciliation another chance - Kamran Shafi - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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THE PPP–PML-N standoff is exactly what should not be happening at this very dangerous time for the country when we all have to stand together and put our collective shoulder to the wheel.

Or shall we say, everyone: political parties of every shade and hue; the Deep State and all its parts and cogs and wheels within wheels; and we the people, all getting together to try and push the broken-down Pakistani cart across the umpteenth crossroads it has one more time arrived at.

In this effort, the two largest political parties have the biggest responsibility of all in galvanising their considerable support among the people to make this effort worthwhile.

For, look at the dangers this country is facing: our Deep State’s India-centricity and the attendant (and unfortunate) belligerence from both sides; the stockpiling of weapons of war, us obtaining 14 new F-16s and American BVR (Beyond Visual Range) anti-aircraft missiles, the Indians hundreds of aircraft which may include the Eurofighter Typhoon/American F/A-18 EF/French Dassault Rafale/ Swedish Gripen IN and the Russian MiG-35; the Afghan imbroglio in which we are off the table for now; and growing extremism in the country in which no one, liberal, conservative or and indeed deeply religious, is safe. Go to YouTube and watch Their Holinesses tear into each other with gusto, everyone calling everyone else ‘kafir’ and so on.

Add to this the attitudes of sovereignty and pride we Pakistanis strike for very little reason, tied to the apron strings of the aid-giving countries as we are, various pundits and former ‘core professionals’ advising that we take on all comers despite the pathetic state we are in: 125th on the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) 2010 rankings, but mercifully above such beauties as Congo and Burundi and Chad.

Indeed, dependent as we are on American defence aid and supplies such as our famous F-16s and spare parts thereof, they do not pause to consider the damage to our security imperatives (in this case, our India-centricity!) if the Americans choke off, even delay, defence supplies. They do not pause to consider that there is no sovereignty when you base something as critical as the defence of your country on the largesse of another, especially one you seek to equal. Sovereignty indeed.

No, the pundits say, we are located in a part of the world where come hell or high water the world (read America) will simply have to deal with us; will have to pander to our every demand, our every tantrum. Little do they realise that except for the universe there is a limit to everything; that patience, especially that of a great power can run out.Indeed, that there are other avenues open to the Americans including, when push comes to shove, making an arrangement with the Iranians, especially in view of the earthquake now jolting the Arab world. There is no permanence in diplomacy, just as there is none in politics and nations as we well know do what is in their best interest.

Add to this the extreme lurch Pakistan is taking to the very conservative and austere (if only for politics’ sake), religious right, in which the space for our minorities is being constantly and drastically reduced. Add to this the fact that we are virtually bereft of any friends in our immediate neighbourhood and you have the extent and the gravity of the many problems we are facing.

This then is where our dear country is at, at the present time, and all we hear first from the PPP, principally and sadly, is how they will destroy PML-N offices in Sindh, and then from the PML-N about how they will kick out the PPP from the provincial cabinet and so on and so forth. I must say here how very wrong it is of Sindh minister Zulfikar Mirza to say what he said about the chief of the PML-N, Mr Nawaz Sharif.

This is not right; it is not polite; nor does it go down well with the people of our country who are a fair-minded and open-hearted people. More than anything else the PPP should always remember that Mr Sharif signed the Charter of Democracy with the much-lamented and much-missed Benazir Bhutto, so cruelly done to death in the prime of her life.

I am a much saddened man I can tell you, dear reader, at the way in which our politics is headed, propelled by the hawkishness of the second-tier leadership of both parties. I do not hold back from you that I cried when news about this new spat first came out: memories of the late 1980s and early 1990s when such political shenanigans and backstabbing dealt democracy in this country such a cruel blow from which we have not yet recovered came rushing back to my distressed mind.

Both parties must understand that waiting in the shadows are the usual suspects who already have a new mascot in the shape of Shah Mehmood Qureshi. They must realise, the PML-N and the PPP, and I have said this so many times, that they are both anathema to the Deep State if only because of their popularity among the masses.

They must realise that if this country is to survive it must immediately change tack to avoid running aground impendingly. And that no one party can do this on its own. They must realise that the extent of the madness of extremism taking hold in our society mainly because of raw fear is massive and will soon be uncontrollable taking everyone down with it.

I can only beseech the genuine stakeholders — the leader of the PPP, President Asif Zardari and PML-N chief Mr Nawaz Sharif — to give reconciliation another chance. Please. And to Governor Khosa who started off so well with the PML-N: come into the picture governor, and help bring the temperature down.

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