Three cheers for three years, two for the remaining two - Hussain H Zaidi Sunday, April 03, 2011

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll begin by congratulating you on completion of our three years in the saddle. This in itself is a stupendous achievement, given that the average life of an elected government in our country is barely two-and-half years,” the chairperson addressed his colleagues.

“Yes, indeed,” they all spoke with one voice, “and the credit for this goes to you and the top party leadership.” “When we had started,” the chairperson recalled, “it looked well-nigh impossible that we would go that far. From the word go, it was predicted that we’ll be sent packing before the first anniversary of our government. From time to time, dates were given for our exit. Not only that, the opponents conspired to bring our government down. They unleashed a vicious campaign to discredit our party leadership in the eyes of both the public and the powerful players. During these three years, we’ve been charged with massive corruption and bad governance, making a mess of the economy, turning a deaf ear to the grievances of the masses and going back on the promises that we had made to the electorate.

“Yes, we may be corrupt and inefficient and may have faltered at this point or that. But were those who governed before us any better? Is it that they were angels and we are demons? That they were saints and we are sinners? Were they all success and we are a dismal failure? Nothing can be farther from the truth. We’re all cast in the same mould. But, then, why do we hit the headlines on the drop of a hat? That aside, politics is the art of the possible and our survival shows that we’re well-versed in this art. Not only have we survived but also thrived and given a good account of ourselves.” “But, sir, our ability to deliver to the people is under question,” a young member remarked.

The chairperson looked askance at his younger colleague and responded: “You disappoint me. Our government has delivered on several accounts. We got rid of the dictator, reinstated the judges, drew up the National Finance Commission Award, purged the Constitution of the distortions, clipped the powers of the president, granted greater autonomy to the provinces and contained the militancy. What more do you want? Of course, the cynics are seldom satisfied, no matter what you do. If you want an example, to begin with, we were criticised for having a small cabinet with several ministers holding dual portfolios. We enlarged the cabinet. But what happened? The same people objected that a large cabinet was a drag on national resources. So we again shrank it. But this hasn’t silenced the critics. The moral of the story is that no matter what you do, the people will never be satisfied.”

The chairperson paused for a moment to catch his breath, and then continued: “Let’s get down to business. The biggest problem that we face at the moment is neither terrorism nor the economy nor the people’s growing discontent, but how to complete our five-year term. God knows when we’ll get another chance.”

“Pardon me, sir,’’ interposed one veteran member, “but I guess we’ve got this affair out of proportion. All sorts of allegations are being levelled against us since long but they haven’t done us any harm. In the past, we were branded as a security risk, traitors, plunderers, and what not. But look where we are now. Nor do we need to think too much about getting another chance. If the past is any guide, regardless of what we do or don’t, whether we succeed or fail, the people will vote for us.”

“It means we’ve no cause for worry?” the chairperson queried. “I didn’t mean that in the least,” the veteran clarified. “What I meant was that we should make light of the allegations against us. Certainly, there are quite a few things that warrant our foremost attention. The most important is to maintain the confidence of the powers that be, both external and domestic. The way we handled the Raymond Davis affair sends strong signals to Americans that their trust in us wasn’t misplaced and that we’re still their best bet.”

“Yes, I can recall how difficult it was for us to get Washington’s nod for the exit of the former president and to have our own leader in his shoes. In the end, our efforts bore fruit and we took the highest office of the land. If we had not done that, our government would have been shown the door a long time ago,” the chairperson noted.

“Mr Chairperson, this is what I was driving at. We need to deal with the drone strikes as astutely as we grappled with the Raymond Davis case. While we may continue to lodge protest against the drone attacks and vow to defend our independence, we must make it a point not to obstruct them as they form an important part of the counter-terrorism strategy. Remember those who brought us to power can also send us home,” the veteran member advised.

“I must say you have put your finger on the pulse,” the chairperson said in appreciation. “We’ve to,” the veteran replied modestly. “At the same time, we need to keep the allies under our thumb. This is important for us, because we’re not in majority.”

“This is easier said than done,” another member remarked. “At times, the allies are a real nuisance for us.” “Yes, they are. But because we need them we’ve to bear with them,” the veteran responded.

“In a word,” said the chairperson, “all we have to do is to keep our mentors and allies behind us and the rest will be taken care of.”

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

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