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Rebuilding ties

t does seem to be so unreal, all that has happened in Pakistan – and the events are continuing to unfold. For many of us, it is a rollercoaster ride. Just look at the mix of images floating across the media this week and consider the messages they bear.

And the point of reference, of course, is what happened on May 9. This, then, has been a very long month and what has transpired during this month is historical in its dimensions. Call it a tsunami, with some allusion to a promise made in a different context. We are watching a stronghold of a certain kind being washed away. Or would you define it as a ‘tabdeeli’?

What I am trying to state is that the turn of events is so overwhelming and so bewildering that its reality is hard to accept. With my views about the Frankensteinian rise of the cult of Imran Khan, there was always this concern about how this jinx would finally be exorcised and at what cost to a fragile society. But the present scenario could not have been imagined.

That is why I suggest that you suspend your disbelief – and try to remain calm. Many more shocks and twists in the plot may be in store for us. Some developments may be scary and grim, some may be ridiculous that would serve as a comic relief. This week has provided both examples, to which I will revert in a while. The budget announced on Friday by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday falls in between, to add to the national discomfiture.

About suspending one’s disbelief, the thought struck me when I tried to make sense of the justification of steps that have been initiated by the powers that be to enforce a new scheme of things and to sort out the disorder that had exploded on May 9. Naturally, there are more questions than answers.

Actually, suspension of disbelief is avoidance of critical thinking and logic in understanding something that is unreal and does not seem possible in reality. This expression is relevant to works of fiction. Readers of novels, say, or the audience in a cinema hall or theatre would willingly ignore the unreality of various actions that constitute the experience of the characters of the story.

Now, the grim stuff that hit us this week was the detailed proclamation of the Pakistan Army, released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on the occasion of the Formation Commanders’ Conference. Since the conference, held at the GHQ, was attended by corps commanders, principal staff officers and all formation commanders and was presided over by COAS Gen Asim Munir, one message that it delivered is that the Pakistan Army is not a house divided.

But the crux of the ISPR statement was something else. It asserted that the time has come to tighten the noose around the planners and masterminds of the violent attacks. It added that the desecrators and attackers of military installation would be brought to justice speedily under the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.

Political analysts and observers, including some who had supported Imran Khan and his party, were quick to suggest that the ISPR statement has sounded the death knell for the PTI. ‘Alvida, alvida Imran Khan’ is how a Tweet posted by a prominent commentator began. And the action on the ground has started in a comprehensive operation.

Against the backdrop of this determined operation, we have the rather whimsical spectacle of senior PTI leaders who had hurriedly defected from their party and their leader rushing into a new outfit that has been tailored by Jahangir Khan Tareen, an old associate of the PTI leader who left him at some point. The name of this project, bereft of any imagination, is the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP).

It may be possible to portray these antics of PTI defectors as a comic relief but the entire episode is also pitifully sad. Indeed, some very familiar faces pictured at the launch of the new party in Lahore on Thursday, essentially an occasion to celebrate, portrayed grief and tension. As if they were caught in a moment of bereavement. Here was another excuse to suspend your disbelief because what is happening to these characters is so unreal.

Evidently, the opportunity to laugh at it belongs to those who had opposed the politics of the PTI. A juxtaposition of video clips of just a few weeks or even days ago of some of these leaders with what they are saying and doing now would make you laugh – and cry. Nothing like this has ever happened in Pakistan’s political history.

I am tempted to highlight the tragically comic portrayals of Fawad Chaudhry or Ali Zaidi or Imran Ismail or Firdaus Ashiq Awan but they are, after all, only bit players in our national tragedy. I am also reminded of that famous Shakespearean quotation of all the world being a stage and “one man in his time plays many parts”.

But what part has destiny scripted for the leader of the now almost shredded PTI? If you desire some distraction even in this tragic episode, you may follow the story of Donald Trump, the former president of the United States.

It was in August 2018 when comedian Trevor Noah had said that Imran Khan and Donald Trump are basically twins. He had listed uncanny similarities, down to three marriages. Long after that, there was the January 6, 2021 attack on Capitol Building in Washington DC by Trump’s supporters – something that was duplicated by PTI supporters on May 9, 2023. And the big headline in The New York Times on this Friday was: “Trump faces multiple felonies in new indictment”.

Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail. com

Munir Ahmed, "Rebuilding ties," The News. 2023-06-12.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political environment , Taliban , Diplomacy , Gen Zia , Afghanistan , China , TTP , CICA