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Silence of the politicos

ELECTIONS in Pakistan have become a thriller film, where the clichéd twists just never stop, and those watching do not know whether to be scared or to laugh at the predictability. On Sunday, barely had the palpitations over the Senate resolution asking for a delay in elections subsided when news arrived of yet another press conference.

This time around, no one turned up to denounce May 9 and/ or announce retirement from politics (or shake hands with leaders of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party). Instead, it was Ijazul Haq, who recently had his papers rejected and then accepted, announcing yet another save-the-nation front.

Haq — who can be described as, at best, a less-entertaining version of Sheikh Rashid (before the latter discovered the magic of chillas and found inner peace and outer silence) — appeared out of the blue to announce that no one (among his ilk) cared for the people and how he and his companions were now going to be their saviours.

He was flanked by (surprise, surprise) Usman Buzdar, the man for whom the powers that be had had their hearts broken by Imran Khan. There was also Amin Aslam, but he did not really cause any hearts to flutter, either earlier or with his Sunday appearance.

The PTI now has as many breakaway factions as there are sequels to Mission Impossible. One can only guess why this latest faction or group has come to the fore, even though it was packaged as a group of independents.

And while Haq may have convinced some about his concern for the hapless people of Pakistan, one can only assume this new alliance had also been dreamt up around the same conference table where the brainstorming for the IPP and PTI-Parliamentarians took place. For why else would Buzzy come out of his self-isolation? This was his ‘press conference’, for sure Hardly any party out there seems to be worried about campaigning.

The only party which should be worrying about this new political contraption is the PML-N, as it means another lot of Punjabi politicians with some backing are going to be aspiring to win some seats from the province. The sweeping majority the PML-N could have counted on in the absence of the PTI seems to be at risk from these new claimants.

But then, these real-world events would only be worrying the party if it emerged from the conference room it entered some moons ago to decide party tickets. It is hard to tell when its Rip Van Winkle-like leaders will wake up, open the doors and step out into the fog of elections. Campaigning seems to be far from the party’s mind.

Interestingly, it is Shehbaz and Hamza (hardly the party’s crowd pullers) who are addressing election campaign events, lending credence to rumours that the powers that be are concerned about the PML-N’s absence from the ground. Whether this lack of action is Nawaz’s plan of action is hard to say. After all, he has always kept his cards close to his chest.

The PPP is quite active in comparison, but its activity is being led by Bilawal, who just recently was locked in a teeny, tiny confrontation with his father for being a bit too critical of the choosers and shakers.

Those days seem to have passed, because he has now been anointed the party’s candidate for prime minister. He must have reassured his father that he will continue to be diplomatic once he is made PM for this decision to have been made. That the son is no longer speaking so loudly about a level playing field may also indicate he has been schooled appropriately.

PTI can barely be bothered about the appearance of Buzzy and Amin Aslam. It doesn’t just have its hands full with court cases, but also with new and newer members as the older ones depart quick and fast. It is hard to tell who is running the party and who is just an enthusiastic, newly appointed member.

Is the mild-mannered Clark Kent, aka Barrister Gohar, the man of the moment, or is it Sher Afzal Marwat, who seems to be the product of the DNA of Amitabh Bachchan and Charles Bronson combined? If TikTok were the political stage, there would be no question about who is in charge. Politics is now the name we give to slo-mo videos of lawyers walking to and fro.

Last but not least comes the Maulana, who says he doesn’t know who is targeting him or causing unrest in KP, but he wants elections delayed. Who is targeting him? He doesn’t know. How long does he want elections delayed? He doesn’t know.

But he does know that he could move around in 2008 and 2013, and hence 2024 is just worse because he now can’t, he argued in a recent interview. And so worried is he that he is now willing to support a Senate resolution passed by a dozen men from BAP. Like them, perhaps, he has also received an offer he can’t refuse.

But what is more worrying are accounts that some in the government have advised him to go sort out his problems with the government in Kabul; a tacit admission that the state can no longer ensure his safety and he should figure it out himself.

Once all of this is put together, it doesn’t just resemble a Ramsay brothers’ horror film, but a conclusion that there is hardly any party out there worried about campaigning just a month before the election. Each one of them is busy dealing with internal politics and managing their critical relationship with the saas (who was never, ever the bahu).

And if there is any politics taking place, it is via television interviews, Senate resolutions and court cases. It’s a right horror show, and we are not just the audience but the unsuspecting cheerleader about to be chased through the woods.

Arifa Noor, "Silence of the politicos," Dawn. 2024-01-09.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political aspects , Political parties , Political leaders