My father used to have a saying that you should not cut off your nose just to get revenge on your face for being too ugly. He had another saying, too: Learn to see the world beyond the tip of your nose. My father had a thing for noses, I guess. Still, it’s good advice and might want to be considered by our present journalists and politicians as they wage this short-sighted battle of ‘fake degrees’. Perhaps, though, having already cut off their noses, they don’t know how much the whole thing smells to the rest of us.
For those of us who are neither journalists nor politicians, though, it might be a little bit hard to see through the eyes of these Pyrrhic warriors. Obviously, the two sides refuse to see adopt each other’s view for even a moment. So it is good that Ayaz Amir has so well summed up the ridiculousness of the entire situtation, being that he has sat in both the seat of a journalist and an MNA. And he includes some excellent sayings of his own. “Mein ne Majnoon pe lark pan mein Asad, Sang uthaya tha ke sar yaad aya” is particularly worthy to keep in mind when thinking about all of this.
Politicians can be the world’s biggest scoundrels but it would be a dreary and bleak world if they were the only scoundrels around. Every profession has its rogues, every calling its blackguards. No one will accuse generals and judges, or lawyers for that matter, of being saints. No one in his right mind will describe journalists as knights of any round table. Why raise the bar to the skies when it comes to politicians?
Ayaz reminds us of the dream of our New Feudals, “an ‘interim’ government on the Bangladesh model”. Crises change so quickly in this country (except the actual existential crisis, of course, which is the creeping religious extremism that nobody wants to talk about) that its easy to forget that it was only a few months ago that these illiberal intellectuals of the chattering classes were so openly discussing “the Bangladesh model”.
The target of the campaign set in motion last year was not just Asif Zardari. It was the political system as a whole, all in the name of fighting corruption, the slogan with which every road leading to hell has been paved in Pakistan since 1947.
Zardari was just a metaphor and a symbol. The wheels of intrigue, with a band of media jehadis in the lead, would not have stopped with him. They would have gone on to Nawaz Sharif, ending eventually in that dream of most retired senior mandarins, an ‘interim’ government on the Bangladesh model.
That this is an attack on the political system and not simply Zardari is easily borne out by the writings of the illiberal media mandarins. But Ayaz Amir is mistaken if he thinks it only began last year. Even before anyone saw Zardari being elected, Shaheen Sehbai wrote the following:
The main responsibility of this state of affairs rests with the PPP and its leader Asif Ali Zardari, who has astounded his critics, and supporters, by adopting an almost irresponsible attitude, for reasons not yet known publicly, though there is a lot of talk and buzz that he was having some serious intra-family problems, specially with his own children in Dubai.
Mr Musharraf has to be blamed a lot for this continuing uncertainty as he did not have the grace to admit that he was now a problem and the sooner he got out of the way, the easier it may be for the country’s political system to settle down.
He has uselessly wasted his time and energy to hang on to a broken branch, which may snap at any moment but in the process he has dragged the system down and consumed whatever positive momentum the new government had to tackle major issues.
But given his state of mind, no one should have expected him to show grace and should have been booted out earlier. According to all the signals emanating from his old constituency, there would not have been a single soul worried about his departure had it been done properly and quickly. Even now, no tears would be shed if a surgical operation gets him going out of the country, or in a safe house within.
A greater responsibility also rests with Mian Nawaz Sharif, who has been consistent in his positions but has failed to take political decisions in line with that position to let the system move on.
He fears that if he breaks the coalition, the system will go down. This is absolutely not the case and no one in any power corridor can think, or is thinking, of disrupting this set-up and bringing in anything wild like the Bangladesh option or a replica of the 1999 Musharraf coup.
Is this a case of ‘one down, two to go’ for the would-be media mandarins? The truth is that a conspiracy would probably be better than the truth, because more likely is that the illiberal intellectual class is living in a fantasy world.
There is a self-righteous streak in our middle class, especially the non-voting middle class, which makes it adopt over-pure positions, which far from doing any good end up rolling out the red carpet for military saviours.
Of course, a military coup would not support a free media. But then, I suppose, that would give the professional protesters the next thing to be angry about. What is truly astonishing, though, is how the politicians have walked into this mess.
The media mandarins like will attack whomever is in Islamabad – PPP, PML-N, the Army…anyone. Of course, the politicians are more than willing to dance to this tune also.
But politicians are also their own worst enemies. Every conspiracy against democracy is not woven in General Headquarters or Aabpara. Politicians themselves can be experts at self-demolition.
The fake degree issue is a deadly IED (improvised explosive device). The Supreme Court only took up the issue, but not without adding garnish to it, after it had been turned into a tamasha (spectacle) by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education. Politicians as authors of their misfortunes: there is a dissertation waiting to be writing here, in no better place than Montecello University, the celebrated seat of learning famous for its post-doctoral degrees.
The resolution against the media was another own goal, as was the call for the expulsion of Mastikhel from the party. Lahore needs better political management. Things may be bad but not half as bad as they appear to be when the instinct of self-destruction takes over.
The PML-N thought they could start this ‘fake degrees’ mess and come out smelling like flowers, but it turned out they actually can’t smell anything because they cut off their own nose in the process. Let us hope the lesson is learned. Because if we don’t stop cutting, pretty soon there will be nothing left.