Cover Story

Same Old Drama

Despite the two major PDM parties believing that ruling the country is their legal inheritance and its people exist to do their bidding, the caretaker government has a sacred duty to fulfil.

By Nikhat Sattar | September 2023

“Stand up to Forces of Chaos and Confusion

Find out Hidden Hand

Pakistan not created for self- seeking few”

These should be the headlines of every newspaper, every news channel, and every post on Pakistani social media. These should be on our banners as we, a community that is fast losing hope, fill the streets in hordes. Alas, we sit in our homes, despairing but unable and unwilling to unite even as our beloved country sinks deeper and deeper.

Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah had spoken these words, and the Daily Dawn had splashed them as headlines on August 14, 1957, exactly 66 years ago. She was branded a traitor; the presidential elections that took place eight years later were allegedly rigged in favour of the incumbent military dictator, Ayub Khan. Ms. Jinnah had won by a wide margin among people but lost to the technical Electoral College system.
It would not be incorrect to state that had those elections been fair and Ayub been defeated and accepted his defeat, Pakistan would have neither been truncated nor become the ailing, failing, and dysfunctional state it is now.

Ms. Jinnah had said: “….early elections as the only way to ensure democracy”. If the people of Pakistan had a collective voice and could directly administer the oath, perhaps this is what they would ensure that the caretaker government of 2023 swore by. But this can only be a dream. It seems that the perpetrators of chaos and confusion are in permanent residence, as the PDM coalition has calmly handed over the country’s reins to the now evident “hidden hand.”

Since 1958, Pakistani politics has seen the same old drama being played over and over again. The only difference is that the “that powers that be” have become increasingly daring, digging their tentacles deeper into every aspect affecting people’s lives, even to the extent of their personal likes and dislikes. People in Punjab were not allowed to buy, sell, wave, or hoist the PTI flag or even to keep it inside bags. How insidious this encroachment has been is demonstrated by two more incidents: Imran Khan was eliminated from a video released by the national cricket board showing the World Cup win in 1992; the outgoing PM nominated an individual with no credits other than his total alignment with the Establishment. The powers that be have behaved with utter disregard for any semblance of dignity and respect of a sovereign state.

Over the past few weeks, two major pieces of legislation have been the last proverbial nails in the coffin of democracy in Pakistan. One is the empowerment given to the caretaker government, allowing it to make major policy decisions, purportedly to meet an IMF conditionality to ensure that official commitments are met, and the other is giving an almost blanket approval to security and intelligence agencies to search, arrest and detain citizens on the flimsiest of suspicions. On both accounts, it is a certainty that neither the caretaker PM nor provincial CMs, nor the ministers that are selected, will work for transparency, fairness or establish an even playground for the next elections. The decision by the previous government to hold elections according to the recently concluded census also ensures that elections will not take place this year, whatever the Constitution says. To add to this poisonous concoction bubbling in the political cauldron, a 24-member heavy caretaker cabinet has been sworn in (with a mostly PPP and PML-N tilt), and the Secret Acts Bill and amendments to the armed forces bill giving total legal cover to the latter to do anything to civilians has been approved by the President’s staff without his knowledge. How heavy is the hand that holds back any discussions on television and any actions by the court?

Read More