Waltz with the NRO

Nadeem Paracha has written an excellent article explaining the power we Pakistanis have. No doubt the NRO has taken away the immunity that was offered, but it has in no way accomplished a safer and secure Pakistan. Many argue the SC decision is a start – which it is – but it is only a baby step. We are still required to bring about the greater change for Pakistan. Our work is far from over, so let’s get cracking!

The Supreme Court’s verdict on the NRO was certainly an unprecedented event.

However, the night the verdict was announced, every famous TV anchor was jumping and hyperventilating; some almost foamed at the mouth as if struck by a strange, sudden bout of happiness.

What is this, I thought? Have we won Kashmir? Have we triumphed in the war against the Taliban? Or have we finally eradicated poverty, illiteracy and hatred from Pakistan?

I mean, I have never seen these anchors sound so excited. Not even during Musharraf’s resignation, and when the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry was reinstated. Indeed, the like TV anchors were grinning (and rightly so) during these two episodes, but I wondered, exactly why such a show of overwhelming exhilaration over this particular event?

But, then, of course, I thought. What better reason and time than now to put peddle to the metal against the electronic media’s favourite punching bags: Asif Ali Zardari and Altaf Hussain. Never mind what ever happened to the pending case that Asghar Khan had submitted in the courts against the ISI’s blatant misdoings while constructing a superficial front against the PPP in the rickety shape of the IJI. Just stick to Zardari. Because the individual in Pakistan is always bigger (and more venerable) than the whole. Easy to understand, castigated and got rid of.

As more and more former judges continued to burst the anchors’ euphoric bubbles that day by suggesting calm, and saying that the matters of the court were just too technical and complex to rush to any glorious conclusions, the anchors eventually went all upright. The ‘technical talk’ in this respect that the anchors were already somewhat struggling with, suddenly turned moralistic. After all, peachiness becomes the refuge of the politically biased, or of men unconvincingly trying to communicate an air of objectivity.

Within hours of the verdict when the former judges failed to say what the anchors were hoping them to, the word ‘akhlaq’ (morality) cropped up. In a brazen display of utter subjectivity, many of such anchors did not hesitate to float the idea that the president and those ministers whose names were on the NRO beneficiary list, should resign on ‘moral grounds.’

First of all, these anchors can easily find themselves in glasshouses when it comes to matters like aqhlaq. We have all seen how much of this aqhlaq is present in their talk shows on which folks have been known to start sounding like right-wing anarchists who are willing to mutilate and sacrifice the presidency, democracy and parliament at the altar of unsubstantiated accusations and assorted reactionary claptrap.

Secondly, such anchors were openly lamenting the constitutional clause that protects the president from facing the courts, and I am sure many of their equally disappointed viewers must also be lamenting the fact that there was no manly military dictator at the helm who could flick aside the constitution, like Ziaul Haq, who is on record as saying: ‘What is a constitution? Nothing but just a piece of paper.’

Innocent until proven guilty. What’s so complicated about that? And couple this with the obvious political nature of the many ‘corruption’ and ‘criminal’ cases against the PPP and MQM leaders, let the honourable courts decide who is guilty or not.

Who are we to point fingers? Who are we to cast the first stone? And all this rap about akhlaq; for heaven’s sake, forget about the high and the mighty, how many of us educated, middle-class folks can call ourselves spotless? Take a small example: How many of us are willing to show any decency to, say, a lowly paid traffic cop? How many of us do not have that instinctive thought of bribing our way out of a traffic violation, or out of any other crime (petty or otherwise)?

This most certainly is not a defence of corrupt politicians. It is a plea to look at the system. A system that each one of us — from the so-called feudal and upper-middle classes all the way to the middle-class — benefit from. We bribe, break the law, lie, cheat, all in the name of survival, and then when guilt strikes, we select our favourite punching bags in the shape of elected politicians and bash them, all the while remaining quiet for years when ruled by an unconstitutional military dictator; or even when men who blow themselves up in public live and plot in our neighbourhoods. There is little or no hue and cry then.

On the other end, sometimes this guilt leaves us suddenly rediscovering God and religion. Then it’s back to going on a rampage of punching venerable scapegoats, this time in the name of faith. Thus, I believe, in this country it is hypocrisy that is the major cause of corruption. So stop thinking that it’s democracy that is to be blamed.

Remember East Pakistan? No uniformed strong man or a mard-i-momin can save a country as diverse as ours. Stop getting lost in the middle-class fantasies of powerful men and glorious conquests. Vote, and then wait to vote out whom you do not like. Stop falling prey to fascist escapades dressed as patriotism, uprightness and worst of all, akhlaq.

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