By Ghalib Sultan
‘Siapa’ is a wonderfully expressive Punjabi word almost impossible to accurately translate into English. It means a development or situation full of interconnected problems, difficulties, contradictions and intrigues – not easy to resolve and not easy to live with. Why should the elections that catapulted the Sharifs to power be a ‘siapa’?
For starters there is the track record of their past stints in power. The first time around they had a President who was a thorough gentleman dedicated to democracy and ready to help them govern. There was also an army Chief who was a thorough professional with zero interest in politics ready to support in every way. The elder Sharif went into totally unnecessary confrontations with them egged on with the sycophants and jesters around him. He took the situation to the point where there was a ludicrous confrontation between the institutions that were a phone call away from each other. The result was an Army brokered arrangement with both the President and the Sharif departing ignominiously.
The second time around there was an equally supportive and gentlemanly President and an equally professional Army Chief. In addition there was a Chief Justice who wanted to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. Once again the elder Sharif with the same motley crowd around him confronted each one to the point where each left in disgust. With no sense of reality and amid much victorious chest thumping the Sharifs thought they had it made – their own President, their own Chief justice, and horror of horrors, the perception that by ignoring seniority and making an Army Chief of their choice they had finally conquered the military. This perception was rudely shattered when the ‘man of their choice’ proceeded to endanger the country’s security and then sent them off to jail. The next 10 years are directly attributable to these shenanigans of the Sharifs. An editorial in the London Economist of May 20, 1999 makes interesting and instructive reading. It also points to the horror that awaits us if the Sharifs are unchanged – Allah forbid. A nuclear test may be a notch in the belt but it can be a millstone around the neck if you cannot secure the country!!
The wish is that instead of hare brained schemes and incompetent sycophants the Sharifs will now bring competent teams for policy making, for governance and interaction abroad. We also know that if wishes were horses beggars would ride. The elder Sharif publicly prayed that he be given a mandate so that he did not have to deal with a messy coalition. He got it. But he had also got it in 1997 and blew it. Not only did he and his family go down but more importantly the country once again went down into the dungeon of military rule. What the Sharifs have never understood is that the mandate given to them is not for testing their manhood but for guiding this country and its hapless citizens to security and prosperity. They have to serve and not lord it over everyone and no one wants them to assemble a cast of minions, lackeys and sycophants. These can be left in the farmhouse in Jati Umra and trotted out for entertainment there.