The Political Sneeze
22 November, 2005
By Dr. Ghayur Ayub
The approximate duration of a knee-jerk in terms of history is over three years and its initial response becomes visible after another three years. Similarly, the duration of a `political sneeze` lasts for over three months and its effects surface after another three months. What is a political sneeze? It is news thrown in the air by a few politicians on behest of a hidden force to pressurise targets in their own or in the opposite group. Recently we heard a loud `political sneeze` coming out from Punjab against the leadership of Ch. Shujat. Punjab is known for such sneezes as it has a fertile but allergen growing political soil. The opinionated gurus blame the `Forward Block Syndrome` virus for the sneeze. If someone asks whether it is a new Mutant, the answer would be in negative as we have seen it surfacing now and again in the turmoil political history of Pakistan.
Is it going to have any impact on the target? Despite a strong denial by no less a person than the President himself, the answer will be yes.
Let us go back to as recent as 2003, when a similar `sneeze` was heard coming from Punjab against the then Prime Minister, Mir Zafrullah Jamali. It created a three month political ripple. Media highlighted it as they are doing it now. The President showed his displeasure, as he is showing it now. The Prime Minster denied it, as Chaudry Shujat is denying it now. Six months later we saw the Change of Guards. Although, the original `sneezer` did not get what he wanted but his sneeze cost Jamali his chair. I don`t have to remunerate a few more sneezes and their impacts on the then leaderships. I trust the memory of the readers. They understand the power politics of some Pakistani politicians.
Before I go further I would like to expand on a phraseology which is closely linked with this particular `sneeze.` The phrase states, `a friend in need is a friend indeed`. That is true. However, when it comes down to politics, some politicians change its connotation by changing the word `indeed` to `in deed`. Thus it becomes multidirectional rather than unidirectional. In human psychology, the concept of the word `deed` is taken differently by various individuals at various time, circumstances and places, to suite their conscience. That is not bad, as long as it is for the good of the society. The only problem is that it gets oblique when it reaches politician`s mind and gets worse when it invades Pakistani politics. Apparently, there are no fixed directional rules in Pakistani politics, so the politicians (baring a few) use it to their personal advantage. They blur the thin line between `indeed` and `in deed` and then bend it to suit their conscience staying adventurously steadfast in the political flow.
Coming back and linking this phrase to the political `sneeze` mentioned above, I can safely say that its response and effect is going to fall in April/May 2006, when the new Senators have taken their seats for the next six years, thanks to the courtesy and efforts of Chaudries of Gujrat. While a few months earlier, again thanks to the Chaudries, the elected Nazims and Deputy Nazims at District and sub-district levels had already taken their positions. By then, they would be in full swing at the gross root level and shaped themselves into a potent electoral force. As for as the loyalties of this force and the Senators are concern, one doesn`t need a brain of Plato to know where that would lay. No matter what Chaudries did for them, they will not be looking up to them. That electoral force would be counted a real making and breaking point as the election game of 2007 will be played in the backyards of those very Nazims and Deputy Nazims. A few MNAs and ministers were not fools when they relinquished their lucrative posts and went for these elections this year.
At that moment in time where would Chaudry Shujat stand vis-à-vis his position in PML? Remember that, it will be the time when the present `political sneeze` be going into its crucial sixth month. Would the key figures of the fundamental electoral force, he helped in election, come to his support? I doubt it. They would be busy linking their future plans with someone else then coming out in his support. Would the Senators extend their helping hands? Not really. They would rather pretend there is no pressure on their mentor and look the other way. The only group left for him, would be the MNAs and MPAs, who by that time, will be at the last lap of their legislative tenure. By then, they would have read the writings on the wall and looking forwards to the oncoming elections in 2007. Would they support him? Knowing the past quailing history of MNAs and MPAs, I presume they will be humming the tune of political phraseology in their mind consoling their conscience and dwindling Chaudry`s hopes. They would also look in different direction expecting future support from somewhere else. Thus, most probably, Ch. Shujat will be left high and dry with just a few close friends and relatives around him. That will be the beginning of political slippery slope for him.
To try and keep his position intact, he would attempt at the final straw-The President. Remember what Jamali did? The President, after all, has his own agenda and interests, which are different from Chaudry`s. The relative meaning of above-mentioned phraseology will recoil, bringing the actual position between the President and the Chaudries in open. The President will be right to say that in his original 7 point agenda; only two items-the war against the terrorists (religious extremists) and economy-were implemented. He would give credit on those implementations to the army and Shaukat Aziz respectively. In that respect, he will be truthful to mention, that the Muslim League failed on all accounts. As the president of the party, the debris will fall in Ch Shujat`s lap.
He will be politely told about his frail health, weak governance, fragile leadership, failure in keeping alive the newborn united PML, poor financial reputation, widespread uncertainties, lethargic response to political adventurism in Baluchistan, and his pro-MMA stance on certain important issues. To add to his bruises, the President might also tell him that the Public wants to see a change.
As the things stand today, it will be naive to brush off the effects of the present `political sneeze`. No matter what the President, the Prime Minister or the Ch Shujat say, if the political history Pakistan stays to its clutching norms, it won`t be far off, when the President has to decide which word of phraseology, the `indeed, or `in deed`, is he going to choose for his friend Ch Shujat. My gut feelings incline towards the latter. But then, Ch Shujat is known for having lucky stars. Who knows the President might go for the `indeed` option putting his own reputation and political survival at stake.