The twelfth man

Who will be the next?


Does Pervez Mushrraf stand a chance at returning to power? Some say yes, some say no, some say maybe. If yes, in what shape? Some say he may figure somewhere in a possible coalition with Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. Others trash this as crap.

One thing that is clear is that in politics, more especially in the political landscape of Pakistan, nothing remains the same. An article in The Guardian states, “Musharraf is today politically what Imran Khan was in the mid-1990s, when the famous cricketer-turned-philanthropist launched his own career in politics: a high-wattage name that grabs a disproportionate share of the media spotlight but has negligible traction with the voting public.” (Thursday 18 April 2013) However, today, the media limelight Imran Khan bags is far from disproportionate. His career is at an all-time high with a promise to get even better. Cases against Musharraf by the government seem to have lost their steam over time. The single-minded focus seems to have mellowed down, maybe because of the PTI sit-ins and PAT that have engaged the government in endlessly mindless energy wasting games.

Musharraf in an interview to a private TV channel said, “Tahirul Qadri is asking for change. Imran Khan is asking for the audit of ballot papers, fair elections.” He was however realistic in his evaluation in saying, “Elections are not possible at the moment, I think.” (Published August 27, 2014)

A supporter of Musharraf and a Member of the National Assembly in 2002, Qadri resigned to shift to Canada before the stipulated tenure was over. This, however, was not the political starting line for him. Hailing from a poor family, he managed to get acquainted with Mian Nawaz Sharif to then launch Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran in 1981. He set his cap high, had impossibly high ambitions, and this lead to disenchantment with the Sharif family. According to Al-Arabiya (English), “The differences grew to such an extent that Qadri faked an assassination attempt on himself and blamed it on then Chief Minister of the province, Mian Sharif. Qadri boycotted the inquiry tribunal of the High Court into the alleged shooting at his house after defence lawyers proved that blood samples from the shooting site were not of one of his wounded guards, but of a goat.”(July 29, 2014)

Addressing a convention for the youth, he suggested a move to make space for a role of army in running of the country, constitutionally. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain met Musharraf at his residence that day in Karachi, reports a daily. (December 5, 2014) No one will be willing to have such a provision staring into one’s face in the constitution, a highly unlikely proposition. Will not army then be looking for an acceptable and electable civilian? Direct takeovers are actions of the past. Is Musharraf to be the twelfth player? Many have cast Imran Khan in that role but the Kaptaan has shown singular absence of political acumen on many an occasion. He may be termed unpredictable to say the least.

Why have these lesser players assumed importance in the political landscape of Pakistan?

Firstly, they have been given the importance of an equal by the sitting government. I forget where I read it, but it said that the Nawaz Shareef’s government was hostage to its fears. It must not be ‘if’ it governed with some degree of sensibility and giving relief to the common man. It has however every reason to be afraid if it does not. Being hostage to fear leads to blunders that turn into untenable situations. Was it not A H Boyd who said, “Don’t turn your back upon your doctrinal doubts and difficulties. Go up to them and examine them. Perhaps the ghastly object which looks to you in the twilight like a sheeted ghost may prove to be no more than a table-cloth hanging upon a hedge.”

Secondly, the underlying cause for support to a cause is ignored. If people are provided with speedy justice, life of the people is made easier at different levels. The cause is a lack of a decent life for the common people, not “change”. Change is demanded because of absence of decent life.

Third, blunders committed by the government to overcome any demand to change leads to further escalation of the same. Police opening fire upon protesters in Model Town earlier this year is an example. A more recent one is the effort to clamp down upon the Faisalabad protests more recently where one PTI activist were killed. Website of SAMAA reports, “The area turned into a battlefield when a large number of PTI and PML-N supporters threw stones at each other, prompting riot police to use water cannon and fire aerial shots in a failed attempt to disperse the protestors.” (December 8, 2014)

Democracy has a future in Pakistan, let no one deny that. However, it’s the corruption in the ranks of prominent people at the cost of national interests that will no more be ignored by the masses. That message is loud and clear. World Times in an article by Shamshad Ahmad, former foreign secretary of Pakistan, wrote, “Unfortunately, our present ‘elected’ setup does not inspire confidence among the people of Pakistan who continue to suffer the worst ever hardship of their history. They cannot afford to remain complacent spectators anymore. They got rid of a dictator three and a half years ago and are now poised to get rid of this class of looters and plunderers at their first available opportunity. A popular momentum is already building up to root out the culture of greed and deceit from the country’s body politic. There is a clarion call, loud and clear, for changing the system, not the faces alone.” (November 1, 2011)

The question that one returns to next is: Is a change in near future inevitable? Alternatively, to rephrase the question: Will there be midterm elections? I tend to agree with Pervez Musharraf that this is unlikely.

Whenever the elections are held next, who will be the twelfth man ready to play?

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

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