To understand the dynamics of Pakistani politics, one needs to watch the popular drama series Game of Thrones. Based on George R R Martin’s series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire this drama serial focuses on the moves and conspiracies to win power games. I am sure if the writer or director sees Pakistan’s version of Game of Thrones they would forget their own drama series.
In the current political scenario things are turning into a jigsaw puzzle for the ordinary citizens of Pakistan, uncertainty prevailing among them. After the Panama Papers case verdict, the political scenario has changed dramatically. All the players are now moving to get their share of power. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party are both trying to save their regime by buying time. The “invisible forces” who actually run the power chessboard are willing to give Sharif the time he is striving for, but they are making sure that with each and every passing moment the narrative of corruption against Sharif is strong.
Asif Ali Zardari wants to save the province of Sindh for the upcoming elections against the “invisible forces” and also wants to see Nawaz Sharif caught in the grip of these forces, as it gives him a chance to settle old political scores. Imran Khan is somehow hoping that the “invisible forces” intervene and a national setup be formed where he will head the setup; or at least he is of the hope that Sharif will be disqualified, as a result the province of Punjab being a free ground for him in the next general elections. These four major players in the power chessboard are looking to stalemate each other.
In between, the other smaller players have also become relevant. Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, heading JUI-F, the MQM-Pakistan led by Farooq Sattar and ANP led by Asfandyar Wali Khan have already put their weight behind Sharif and his government. This situation has weakened the move of the invisible forces of forming a grand and united alliance of opposition to throw Sharif from power. The divided opposition is ideal for Sharif to manoeuvre the political chessboard.
The effort to launch a lawyers’ movement against Sharif in order to force him to resign is also not looking successful as leading senior lawyers like Asma Jahangir, Ali Ahmad Kurd and others are opposing the idea of demanding resignation from an elected Prime Minister by agitation in the streets. In fact, in the case of Mr Khan and invisible forces using the lawyers platform, Asma and others will jump into it and make sure that the lawyers’ platform and bar associations cannot be used. The Supreme Court Bar Association has already announced that they have no interest in launching any movement against the Prime Minister and the bars associations, who are announcing an agitation movement, are doing this on their own.
So the fact that the divided legal fraternity, absence of a united opposition and even Mr Khan’s partners in Sherpao‘s QWP party, are not willing to launch a mass political movement has dented the “invisible forces’” wish to weaken and throw Sharif from power like Pervez Musharraf and Zardari at the end of his term. Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, being an ally in the centre with Sharif, is clearly taking sides against the establishment. The MQM Pakistan and the People’s Party (PPP) do not want to give a platform to Imran Khan on which he can use and exploit the situation, thus making a good political capital for the next general elections.
Even after the formation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) against Sharif, he cannot be disqualified through them; the “invisible forces” are aware of this. They are trying to weaken Sharif by using Mr Khan and Zardari’s political moves in their favour and have successfully created a narrative against Sharif. The urban youth in Pakistan now think that all of Pakistan’s problems are caused by Mr Sharif. It is the same narrative that was being built in the 80s against Benazir Bhutto and her family, portrayed as the most corrupt leaders and a threat to the so called national interest. This narrative of creating a fairytale of plundering billions of dollars and corruption against the popular leaders of the country works in dimensional ways for the establishment. It always makes the masses believe that every single problem is created by the politicians in the country, thus the masses continue to hate democracy and politicians.
The ordinary people do not have the capacity to think beyond the beliefs and narrative told to them by the establishment, nor do they have time. Otherwise it is simple to understand that if Zulfikar Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto or Sharif looted the public wealth and national exchequer, then why even after the two martial laws of 20 years, was not even a single penny recovered from these politicians. The educated urban classes know who takes most of the country’s budget, and who is actually running the biggest business empire of the country, but no one wants to talk about it, as a person asking questions on this issue can go missing forever.
The second dimension that fulfils the invisible forces’ agenda relates to the international front. Not only can they manipulate foreign policy, but by weakening the democratic forces, they are also sending a clear message to foreign countries that we are the de facto rulers of the country, hence talking to us regarding Pakistan is the only option. So the Pakistani Game of Thrones is now getting interesting.
Sharif knows that he needs a fresh mandate from the masses in order to morally rule the country and push back the invisible forces. But if he resigns or dissolves the assemblies and announces an early election right now, this move will not prove good in the public’s eye, as they will think that Sharif is a culprit and that is why he announced early elections.
Adding to Sharif’s worries is the growing electricity shortage crisis and aftereffects of the Panama Papers verdict. In these circumstances he knows he will not be able to win convincingly, in the case of early elections. Mr Khan and Mr Zardari are both disinterested in early elections as they are not prepared for it, both not wanting the JIT or Supreme Court of Pakistan to solve the Panama Paper mystery and give a final verdict. They actually want to drag the Panama issue to the next year’s election campaign so they can damage Sharif in the elections, hoping against hope that by doing so, they will be able to dent Sharif in the Punjab province.
They also know that if the Supreme Court or election commission of Pakistan exercise Article 62 and 63 against Sharif, the investigations circle against foreign assets of politicians further expanding they too will be disqualified. A California case verdict against Imran Khan declaring him the father of Tyrian White is enough to disqualify him under Article 62 and 63; likewise his offshore company Niazi Services established in the UK in 1984, and his colleagues Jehangir Tareen and Aleem Khan’s offshore companies can hurt them in future. This is also the case with Mr Zardari whose Swiss bank cases, Ayyan Ali money laundering nexus and Surrey Palace case can thwart him.
The media in this scenario are cashing in, TV channels and a lot of anchors, hosts and journalists are enjoying higher television ratings points (TRPs), and are also getting monetary benefits from all the players of the game. So actually all the stakeholders in this Game of Thrones know their limits and their assigned roles and are playing the game accordingly. It is only the public in Pakistan who is the loser at the end and who is not able to understand that this Game of Thrones is being made and directed at their expense – their habit of loving to see this drama serial again and again is actually taking them nowhere. From 1950 this Game of Thrones is being successfully created and is being appreciated by the masses every time a new season is released. So the script writer and director know that they only have to change the faces instead of the script or direction to keep the public see and believe this drama.
Until and unless the public is willing to stop watching this drama just for a little monetary, personal gain, or ego satisfaction of changing faces, this Game of Thrones in Pakistan will continue and will never let the country move towards a strong democratic society with strong public institutions. It will, in fact, keep the whole nation dependent and at the mercy of ‘invisible forces’. Anyway, welcome to the new season of Pakistan’s ‘Game of Thrones’.