A recent media report quoted the new Prime Minister of Pakistan as having produced the proverbial toad by stating that the President would not bow before a third class Swiss magistrate. We waited with bated breath in the hope that our Chief Executive had been misquoted for anything otherwise would have been nothing less than an insult to one of the best and most lauded judicial systems in the world.

I was even prepared to give our Head of the Executive, the benefit of doubt in matters of English vocabulary, considering that his grasp of this language is below par. I debated the true purport of the statement with a few friends - did it imply that the Swiss magistrate was a third class judicial officer in terms of his categorisation within that country’s system or was the term used in the context of a derogatory expression generally used to signify someone with low esteem or character?

We came to the conclusion that if our national leader’s intention was of the first kind, then perhaps he did not know that the Swiss nation and its political leadership gave great deference to the judgments of their magistracy and this is what made Switzerland what it was. If however, the intent was of the second kind, then Raja Sahib needed a lesson in responsible speech. Whatever the case, it appeared that the Swiss had let the incident pass as the ramblings of someone, who was ‘more loyal to the king than the king himself’.

As it was, the wind was taken out of our sails the next day, when an official denial was issued saying that the reported statement had never been made. We heaved a sigh of relief, but not before a close friend, well known for converting the most serious situations into comic ones, came into his own by painting the following fictional picture of events, had the denial not been issued: “Elections were held in Pakistan bringing an accountability oriented party into power, which decided to administer the severest of punishments to all those who had directly or indirectly plundered the country.

“Faced with this situation, many affected political figures and others, fled to their flats and villas abroad. One of these individuals landed up in Switzerland and was surprised at the speed with which he was given asylum, followed by that country’s nationality.

“Ecstatic at the turn of events, he was least concerned, when he found an officious looking envelope waiting for him when he came down for breakfast one morning. He was hit by a ton of bricks, when he discovered that what he had in his hands was a court notice for contempt issued by an aggrieved magistrate, failure to comply with which, carried the penalty of a prison term and cancellation of citizenship. Set and match to the ingenuity of the Swiss.”

The government has at last reduced the petrol prices and pumped funds to service the circular debt in the power sector. I had predicted such a move in one of my previous columns, where I said that as elections approach, prices of petrol and CNG will reduce, loadshedding will diminish or even disappear.

All this would be done to gain pre-election goodwill and garner votes. But if this is strategy, then it is very short-sighted and dangerous, as it has all the elements of aggravating the post-election economic scenario, irrespective of whichever party comes into power. The reduction of prices and servicing of circular debt also raises questions, as to why could this reduction and payment not be affected earlier? Also that coming in the wake of ‘doomsday prophesies’ by eminent economic experts and surveys, is this relief a move in the ongoing cat and mouse game, where the government is playing the role of the feline and the frustrated millions, scurrying for survival, the rodents.

I recently watched an interesting talk show on a private television channel that focused on popularity surveys carried out by reputed quarters, including the US based IRI. These surveys showed Imran Khan’s popularity graph on the ascent, while the most unpopular person was indicated to be the President of Pakistan.

The PPP politician appearing as one of the guests on this show brushed aside the survey as unreliable, but was then put into a difficult situation, when the host referred to his party’s shaheed leadership as having eulogised the same source as most credible. If we take the results compiled by IRI as correct, then can we assume that the reduction of fuel prices and reduction in rampant loadshedding as just desperate and, perhaps, convulsive steps by the ruling party to stay in power?

The nation waits with bated breath to see the final act in the confrontation between the apex court and the ruling party. One thing is certain that no PPP Prime Minister will initiate the document that is one of the causes of this confrontation. What then will be the grand finale in this game that weakens the nation’s foundation as each new day dawns? Will it be fair and transparent elections, and the return to power of a government with a track record of corruption and misrule or a new face in the corridors of power, which will bring with it, a message of hope?

If the former happens, then I would deem ourselves to be a nation that has finally destroyed our Founding Father’s dream in an act of wilful suicide. In case of the other eventuality, if the new face fails to deliver on accountability, rule of merit and law and good governance, he would be equally culpable in the sinking of the boat that is rapidly being swamped by water.

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.