CITY NOTE

The main point of the Azadi and Inquilab Marches was knowing when they would end. While the Azadi March led by Imran Khan seems to have made some progress, by announcing a civil disobedience movement of which the bedrock seems to be not paying utility bills, the Inquilab March led by Professor Dr Allama Tahirul Qadri has run into difficulties because the Marchers are not getting pure water, nor good food. Someone should have told Dr Qadri that Islamabad never had good water, and on top of that, that water is running out. And in this weather, even food at home is doubtful, and if you eat out (like the marchers are doing), the result is guaranteed: diarrhea. In fact, things have gone so bad that Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan has said that the smell near the camp is reported as unbearable. He sounded condemnatory, because I suspect he will be saddled with the clean-up job afterwards.

Of course, both Marches are asking for the moon. Or rather two moons, Nawaz and Shehbaz. Of course, neither are moons any longer, for after their hair transplants, they are as hirsute as Aleem Khan, the PTI Lahore President, who insists on being addressed as ‘Hairy’ by all and sundry. Those insisting on true democracy seem caught in a bind. After all, both Mian Nawaz and Mian Shehbaz were elected. I suppose that’s the price we pay for electing our chief executive in the parliamentary system. In principle, we vote for an MNA, not a PM. The MNAs might be committed to voting for a particular person as PM. So if we don’t send the right MNA to Parliament, the wrong person would be elected PM. That’s what Imran Khan is saying what happened. Actually, MNAs committed to electing him should have been elected. I see the good Doctor is not making that claim. Perhaps because while there were plenty of PTI losers, there weren’t any PAT ones, so while the election results could possibly have made Imran PM, there is no way that election would make Dr Qadri PM.

Of course, once we agree that anyone with enough people to march on Islamabad can make the sitting Prime Minister resign, we have opened the door to making Islamabad the most insalubrious place we know. Unless they open all its toilets to visitors. That might mean running special buses in the morning, but it will have to be done. And it should be remembered that there will be more unsuccessful marches than successful ones. But people on even the unsuccessful ones would make the same smell.

I think we have got a problem here. The essence of democracy is accepting election results. Even if they are not perfect. But how much short of democracy are we allowed to fall. Somehow, I don’t think the Thailand example, where a nominated assembly duly elected as Prime Minister the Chief of Army Staff who had carried out a coup against the elected PM. True, the ousted PM had not delivered, just as much as Mian Nawaz might not have delivered. But the punishment for non-delivery is supposed to be a defeat at the polls. And the right to rule is supposed to rest on Assembly support, not how big a crowd one can bring to Islamabad.

But the real problem, it seems, is not just bringing the crowd, but keeping it there. Imran is a little like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and is something of a party animal. That might explain the music and the dancing, and the general air of showmanship. Next thing you know, the PTI leaders may have to do magic tricks. And then Dr Qadri will follow suit.

The idea Imran Khan has, of an election audit, cannot be a good one. Any idea borrowed from Afghanistan cannot be a good one. And why must it be called an audit? To satisfy the Americans? The latest example of how Americans handle their own affairs came with the killing by the police of a black teenager in a St.Louis suburb in Missouri even though he was surrendering. Further evidence of how American cops, especially in states like Missouri, in the Deep South, like to do things, The American establishment tried to give the world the image of a black President in Obama, but there are a steady trickle of counter-images: Michael Brown is only the latest example of a dead black teenager who will never become President. Previously, there was Travyon Martin, the black Floridan killed by a Jewish neighbourhood watch volunteer, whose trial last year led to an acquittal. That should indicate how this should end. Imran is right to resent any American interference. They don’t see rigging as particularly reprehensible. That’s why they tolerated Lyndon Johnson, who personally stuffed the ballot boxes to enter the US Senate.

Footnote to these Notes: I found myself writing these notes on my birthday. I won’t mention which. Suffice it to say, the last time, Mustafa Khar was holding a Convention to found his NPP faction. His NPP faction has died, unlike me, and who is to say it is not the greater loss? But the real reason to remember August 24 is the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in France, which showed that back then (1572), Europe had its sectarian troubles, as French Catholics slaughtered thousands of French Protestants.