Ever a study in confusion, Pakistan continues to deliver. On the very same ground, that drew a crowd of hundreds of thousands for Imran Khan’s jalsa, with pop stars, hijabs, jeans and skull caps all thrown into the mix, a few weeks later a similarly massive crowd summoned by an alliance of mainly religious parties and groups, answered the call. No women at all, hardly any Pakistani flags in the crowd, recitation and commentators, among whom one while addressing to the crowd solemnly praised Mullah Omar for his services to Pakistan. For a country, about which every discussion inevitably includes the politics of religion, it is a peculiar and characteristic anomaly that come time to vote, Pakistan has never voted into power a religious party. Most of them occupy a few seats in the Assemblies, useful for bargaining with and they are seldom, if ever, out of government as a consequence. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one of the most conservative provinces in Pakistan, has elected to government the ANP, perhaps the most left-leaning political party in Pakistan. However, despite voting trends, the perception persists - mistakenly - of Pakistan’s propensity towards religiously aligned political parties. With a rally of tens of thousands, how could it not?

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The PML-N must be squirming in their seats, after losing Javed Hashmi to Imran Khan’s PTI. Perhaps for the first time since the Lahore jalsa, it has felt more than a twinge of discomfort from Imran’s whirlwind. What added insult to injury was Javed Hashmi’s insistence that he had no dispute with the Mian brothers, implying that they were well-meaning, but clueless. It has long been a mystery among political pundits, as to what exactly Mian Nawaz Sharif’s plan for the PML-N is? To survive in the face of PTI’s increasing popularity, buffered by ranks swelling with household names, the smart course of action would be for Nawaz Sharif to immediately clasp the Chaudharies to his bosom and unite the factions of the Muslim League. However, once amenable PML factions, by now tired of Mian Nawaz’s ego and stubbornness, may no longer be so willing as they once were. Is Mian Nawaz’s confidence in the strength of his party justified? Or is he underestimating the dent PTI is aiming to cause in his vote bank?

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Relations between the army and the civilian government also remained tense in the past week. What began as a resolve to present a united front, broke down the next day with one side alleging a conspiracy against national security and the other warning against a State within a State. In truth, both may not have much to fear from one another. The army is unlikely to desire power in the Pakistan of today, with all its crises, matured and fermenting, waiting to be dealt with immediately and with no cash in the kitty. No international support exists for an overt military takeover, after the annus horribilis of OBL. Similarly, the army’s control over all that it deems fit to control, is unthreatened, even accepted by the ruling PPP.

The sniping across the fence between khakis and civvies, demonstrated in the little tiff the two had a few days ago, does not signify an irreconcilable breakdown between them. A conclusion to memogate, which results in a change in the occupancy of the presidency, is highly unlikely, unless former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani is seized by the spirit of Brutus. Meanwhile, we will be treated to headlines asking the President to kiss the CJ’s ring and claim immunity, instead of assuming it is available to him; Dr Babar Awan will do more harm than help every time he addresses a press conference; and someone from the PML-N will desperately be rubbing rocks together under a table in the hope of starting a fire.

However, what does worry the army and what has historically proven to be the last straw that breaks the democratic camel’s back, is the condition of the economy. The customary news items about the Finance Minister’s briefings to the President, to the effect, “all well, nothing to see here, move on folks…….” ought to be afforded greater scrutiny and analysis. The fire started over memogate will most likely be put out after the necessary, few-week-long firefight. The wound inflicted by the justified, but insincere query about OBL’s visa will heal. The Nato supplies, when they reopen, will do so with the blessing of the army. What will continue to hurt is the state of our coffers. With the rupee hitting a record low this week, CNG stations suffering severe shortages and month-long closures being recommended, it is these events, which will prove to be a greater danger to the democratic system in Pakistan, than the conspiracies the late-night panic on the talk shows would have you believe.

    Email: rnizami@nawaiwaqt.com.pk