How come my mother never heard of the 30 second punishment?
Pithy this remark, flooding Pakistani blogospheres, may be, but even as the PM’s sentencing provides at least a month’s worth of grist for stand-up comedy’s mill, it is nothing if not pitiful.
Here we have a PM who has refused, over the course of many months to follow through with the highest judiciary’s orders. The judiciary, which rightfully, overturned the odious NRO that brought the present dispensation back ‘into power’ had decreed all corruption cases hitherto closed, reopened, including those against our honourable President (who does/does not enjoy immunity?). The defiance of the highest minister of the land to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to restart the investigation into the financial fraud allegedly committed by the former has been billed by the sitting government as a stand to protect the Constitution of this holier than thou land all self-respecting Pakistanis are sworn to protect.
Commentators on both sides of the moral divide meanwhile, predatorily snapped, chewed on and devoured on all possible combinations and permeations of the eventual denouement, postponed repeatedly, for either side to huddle back to their respective squares and strategise their next moves on a chessboard increasingly beginning to resemble Pakistan’s pocked (battle)-grounds, complete with as many turfs as squares and stakeholders as pieces.
Leaks as to what would happen to the premier came a day or two before the grandstanding finale - and while there was little doubt that Gilani would be convicted of contempt, the nation was introduced to the incredible symbolism of ‘punished-until-the-court-rises’ sentence. Opinion makers waxed supreme on the elegance and restraint of the judges, who chose to save democracy and the country, rather than butt and lock heads to overthrow, potentially destabilising the government and Pakistan in the process. Others could not restrain their contempt of the ruling - billed the latest in a long line of travesties of justice.
The real victims of the latest crisis du jour? Not the judiciary, which came out fighting with a verdict that restored its fledgling dignity - not the government, which claims, not wrongly, it is always selectively prosecuted, and certainly not the defiant Prime Minister, who faces no real threat of removal if his statements are anything to go by. His 30 seconds now over: Gilani still stands tall in his symbolic sherwani, an unrepentant, but certainly not unsung, hero that has reputedly saved the country from a court with an axe to grind. The judges stand (somewhat) vindicated, with a judgment as hard as it is soft, having thrown the ball upright in the air for all parties to play it as they will, even ponder over whether it is a conviction at all. Whether the opposition play ball with the sitting government, or scramble to ally with the courts and the establishment to send the team packing will depend only on where the ball lands, and how the fielders evaluate their chances of batting next. As for all the alleged thieves, and the thieving - the former for now, continue to stand protected - at least those with might on their side, and as for the actual corruption, how many millions of siphoned away dollars has the country ever received back? Only that which is to come back through the stock market.
So where does the nation stand? Unfortunately, still with the President that remains drenched in the stench of alleged corruption. With his handpicked Prime Minister, who takes Dolly Parton’s advice to heart and continues, come what may, to stand by his man, (and his office). Helplessly impotent against the rat-a-tat of machine gun fire protestors forcing shutter down strikes across a province played too many times as only a card. As silent and scared spectators in a system of selective prosecutions, no accountability, and little morality, where vested interests influence outcomes. In a land with zero contempt for the criminal and as much pride in the maintenance of law, order and dignity.
No longer simply like battered woman, who may have seen too much and experienced it all, a nod is as good as a wink to what has become a nation of very blind donkeys. But at least, it hasn’t lost its sense of humour, or geography. After all: ask any Pakistani where the capital of the country lies. Swiss Banks, and not Islamabad, would be their bet.
    TThe writer is a Karachi-based publisher and editor. She is an award winning journalist and a graduate of the London School of Economics.
    Email: shimaila@yahoo.com