The lie at the heart of the quest to oust Nawaz from politics was that there was a crisis. That without getting ridding of Nawaz the crisis would metastasise and swallow the rest of us. There was no crisis. Sure, could Pakistan have been doing better? Yes. Was the economy being managed well? No. Were the civilians doing their bit on the security side? Not really. Was governance great? Nope. That’s not exactly a crisis though. But now we do have a crisis. In trying to oust Nawaz to save the country from a fake crisis, a real crisis has been created. And for two reasons. One, the distortions created in the system to try and oust Nawaz have systemic implications. The barrage of judicial verdicts against Nawaz has destabilised the system. Not because the verdicts have targeted Nawaz, but because of the way in which they have.
The National Accountability Bureau route — putting Nawaz on trial, convicting him and using that conviction to oust him from politics — would have still had significant political repercussions, but the systemic implications would have been fewer. You can’t very well use the facts and assets used to convict Nawaz to convict a bunch of other politicians and oust them from politics. You’d need person-specific facts and assets to oust others. But to get Nawaz in the way he has been trapped, the system itself has been prised open. From here, anything is possible and anyone can be a target. And it’s not clear how the weapon of choice can be wrested away from the judiciary now.
Amend the Constitution and get rid of or water down Article 62 (1)(f), folk will suggest. But who’s to say that the court won’t strike down the amendment as unconstitutional? Before the judicialisation of politics came the judicialisation of the Constitution. Now that the court has unsheathed the sword of 62 (1)(f), why would the court allow the politicians to take the sword away? There are no easy answers. There is though serious trouble evident. The other reason that we’re in the midst of a bona fide crisis is what Nawaz has done in response to his ouster. He didn’t storm the courts. He didn’t mobilise Parliament against the judiciary. He didn’t rage against the boys. He went to the people.
And the people have come to him. Not to get too carried away with that, but what Nawaz has done is significant. There are a couple of scenarios. The people that Nawaz has brought out to his rallies could be irritated by the heavy-handedness of the boys and the court and are making their displeasure known. Or they’re basically saying what was apparent at the outset: there was no crisis. That they were happy enough with the job Nawaz was doing and would like to see him get back to the business of running the country. Or it could be a combination of both. Whatever the reason, it has certainly been unexpected — and that has created a problem. Because now it has to be put back in the bottle. But how?
Manipulating the election would be one way. But suppressing the N-League’s seat count would take some doing. And Nawaz could just merrily extend his rally schedule, turning the rallies into a protest against a rigged election. Whatever’s left of the N-League at that stage would have a serious incentive to ramp up its politics of protest. It won’t be easy to put back in the bottle. The other option, of course, is to send Nawaz to jail. That would at least bring an end to the big rallies, but then you’re stuck with the biggest political player in the land sitting in jail. That’s not exactly a recipe for stability.
That’s the twin, real crisis right there: radically changing the rules of the political game and creating a modicum of public resistance. From here, the civil-military and political-judicial frameworks will have to be reworked. How and when is unclear, but the disequilibriums will have to be corrected a bit. A fake crisis was created to justify the exit of Nawaz. Fair enough — that’s just how the system operates. But the fake crisis has morphed into a real crisis in which ultimately the mil side of civ-mil and the judicial side of political-judicial may have to make concessions. Was getting Nawaz worth opening the door ever so slightly to a rebalancing of civ-mil and political-judicial? Or did the boys and the court just get it wrong? Maybe they just didn’t know what they were doing.
By arrangement with Dawn...