The Tale of Two Marches Becoming One

In the beginning there were two marches, led by two distinctly different leaders with

Photo reproduced from Economic Time: Attribution link:

Photo reproduced from Economic Time: Attribution link:

the followers also rivers apart: this is how this story will begin whenever some crafty writers put their mind to it.

One group, led by a former cricketer, comprised the young and the diverse, the very hope of a progressive and different Pakistan. Their position was unique: they had a strong presence in the parliament; they had come up as the second largest political party in the elections. Their constitution was democratic, and even though the party had started with the cult following of their leader, it had somewhat transcended the politics of personality and had  become a thriving, active, and hopefully diverse political party. Then the leader decided to march on the capital.  Their march began in Lahore.

The other group, though not so politically prominent, also started from Lahore. Their leader a firebrand cleric from Canada, the only one of the major Brelvi leaders left standing against the consistent march of Deodandi and Wahhabi Islam. His message, love and peace. His followers also came from all walks of life, but they came not for the love of democracy, but rather for the love and affinity for their leader, and to fulfill their destiny as foreseen and foretold by the charismatic leader.

Two different groups with a common enemy: a soft-spoken, rotund, neoliberal business tycoon. Most famous for his grand projects, but with not a single bone of charisma.

In the beginning the two marching groups remained separate. It was like a military offensive on two separate axis, waiting for one of the “efforts” to succeed. Then when one group, or corps, made headway, the other leader, the one who speaks in cricket metaphors, shifted his troops to join what had now become the main effort: a classic strategic maneuver. Shift forces to the axis of success rather than committing them on two fronts. It is as if Napoleon himself was masterminding their progress, or some other washed out general. There is no dirth of such deadbags in our country of bloated elite. You lift a stone and there is one washed out, bleached general screeching at your termerity at lifting the rock under which he had been hiding. But enough about generals; we do not want to offend them: they have frail hearts, and might just quake in rage!

The tycoon, strangely defiant, hid behind the constitution: coward! He invoked section 245 of the constitution, which is easily understandable even to a barely literate person. I mean it is not Shakespeare. It says that when the army is called by the Federal government, they come in aid of the government. There is no section in that article which says the army can turn around and invent exceptions! No, but we live in Pakistan: we invent exceptions out of thin air. We have our people convinced that those above them have, somehow, earned the right to be rich and bloated, while majority of the people live a precarious sub-human life.

The two marching leaders promise to destroy these inequalities, and avow to transform Pakistan. Exactly how they plan to do that is not clear, but the Maulana claims to have a direct line to the Almighty and promises heavenly intervention, and the cricketer, who owns mansions larger than city blocks, believes that wealth can be produced out of thin air and then redistributed. And if you don’t agree with him, he promises to send you to the Taliban for re-education.

So, they march to the battlefield, to the Federal capital and then they stage a sit in. They start with the most impossible demands: they demand that the tycoon should resign as a precondition to the beginning of negotiations. The tycoon has the rest of the parliament on his side. The marchers have the Almighty and the hidden powers on their side. The cricketer has not read his Sun Tzu, or is applying him in reverse. Sun Tzu asserts that when you encircle your enemy, leave a way out for him to escape or he will fight twice as hard. The cricketer has neither left a way out for himself, nor for the tycoon. They are locked in a battle of wills, and the cricketer knows that if he fails to deliver (he is a fast bowler after all), he is dead in two inches of water, which is, let us admit, a very shameful political death.

On the other side, the other march, the maulvi is sitting pretty: his followers have lived harsh lives: they can take hunger, thirst, heat, for that has been their life already. The cricketer’s forces dwindle, his party leaders are leaving. He is out of options!

So, this is how the two marches come together: one fine morning after the maulvi’s followers have conquered and then conceded the PTV building, the cricketer crawls up to the stage with the maulvi, and suddenly they start speaking together in one voice: it is a miracle!

It is miracle on so many different levels: First of all the cricketer has proved to us that he can, for political convenience, align himself with people he would otherwise have nothing to do with. Furthermore, until recently, being a Taliban sympathizer, the cricketer was completely Wahabi-Deobandi in his affiliations, but now he has seen the light and has aligned himself with the leader of the dandabardar Brelvis! What a transformation. Meanwhile, his baffled followers are constantly trying to retrieve a useable narrative from his recent leaderly actions.

This is the ultimate finale of the cult of personality, that microfascist tendency that we all humans are inherently laced with. When we put our faith in leaders espousing lofty ideals, we surrender a part of our will and a part of our heart to them. And when they fail us, which they ultimately always do, we feel as if we have lost a part of our sacred selves!

At least the tycoon does not make any charismatic, impossible promises to us. He just smiles his sad smile and promises to build another road. He believes in infrastructure, kind of like “if you build it, they will come!” He should have focused a little more on playing with our hearts, but I guess that is  not his way. But there is something sadly boring about his demeanor: you do  not expect much from him! But this time, it seems, he has also decided to stand for something. Maybe his timing is not right, but if he goes down, he would have made history and a lot more than him would have gone down with him.

So, we have reached an impasse: the mullah and the cricketer have painted themselves in an impossible situation. The tycoon is weakened, but he has the support of the parliament! The army, ever so sensitive about its image, is watching: they always go with the winning side!

The leaders of two marches now have the devil’s alternative: they can either concede and lose face, or accept army intervention in ousting the tycoon. In the end, both options doom them, and the tycoon, against all odds, ends up being on the right side of history!

Who could have guessed that!