Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teenage Dirtbags

And the juvenile saga of Pakistani politics continues. Of late it would seem that the PMLN, our playground bully, has received a solid kick in the shin. Judging from its shrill 48 hour ultimatum, the bully has lost his bravado and is on the verge of tears. This Jinnahpur controversy and the bribery scandal that have been dug out of its closet are making it quite red in the face.

On Monday, with barely-concealed glee, Zardari's camp called PMLN on its bluff with a sassy bring it on that would do pompom wielding Kirsten Dunst proud. Responding to PMLN spokesperson Ahsan Iqbal's huffing and puffing, Farahnaz Ispahani, spokesperson for the Zardari camp said, "As for his claim that he and his party have been holding back and have hundreds of stories to tell, we urge him and his party to bravely step forward and expose with evidence any instances of wrongdoing and corruption."


But if we are to continue with the high school metaphor and PMLN is to be the bully, then it would be more appropriate for the PPP to be class president than cheerleader. The army then would be the dope-dealing PE instructor who moonlights as the headmaster. I think that sufficiently captures the fucked up nature of things here.

But the rich irony of PMLN's current situation needs no metaphor at all. It isn't enjoying the truthtelling exercise that it started now that the spotlight is turned back on it. It wasn't letting the PPP live down its recent flirtations with the army while conveniently overlooking the fact that the PMLN itself had been sired by the army in the 80s. Suddenly, the party that had smugly been deriding the NRO and digging up Zardari's past is desperate to shove its skeletons back in the closet. All the wild blather of PMLN stalwarts about nefarious conspiracies is making it sound like the Zardari camp with its tiresome bleating about the minus-one conspiracy. Reinventing oneself isn't all that easy after all.

But so far it isn't clear whether the person with the spade is Zardari, the army or whether it's a collaborative effort. The PMLN's pushy attitude on the seventeenth amendment and Musharraf's trial has surely aggravated them both. Whoever may bear the responsibility for the recent revelations, what is completely clear is that they were intended to distract the public from PMLN's talking points. Sneaky? Yes. Unethical or undemocratic? Not really. Not aside from the questionable timing anyways. Accountability is unfortunately a double-edged sword and PMLN shouldn't expect to be let off the hook just because its offenses are a bit old. Scrappy as the Sharifs have proven to be, they may have bitten off more than they can chew this time.

Amusing and enlightening as this recent brawl is, it does bring up worrying questions about the longer run. There was hope for democracy when the PPP and PMLN seemed to realize that keeping the system afloat is more important than scoring points off each other. But if the mudslinging devolves into an all-out war it won't bode well for our latest democratic foray. In principle I'm all for exposing corruption but I don't think our politicians are mature enough to handle it nor is there anyone with hands clean enough to survive a tell-all. And if our leaders lose the people's support in their Cain and Abel squabbles there will be no one around to defend them if the army comes a'knocking.

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