Some leftist friends are happily enjoying the televised Iquilaab being waged from five star containers by the ‘good elite’. In what they call an inevitable ‘break up of elite consensus’, is hidden the win-win situation for the oppressed proletariat. While being a chronic optimist, one is still caught between leftist profundity and realist naiveté.

The debate, if there is any, is hardly in the context of the social democratic question. The shouting match, in fact, is happening under the classic exploitative framework of liberal democracy which has no commitment to reform capitalism and remove injustices based on class conflict. It is all about the ‘equal rights for all’ principle – the liberal design of democracy – which doesn’t challenge the exploitative system contaminated by the conflict-of-interest amongst those who run it. And those who run it, the elite and Hamza Alvi’s ‘Salarites’, cannot afford to break their consensus over the pie they live on. It is, comrades, just a small conflict over the re-positioning of pawns, necessary for the pie-eaters in the changing realities of global politics. The old pawns are not going to be put to rest because they will be needed at some other time.

If one thing has made itself clearer, it is the glaring fact that politics in Pakistan has gone much more complex than the old battle between good and evil. There is a good good and a bad good. There is a bad evil and a good evil. The battle is not between democratic and anti democratic forces. It is between acceptable democrats and unacceptable ones. With some acceptable and unacceptable distractions, the scuffle is about who fetches the pie for the big pie eater, rather than for the good cause of freeing the oppressed classes.

Consider. One of the ‘containers’ (trying hard not to intend the pun) has a lion with intermittent fits of rage on the ‘corrupt ruling elite’ while standing in the middle of the icons of power – the gaddi nasheens, the industrialist, the land mafia dons, the former bureaucrats, the former judges and what not. The seconder container (which is hardly able to contain) carries the ultimate power bastion – the clergy. Both the cult figures increasingly speak the language of the powerless, invoke lack of social justice, elite capture of institutions, aggressive state that violates citizens’ basic rights and the constitution that needs to be protected from the elite – the bad elite that is.

The question arises, all these concerns were neither created on August 14th this year nor were the ‘contained’ tigers born on this date. The sudden pricks of conscience sounds a bit bothersome. In 2013, Mr. Imran Khan took oath by the Speaker of the House he calls ‘illegitimately elected’ to become a part of a legislature that he now calls ‘fake’ and ‘illicit’. He, along with 35 comrades, kept being part of it with little or no contribution to legislative business, and drew all benefits. The genuine concerns about rigging, shared by many in civil society and vast spectrum of political parties, took a back seat as far as action is concerned.

Meanwhile, things happened as they keep happening in the land of the pure. There was that former General waiting to go home. Abroad, that is. There was another who was ‘attacked without evidence’ by a certain media group. There was yet another who felt let down by the civvies on many counts. The civvies as they are, proved useless and offensive on all points. Whether it was the evacuation of that first general, flirtations with foreign policy, or tickling security policy. The time had come to teach everyone a lesson.

Patriotism and religion, two readily available toolkits were exhausted on containing the media. The bad civvies had to be contained through good civvies. The allies of good civvies and bad civvies had to be divided. Corruption is tried, tested and a successful factor that would divide the lovers of democracy which included civil society as well as the business and trading classes. As soon as the contours of the plan clear, the minutiae of the script had to be worked out. With the London meeting between the good civvies and the pious revolution monger, the script started taking shape.

From abstruse to elaborate, from ambiguity to intricacy, it demonstrates the meticulous plan but little thought. It was logical to bring up a Sufi face of Pakistan’s religiosity and give it center stage as opposed to a harsh militant Islam. Let the latter be limited to external use. For the more domestic turf, building up of an inclusive religious force might bring sanity to self-destructive proxy business. Smart move. Claps.

Little thought however, was put to the devil that lives in the details. How would the old pawns leave the domestic turf easily? The banned outfit came to reclaim the turf while raising passionate slogans in favour of democratic system. The irony does not stop here. The son of the most celebrated military dictator stands up for democracy. An already divided civil society gets further divided. Who are we supporting, actually? That was the question of the day when Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASSWJ) took out a massive rally in support of the government. Or was it for democracy? Confusing.

So the establishment-backed ASWJ stands up against the establishment-backed Barelvi cleric screaming for revolution in order to save former (former?) establishment-backed PMLN who is being threatened by establishment-backed Khan. Wow.

Where exactly has the consensus been broken amongst the elite comrade? If for-the-time-being-‘acceptable’ cleric wanting to demolish the system or the reformist enveloped by the good-elite vowing to bring social justice is an encouraging scene for us, the gods might shy away from blessing us.

Those seeing hope in the good-cleric challenging the brutal face of domestic Islamists, have heart. Once lionized and obliged by the powers that be, the sufi can turn into Ghazi Ilam Din Shaheed in a fraction of seconds.

Those looking up to the ‘liberal’ veneer of the musical reformer, who is being challenged by the bad-clergy at the moment, must also remember the track record of the reformer for whom secularism is an expletive and self-righteousness is the routine way of life. Not too long ago, the monsters in the mountains were ready to trust this reformer. He has taken up causes the ‘liberatti’ would not be very comfortable with. Back in the north, women have started getting new instructions in the educational institutions on how they should dress. Curricula have been successfully amended to include retrogressive content. Sorry to spoil your moment!

Those trying to save the democrats, dare I remind, have been long time allies of the banned outfits as has been recently demonstrated. The conflict-of-interest principle has already been thrown down the drain. Relish!

Does that mean one should keep witnessing the demolition of the democratic system? A loud No. For, it is the democratic system that gives at least some semblance of inclusiveness. But will democracy work if the establishment keeps pinching the democratic governments in all the wrong places? One is not too sure if the system would still be there when you will be reading these lines. If it is, it would be a tamed, subdued and passive democracy controlled from behind.

This is one of those rare moments when one genuinely feels like asking the military establishment to come out and have it. Having it covertly makes the civvies take all the blame. Come, do, and take the blame. If you have no spine for taking the responsibility while enjoying the covert authority, back off. Back off and let them work.

 The writer is an Islamabad based freelance columnist.

marvi@marvisirmed.com

@marvisirmed