The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

The Deal.

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In the shifting sands of the political vista words have come to play an increasingly important part in popular perception. There was a time when great revolutionaries leaders would come forth with, entirely spontaneous yet, stirring speeches. Now we hitch upon every word used by our ‘great statesmen’ and mull over all their meanings, both apparent and implied. It doesn’t just stop there – not just the words, themselves, are important but body postures and language are given consequence in equal measure.

In this vista, connoted meanings are very different from those found in the dictionary.

In the context of Pakistani politics a relatively new term has emerged recently – the ‘deal’. This in relation to the round of talks held between General Musharraf and the Pakistani ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Ms. Bhutto has been in a self-imposed exile from Pakistan for the last 8 years while her husband, Asif Zardari, has spent a majority of that time behind bars in Pakistani jails.

Going from this torpid state of affairs to becoming the next probable prime minister has not been an easy journey, by any stretch of the imagination, for Ms. Bhutto. However, it must be taken into account that our ‘fair weather friends’, the Americans, have had a great deal (no pun intended) to do with this sudden shift. The rising militancy along the north western borders of Pakistan and the recent bout of suicide bombings have, utterly, shaken the hitherto unshakable trust that Washington had in General Musharraf’s ability to tackle the ghosts from the Afghan wars – the Taliban.

It has been felt, both nationally and internationally, that the Pakistan Army is unable to wage war against the extremists due to the nearly 30 year association with the Jihadis during the Afghan war. The Jihadis, however, have no qualms about killing their ex-allies – indeed they were trained by the Pakistan Army and funded by CIA for that very purpose. Attacks on military convoys have become common place. Today, no one even bats an eye at the mass-kidnapping of Pakistani military and paramilitary forces. The situation has gone from bad to worse, successively, and now military intelligence is being targeted within the safety of their bases.

Therefore, Washington is, understandably, frustrated by the poor performance of its ally-regime in Pakistan. It has been seen that the popularity of General Musharraf has taken a nose dive recently especially after the Chief Justice debacle. The need for a return to a better form of democracy has been felt by all participants across the board.

Returning to the problem of linguistics – we now have a clearer concept of why the return of Ms. Bhutto into Pakistani Politics takes the form of a deal rather than the effect of a clear mandate or agreement with the government.

The word deal implies many things. It has a negative connotation associated with it – that there are silent understandings between the two ‘dealing’ parties. These silent ‘understandings’ don’t always find their way into public knowledge, however, which is a pity because the Musharraf-Benazir deal has a third interested party with vested interests too – the People of Pakistan.

Of course this isn’t the only deal that has gone down in the annals of Pakistani political history. Benazir returned to Pakistan in 1988 as a result of a similar deal with the military where the contention was, similarly, over power-sharing and who gets how much of what. Similarly the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) brokered a deal with the military in relation to passing the 17th amendment. Lately we have also seen the ramifications of the deal between Mian Nawaz Shareef, the Pakistani military and the Saudi government. It is distressing that such deals take precedence over the constitutional rights of a Pakistani citizen as well as the, expressed, orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

It is also an indicator of the rising trend of corpratisation of all facets of contemporary life. It shows that corporate interests have taken hold of our politics to the extent that our politicians have started using business terms to define issues of National political interest.

It has, generally, been seen that such deals are not long-lasting or binding for either party. Whether the deal between Ms. Bhutto and General Musharraf succeeds or not, the whole phenomenology of ‘deals’ between political entities is an alarming occurrence. What is also equally disquieting is that we, the People of Pakistan, must be the final inheritors of the fruits of such dealing. A word to the wise then – let the buyer beware.

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