By Syed Talat Hussain
Pakistan’s politics make a confusing reading. Even the most well-aware are getting stumped every day. Information and events run counter to each other. What is expected never happens and the unexpected always does. In such perplexing times it is important to have tools with you to at least not lose completely your analytical direction. I am creating a framework that might provide you some stable basis for more accurate analysis. I am dividing Pakistan’s politics into two categories: IMPORTANT and CRITICAL. Sometimes because of the media hype or other reasons, the IMPORTANT might dominate the CRITICAL in terms of headlines but in the end CRITICAL will always be predominant and will determine where the country will go.
Let us start with the IMPORTANT category. This is simple. All issues that are not happening in Islamabad’s real power corridors fall in the category of IMPORTANT. That means and includes all political activity and meetings of all political parties. Whether Imran Khan’s party is getting new-comers by the dozens or the defence of Pakistan rally in Lahore had an impressive show. Whether the Jamaat-e-Islami arranged a meeting in Peshawar or whether Altaf Hussain made another address to this party workers. Whether there is dengue or floods, or even attacks in the border areas by the militants that continue to hit schools, civilians, and military persons. Whether US or Nato attack our posts or Washington bureaucracy blocks majority of counter-terrorism aid to Pakistan till Congress is satisfied that we are doing enough to stop the alleged bomb-making substances (fertilizer) smuggling into Afghanistan.
In fact I would go to the extent of even saying that the entire range of our defence concerns with regard to India, the US and Afghanistan fall in this category. These are all IMPORTANT issues but are not CRITICAL. This is because these do not decisively impact the direction of the country in the short to medium term. These events can perhaps contribute to the bigger trends of change or could add to our national problems. Some of them such as Imran Khan’s new popularity could also become CRITICAL in the years to come, but as if now these are not ‘make or break’ events in our present-day history.
The CRITICAL issues are really three. These need to be carefully watched and analyzed if we are to make sense of the baffling picture that this country presents at this point in time. These are 1) relations between the Army and the Peoples Party leadership, or more specifically, President Asif Ali Zardari; conduct of the Supreme Court; and most significantly and connected with the first two, state of national economy that for now looks not just bad but scary. If I were to recommend to you as to what you should read in newspapers to really understand Pakistan I would say leave out the IMPORTANT category and focus just on the CRITICAL issue category.
Tomorrow we will take up issue number one in the CRITICAL category—relations between the army and president Zardari who has defied all predictions and has returned to Pakistan.