By Karamatullah K Ghori
Published: 07th May 2014
The more things seemingly change in Pakistan the more they remain the same. Anyone doubting the veracity of this dictum need only look at the unfolding saga of the attempted murder of ace television anchor Hamid Mir on April 19, and the train of events since been triggered in its wake.
Pakistan’s chequered history has long been held hostage by its “deep state”, comprising a deep-seated oligarchy of feudal lords, generals and power-hungry bureaucrats. Under the frequent military rule—which spans, to date, half of its sovereign life—the “deep state” acted up front with impunity and without any accountability. It laid down ground rules that had to be obeyed in totality without question or demur.
Even when they weren’t stalking the land, up front, as rulers and overlords, the power brokers of the deep state made sure that the lines drawn by them—the so-called “red lines”—weren’t crossed, either by the civilian rulers or by those hanging on to their coat-tails. Anyone with the temerity to cross them did so at their own peril and perished in the process.
Who could have known this cardinal rule of political life in Pakistan better than incumbent prime minister Nawaz Sharif? He made the error of challenging the deep state and its pampered, puffed-up, denizens in his two previous stints in power and lost on both occasions. His nemeses in the deep state may have thought he’d learned his lesson and wouldn’t dare disturb the unwritten equation of power-peddling in his third crack at the rampart. But Nawaz apparently didn’t take any heed from his two previous Waterloos, a capital crime in the eyes of those ruling the roost in Pakistan.
It isn’t Nawaz alone who miscalculated; many others did, too, including pundits following the graph of Pakistani politics and the realm’s power distribution. They thought ground realities had changed, drastically perhaps, in the years since Nawaz was booted out of power by the last Bonaparte, General Pervez Musharraf, at the cusp of the century. Pundits and politicians, alike, overestimated the power of the news media which has come into its elements in the past one decade and thought it had become a power to contend with and also challenge the high and the mighty at their game.