Ghazanfar A Garewal
Thousands of the people took to the streets of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, when their Prime Minister was allegedly found involved in establishing offshore companies. It is said to be the largest public protest in Iceland’s history. More than a thousand protestors gathered in Downing Street over David Cameron’s offshore links. To the Icelanders and the Britishers, the Panama Affair was egregious enough to take the matter to the streets. Panama Leaks dawned with old known realities. So, nothing of this sort, not even an iota of it, appeared in Pakistan. There has been shouting, screaming and hysteria on media but no public protest. That ruling elite is not-so-innocent is an open secret to the people. It makes sense why the people seem to be the least bothered by outcries heard in the wake of Panama Leaks.
If masses can be mobilized, the ruling party will be in hot waters but who can mobilize the masses? In the disguise of Panama Leaks, the opportunity to turn the tables against the ruling party descended upon opposition parties.
The PPP will chant slogans of accountability but not take to protests and sit-ins. Lately, even its growling is dying down. Imran Khan gave a quick response and played an oft-repeated move; let’s get it through Judicial Commission. Not much is expected to come out of it as Commissions’ infectivity and futility is backed by history. Moreover, by saying yes to the Commission option, the PML (N) has out-manoeuvred the move so far. Unless the Commission gets anything egregious against the Sharifs, it places them in safe corridor.
The PTI’s trump card is processions and mass protest which it is not using. It is only giving calls for protests and not staging them seriously. Its moves seem to be fixated on Nawaz only rather than on institutional reforms at large. If the party does not stage a mass protest soon, it’ll be difficult to mobilize the masses once the temperature lowers down. To opposition parties, Panama is a politicized and an individual fixated affair only.
At the same time the Army chief’s calling for across-the-board accountability is mounting pressure on the government. He fired the officers on corruption charges and urged the government to eradicate corruption in its upper echelons. General Raheel Sharif, no need saying, is the most popular General in the history of Pakistan. The bedrock of his popularity is his perception; a General that saved people from terrorism and delivered peace. His real power is his popularity among the masses, therefore, his calling for eradicating corruption can stir a lot in the people.
The Sharifs do have the people’s mandate. The infrastructural bonanzas, reduction in load shedding hours, the Youth schemes and other loan schemes have helped build a perception; the Sharifs are working for the people. So far, they have shown that they have the capacity and dexterity to break free themselves of the traps the opposition tried to build. But their response over Panama Leaks has been of trepidation, dread and panic. The government should not lose its composure as the two deadly moves, the Judicial Commission and mass mobilization, are not as practicable as the opposition expects.
It is clear that the public is the trump card to opposition parties, to army and to the government too. Herein lies the magic policy; engage the people as much as possible, highlight the achievements of the government and speed up all the on-going public welfare projects. The government should give relief packages and public friendly budget. It should interact with masses. The Prime Minister’s decision to visit KPK 8th April was sagacious one. This interaction should be extended to other Provinces as well. The winner of Panama will be the one who wins the people of Pakistan. They are badly in need of their development and progress, not in the predictable political gimmicks. So, Big Boys all is well as long as you keep delivering to the people.
— The writer teaches at National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.