LEGIONS of school and college students have used the ‘Qureshi Invincible Get-Through Guide’ for a short cut to examination success.
Today followers of politics are attaching the same importance to Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s ‘guess work’ for an assessment of what kind of set-up the current power politics will lead Pakistan to.
Pakistanis are keeping an eye on Mr Qureshi for the ‘asli’ or genuine tag just as they would want to distinguish the Invincible Qureshi guess paper from its unworthy clones. These curious souls are apart from those who view Shah Mehmood’s teaming up with Imran Khan as the latest event in the long-surviving tradition where question papers are leaked ahead for favourites.
We must begin with the easier part. Shah Mehmood had been hurt by those wanting to rule Multan — at least Multan — unchallenged. He rebelled when he was denied the ministry where he didn’t exactly have to work under Prime Minister Gilani.
There may have been some localised problems such as the emergence of Latif Khosa, another southern Punjab name with influence over President Zardari, as Punjab governor. The PPP’s alliance with the PML-Q might have been of concern.
All said and done, Shah Mahmood since his arrival in the 1980s had been too mindful of his position in his home constituency to be seen making a voluntary exit from the National Assembly a year and more before elections.
There was a long pregnant pause between his rebellion against the government and his resignation from parliament and the PPP. He waited and weighed his options. It was as if he was the one clean politician who would fit the ideology of anti-Sharif politics of the PTI just as he would fit the politics of PML-N. That kept those dependent on get-through guides guessing.
In a country where the creation of alliances such as the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad is hailed as measure the establishment had to take to contain the evil and where deals with the establishment for power are common, Shah Mehmood’s expansive movement made people wonder whether his credentials were asli.
His eventual partnership with Imran Khan meant he would now have to put on hold his friendship with Nawaz Sharif — the man who as an opponent has given the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Imran its purpose and late impetus in national politics.
Those who had been predicting the next government will belong to Nawaz Sharif were a bit taken aback as they searched long and hard and deep for ways that could guarantee Imran a real shot at power. After a series of PTI public rallies, it is still not clear how he is going to get power. He is likely to do well in an election — but whether he’ll do well enough to lay claim to government no one is sure.
The second route that can take Imran Khan and his expanding party to power is through a national government being so keenly discussed by all but the dreamers, diehard democrats and modern-day internationalists. This imaginary route is to lead to a removal — somehow — of the Zardari set-up and its replacement with clean politicians who have already flaunted considerable support among the public which is chanting for change.
Each time such a scenario comes up for debate, each time a knowledgeable commentator jumps in to sound a reminder about how times have already changed. The contention is that certain occurrences and interventions that Pakistan has been repeatedly subjected to in the past have no future.
It is said the situation has been transformed, international non-acceptability for an unelected government and media awareness often being the points this argument is based on. Also, there is this theory about pliable politicians and an establishment that can rule without having to conspicuously run the front offices.
It is this last theory which, in the eyes of old guess-paper followers, creates room for Imran Khan’s entry. The feeling among the guessers is other politicians have all been used, have all erred and have little to offer the string-pullers that permanently reside in our minds.
This is one reason why Imran is being viewed as a threat to Nawaz Sharif who still has considerable support in Punjab and is by no means a pushover in the public domain and an explanation of why so many seeking to be invincible or to simply taste power are landing at Imran’s door.
Obviously, the PPP is doing its ‘best’, even when it chooses to feign ignorance of the growing Imran threat and targets Nawaz and his allies with its own warnings about the dangers inherent in their politics. The martyr refrain never leaves the PPP but here the reference to a coffin is employed even more strongly to counter any attempts at sending its government and president home prematurely.
Babar Awan’s is a pre-emptive strike but Mr Awan with his resort to sounding the alarm bells ends up feeding the very thoughts he is avowedly seeking to quell. It conveys a message that President Zardari is ready to fight it out till the end. It is a sign of desperation born out of a growing challenge to the Zardari rule.
The divided opposition is in agreement on one crucial point: that a fair poll is impossible under President Zardari. The objective is to force Zardari out and create room for a poll under an interim head of state.
The argument is that it could not mean a national government that finds itself embroiled in work that would require it to perpetuate itself ‘just a little longer’. But this view is still often overwhelmed by old fears that have a history of coming true time and again.
The politicians remain as discredited as ever. The aware media is being pressurised to come up with answers. Old fears persist.
It is not that easy to rule out the other option, with its old and new, judicious and apparently not so judicious manifestations.
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.