Compromise versus principles

Yesterday on NPR I was listening to a report from Burma about NLD’s decision to boycott the upcoming elections. To be fair to them, Burma’s new election laws require anyone convicted by a court to be disqualified from all parties which would disqualify NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi since she was convicted last year of violating her house arrest. But the person reporting from Burma quoted an oft-quoted Burmese proverb about how when two buffaloes fight, the grass gets trampled and that the people of Burma feel crushed between two uncompromising forces.

By contrast, PPP has always been criticized for its excessive compromising in favour of returning to power. The terms of its 2008 return to power were especially costly, with almost everyone criticizing the NRO. Even today it would be very difficult to find someone willing to put themselves on the line by offering a defense of the NRO. Kamran Shafi’s column this week is an exception. However today’s consensus on the 18th amendment draft owes its existence to PPP’s willingness to compromise, even when its opponents – most notably both the PMLs and the Supreme Court have shown themselves to be utterly shameless in their opposition, sinking to truly despicable depths in their opposition to the proposed constitutional reforms.

Even today, the compromises made might have been too costly. By agreeing to add a seventh member of the Judicial commission (a retired Supreme Court justice), the Raza Rabbani committee has essentially guaranteed a majority vote to the members of the Commission almost 100% likely to be allied with the Chief Justice, thus defeating the purpose of having a judicial commission in the first place.

By the way, spare some sympathy for Nusrat Javed who just wanted to celebrate the 18th amendment draft signing but no one would let him. (The funniest was the angry guy who called in (for the sixth time) about the faulty transformer by his house and said he didn’t care what they called NWFP). And read this column by IA Rehman, one of the angriest sounding columns I’ve ever read by him. Some excerpts:

THAT the constitutional reform package should have come under attack in some quarters did not cause any surprise because the concept of democratic consensus is alien to Pakistan’s political barons. What is astonishing is the degree of freedom from good sense shown by some elements while demonising parliament.
Both matters could have been discussed in a civilised way but quite a few personages prominent for their weight and girth deemed it prudent to flaunt their incapacity for a rational discourse.
Similarly those who have reservations about the presence of a parliamentarian or two in the proposed judicial commission could have argued their case without parting with reason and temperateness. Instead, members of parliament have been subjected to a barrage of unwarranted abuse and slander. They have been condemned en bloc as a lot of cheats who have been living by fraud
The chief of the lawyers’ association, who is respected widely for his white hair, has questioned the notion of parliament’s supremacy and challenged anyone to show where this idea is mentioned in the constitution.
The unwise friends (self-styled) of the judiciary who are playing up the case of parliamentarians’ fake degrees need to be reminded that failure to decide the madressah degrees case for five years is a dark blot on the fair name of the judiciary

OK one last thing – a lot of people have wondered what motivated PML-N’s U-Turn and no one’s been able to give a suitable explanation. Personally I think the best explanation is the one described by kalakawa in this awesome post about the inner workings of Mushtaq Minhas’ mind. See, in the captions provided by kalakawa, Mushtaq Minhas has a certain emotive reaction to Nighat Orakzai but he can’t express what he’s saying because he’s somewhat constrained by what’s PC in today’s discourse. So he has to invent some crazy sounding roundabout pretext in order to justify what he really wants to do which is to condemn Nighat Orakzai as a godless, Islam-hating lady. Similarly, there were things about this constitutional reform package that just caused Nawaz Sharif immense pain. How could it not – provincial autonomy, the abolishment of the concurrent list, 100 constitutional articles reformed. But in today’s parlance you can’t condemn provincial autonomy and it would be difficult for Nawaz Sharif to outright renege on the Charter of Democracy. So he had to invent some stupid excuses that didn’t even make any sense to anyone. Hence the reason why no one could understand the stated reasons for his u-turn. The thing is, the underlying issues and preferences haven’t changed. The Sharif’s are still Punjabi-centric autocrats with a deep distrust of Gorbachev-like moves by the PPP to Balkanize Pakistan. The Army still has nightmares about Balkanization and “ethnonationalism”. What’s changed is that there is some kind of pretense at a politically correct discourse. The result of that is that people still have the same gut reactions to events but have to lie about why they are acting the way they are.

I guess that means Pakistan is becoming a normal country.


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