Pakistan’s 2022: A year of constitutional crises, the B word and redefining neutrality

This year cannot be summarised or even properly begun without talking about October of last year. It is what set this year up, and also set the tone for what will happen in 2023. It was the rip heard around the country — the day the one page became two. Or maybe three. Gone were the chief and the aspiring next chief, along with their favourite in chief. It was now back to the original Pakistani conundrum — a weak civilian government, at odds with the military establishment….

The country experienced a super flood, with more than half of its fertile land inundated at one point….the year’s accumulated farming gains were wiped out in a matter of hours for millions of the country’s poorest farmers….

A lack of international interest from a world, which we are told is fatigued with crises, failed to spark the same level of national interest in helping the flood affectees that has occurred in the past. Pakistan has resultantly gotten weaker and its average citizen poorer this year….

Whatever little there is to eat for the common man, is largely imported from abroad. The onion, the daal and the oil it is cooked in, which comprises some form of combination of the poor man’s meal, largely come from foreign farms…. 

On the political front, the year began and promises to end in chaos. On both ends, our peculiar definition of neutrality is to blame. In the beginning of the year, what it meant to be neutral suddenly found itself in flux. It began to mean the changing of direction proxy political camps who are through incentive or coercion beholden to you. Where they were previously told to goose step behind the great cricketing hope, they were now being nudged and cajoled into once again supporting the political dynasties the great hope had been so recently helped to rise against…..

The first noteworthy headline of the year now seems like a cruel joke — that the PDM parties were ready to march against inflation. One glance at what has become of inflation since they took over government, despite it being Imran’s fault as they pray their electorate believes, and they would be required to march daily against themselves…..

Imran, meanwhile, began the year as a prime minister who swore piety and Islamic rule with no idea what to do with the country he was actually leading, and proceeded to bomb the economy by way of a petroleum subsidy once he lost his military crutch which led to a successful vote of no confidence against him….

He ends the year as the country’s most popular politician, having taken on the establishment in a way that has never been done before, while accepting that he was a product of their nursery. This comes with the added benefit of blaming them for all of his faults — which Imran khan is getting better at as his electorate repeatedly evidences no consequences of such actions….

That Imran wanted Riyasat-e-Madina in public, while allegedly leaning more towards Emperor Caligula in private, is another issue that his loyal legions have already batted off as mere slanderous propaganda….

For all the health problems and doctors’ visits last January, Nawaz Sharif’s politics were healthy and virile. As the year ends, despite having a brother as prime minister and his ideal finance minister in Ishaq Dar and despite having picked his choice of army chief, Sharif’s politics are in need of medical examination….

Imran, meanwhile, has gone from being out of his depth in office, with an economic storm brewing ahead which would have likely sunk his ship, to being absolved of all his incompetence by the perceived unfairness of his dismissal. And by the eclipsing incompetence of his successors….

In eight months since April this year, Nawaz Sharif and his brother’s government have managed to do what seemed impossible in March — they have patched up with the establishment, buried what was then the country’s most popular narrative (vote ko Izzat dou [respect the vote]) and once again stabbed every principled person who they had fooled this time into supporting them….

The Sharifs have yet again built a pyramid of skulls and sacrifice to protect their personal interests, comforts and political expediency. Within this magnificent tomb they have buried what took their supporters 24 years to build — the PML-N as Punjab’s most popular party….

The greatest portent of what had come before in the shape of the PDM government and what was to follow on the economic front arrived in the last days of September in the shape of an absconding accused, riding on the prime minister’s plane back from London….

Freed of chronic back pain, Ishaq Dar set foot in the country and brought with him his thick threats and thin skin. Among his luggage was also what threatens to be the final nail in Pakistan’s elite capture economic coffin — the nail that Dar uses to peg the dollar to an artificial position of weakness vis-à-vis the rupee. The same judicial system that had ordered the auctioning of Dar’s family home a few years ago due to his absconding now suspended his arrest warrants, and Dar was a senator again after taking a several years’ delayed oath. The next day, he was finance minister again….

Dar last left in 2016 after decimating exports; he is currently swimming through December 2022 after destroying everything, including the IMF talks that had so painstakingly been brought back on track after Imran petrol bombed them….

The middle of November was filled with the highest stress the country has seen in the past four years, because the chief was going and the PML-N wanted to feel like they were in charge for the day and appoint the next chief. Because they have made such fantastic appointments to the post in the past….

If journalists who cover the Pindi beat are to be believed, there were several cooks trying to get at the pot. In the end, the Sharifs got what they wanted — the only man in the list who they knew, or at least believed, had cause to dislike Imran Khan due to an unceremonious ouster as DG ISI during the former premier’s tenure….

On the day the names for the new chief were finally going to go to the PM House, after they had been repeatedly asked for over the prior weeks, the news of Gen Bajwa and his family’s Rs12 billion worth of assets’ accumulation broke….

The biggest protest came from Ishaq Dar, not about the alleged largesse bestowed upon these public servants being too obscene and out of touch with a poor nation’s reality, but about how the person who leaked these confidential documents would be brought to justice….

December saw the continued resurgence of the cancer that is the TTP, due in part once again to our state’s inexplicable desire to talk to them as brethren and cut peace deals with them as equals. The latest process, absent democracy, was spearheaded by the now retired Faiz Hameed, under Bajwa. Their wholesale promises of autonomy to the TTP are being repaid with jail breaks in Bannu cantonment and attacks resurfacing all across the north-west of the country….

As the sun sets on 2022, the political merry-go-round continues, with the Punjab Assembly once again playing the game of musical chairs.Imran Khan is yet again threatening to announce dates on which he will announce the date to dissolve the KP and Punjab assemblies….

Meanwhile, millions of Pakistanis whose lives were upended by the floods, are forced to spend the winter under the open skies. Also, sky high are the prices of wheat and all other essential commodities that they rely on….

The state of our education (and our future prospects) remains dismal as summed up by an Aga Khan University study, quoted by Miftah Ismail in Dawn: “Only 5pc of the kids in Class 8 could answer a simple arithmetic question and just 10pc could answer a basic science question.”….

The state of our economy, meanwhile, is summed up from a viral WhatsApp meme — the wedding halls and restaurants are full, burning electricity fuelled by furnace oil we can’t afford to buy; the rich are importing duty free electric Audis, whilst six weeks of import cover remains…..

It wouldn’t be too morbid to say it feels like the band is playing its best music on the deck of the Titanic.


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