Soothsayers appearing on TV talkshows on New Year’s Eve claimed the stars did not portend elections for 2018, adding that Pakistan might not see its next polls until 2019, if at all. The same kind of dark prediction was mouthed by the bewigged oracle of Rawalpindi, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad. Reading between the lines: what is expected to happen in 2018 is more of what occurred in 2017.
Last year, the same predictors had claimed 2017 would be similar to 2016. A frustrated populace quickly forgot about China’s record investment of over $60 billion into Pakistan and spent the year cursing the PMLN government—even after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was kicked out of office. Political parties that had been similarly treated in the past got together to ensure the PMLN’s sufferings would not waiver, with many likely hoping the party would fragment as a mode of survival. All Pakistan’s 70 years have been like that. Nationalism drags it through the mud if ideology doesn’t.
The ‘dharna’ mode of protest extended into 2017 in a more brutal form with heretofore tame Barelvis thrashing the police and making the government look like nose-picking idiots. The state of Pakistan, a victim of terrorism mostly blamed on India, was prostrated for multiple takers such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda to come and pluck it as a trophy resembling Syria. All the institutions of the state are expected to be at war with one another: the Army, the Parliament, the judiciary and the executive.
The only viable institution left seems to be the proxy warriors now preying on Pakistan after being driven out of Afghanistan and Kashmir. Overawed by his power, the state let Jamaatud Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed out of house-arrest, only to have him joining the Palestinian envoy in Rawalpindi along with the notorious Difa-e-Pakistan Council to condemn President Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Not knowing that Pakistan’s patrons, the Arabs, are now aligned with Israel, Saeed thought he would boost Pakistan’s clout in the Middle East. But it didn’t: the West Bank withdrew its envoy from Islamabad. More of Saeed in 2018 will induce more nausea in the sick state in 2018.