Just when the general expectation was that PM Raja is homeward bound. Just when the rumour had it that PM Raja has reached the end of his line. Just when Zardari’s detractors thought that his bag of tricks was running out of tricks – the master politician plays a card that no one yet knows whether it’s a king, a jack, an ace or a bluff.
Prima facie, Zardari right now is playing for four things: to save his second PM, some more time, public sympathy and making the superior judiciary even more controversial. The U-turn at the SC gives him all four.
Intriguingly, the letter-writing burden has now been transferred from the PM to the law minister; the PPP, along the way, has picked up at least some additional public sympathy and the delay is certainly going to make the SC loose some face.
It’s now Naek versus the SC; the PM is off the hook. What a hand! Remember; Naek is the co-chairman’s artisan, not the SC’s. Naek is very good in writing letters; he is going to do it and the letter is going to read: My Lords, “please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.”
For Zardari, with 127 PPP MNAs, nominating a new PM means additional cost in terms of additional ministries for the remaining 45 MNAs – in order to reach the magic number of 172 – and hard cash for everyone onboard. For now – and before the caretakers kick in – Zardari gets to keep the PM from Gujar Khan.
The Justice Khosa led five-member bench has been in a web of its own. At a personal level, he is in the race for the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and thus would not want to have ‘killing of a PM’ label on his resume. At a collective level, the Supreme Court could not do without a face saver.
And when you are the Supreme Court of Pakistan you need to save all your faces – the autonomy face, the fellowship face and the competence face. The Supreme Court needs a face saver that enables it to claim that the Supreme Court is independent (the autonomy face), and that it is cooperative (the fellowship face) and also that it is intelligent (the competence face).
Zardari and Nawaz are in a state referred to as ‘Nash equilibrium’. This is a state characterised by three things: ‘sham political heat; no player has an incentive to deviate from his chosen strategy; and no incremental benefit for any party from changing actions’.
Zardari thinks that he can buy the next election. Nawaz thinks that he can win the next election. Nawaz and Dar seem to think that if they alienate Zardari, the GHQ will move in. But, neither Zardari nor Nawaz – overwhelmed by their own power games – are doing a thing to keep Pakistan from tipping off the cliff.
Letter writing is good and I was once advised that writing “is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” To be certain, there is a large chunk of Pakistanis who thought it was all about getting back our $60 million. Apparently not. Apparently at that level it’s all a game – a game all about U-turns and face-savers.
George Carlin, winner of five Grammy Awards, said, “Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org