Thursday October 28, 2021

Confusion galore

October 15, 2021

Statements, rumours, tweets, breaking news, YouTube vlogs – the past nine days have seen all manner of musings regarding one single appointment: that of the DG of the ISI. This one matter seems to have consumed the country’s media, politics, government, with daily – in fact hourly – updates regarding The Notification that just doesn’t seem to materialise. As a recap, we were told that a notification had been issued. Then came news that it had not. Then we were told that all was well, and a ‘new’ notification was to be issued, that the ‘one page’ we have heard so much about was intact and stainless, and that the PM was in the process of deciding on the individual to be appointed, and now we learn that there may be interviews before a final decision is made. It has now been a good nine days since this back and forth started – and till the writing of this editorial, there has been no decision yet. Indeed, the confusion just seems to be growing, what with every second person in and out of government putting forth their own spin on what is going on. At the moment, it seems this is something only the prime minister knows.

All this is going on as the country faces not just external challenges – the Afghanistan situation; a consistently belligerent neighbour to the east, FATF, IMF – but also a crippling economic crisis. We are told that the matter is more or less settled and that the final authority in this is the PM. On paper, that is all good. But it has taken the better part of two weeks, which is astounding given that this is essentially the matter of one appointment. The larger debate of course lingers: the eternal question of institutional imbalance, democratic norms, separation of powers and ceding of democratic space.

There are a few things that must be adhered to in a democracy: the supremacy of the people – in the form of an elected parliament; the right to information; and respect for political and any other kind of diversity. Unfortunately, this government very early on seemed to have chosen to govern via ordinance. That it now seems to be poring over the constitution may seem ironic, but as they say better late than never. However, this whole situation has become somewhat farcical due to the immense uncertainty and very obvious confusion even among those that should ideally be more in the know of what exactly is going on. In the meanwhile, the rumours just continue to grow. In all this, the opposition seems to be waiting it out as well – something that may be a small mercy considering the ammunition the past nine days have provided. Needless to say, this is probably not the number of days it should take to appoint one individual. With the markets constantly in flux over the past few days, the people of the country wonder whether their fates are in fact linked to the signing of a summary or notification.