Amidst the flurry of activities focused on 2011, a few unpleasant truths grow clearer by the day. These truths encompass the unready, the uncompromising, and the increasingly unsettled.
First, the combined opposition cum partnership, in whatever form finalized, will be hard pressed to unseat the PPP. Narrow the losing margin, highly likely; overturn the status quo, almost definitely no. Second, the final combination-to-be is already too late with preparatory activities which should have started in 2006, if not earlier, daily loses ground, and races against the clock. Third, it has to be discomforting to some that the only electable presidential candidates are of a single ethnicity, even the caretaker ones.
In the meantime, the challengers’ work is made more difficult by the PPP’s continual references to history, to an earlier coalition, and to a nervous scorn directed at the unfolding political partnerships. This scorn is more of an artful cover calling for a straight race based contest between the main contenders, a contest that has one predetermined winner. In other words: “they couldn’t beat us one on one before, so now they want to repeat the old coalition way trickery, and you all should remember what that meant, and know what you now have to do to prevent a recurrence.” In sum, it seems that the ruling party will win the day and with it another five years. This is where things start to get unsettled, even uncontrollable.
Recognizing this formidable reality, a large segment of the population of this country wonders if it will ever obtain a seat at the table of deliberation. How it could share in, and influence, the outcome of decisions relating to its destiny. How it could gain a sense of participation in, and ownership of, its future.
Surely, it does not require any considerable intellect to appreciate that this state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely.
To begin with, the situation on the ground and in the streets cannot and will not hold. For a certainty, it will not hold for another five years come next year. The body language, attitudes, and non verbal cues are all in plain sight; hearts are worn on sleeves. And all reflect a simmering hostility. To be absolutely clear, there is no stomach for five more years of PPP rule. At least not along the lines practiced for the past eighteen years. It cannot be taken anymore; and this is not just by traditional non supporters of the government, for there is a silent but outraged bloc of seriously disenchanted others, too. In the hymn of Martin Luther King, there is the “fierce urgency of now.”
Given these seething undercurrents, this steamy overhang, what has been done to convey to the PPP that there is a grave problem that demands urgent action?
Every opportunity has been grasped to tell party and government that it is not reaching the people; that people are not listening; that they are very angry. Time and again, the sober and conscientious have pointed to a brooding, sullen mass of the suffering and disconnected; a critical mass consisting overwhelmingly of this distressed and distrustful segment that feels itself subjugated in so many ways. Further, the new charm offensive called cabinet outreach, which is really poorly disguised election campaigning, only adds to the roiling resentments of those compelled to accept political charity.
This commonsense intelligence, this measurable and readable temperature of the internal turmoil of a people has been expressed by those willing to acknowledge the existence of suppressed discontent.
It is primarily through writings, in isolated expressions in the street, and through backchannel overtures and appeals. This has been done bluntly and subtly; quietly and publicly; and always through ways and means that brook no misunderstanding. The PPP is aware of this storm already gathered, yet it remains stubborn in its thinking: the numbers favour; this is the way; there will be no other way. It will neither listen nor accommodate nor move.
It manifests the same patronizing way with the opposition –whether taken as a whole, or sectioned into whatever is the flavour of the times.
The PPP prefers to humiliate, divide, and undermine opposition and followers through a combination of stage management, unconvincing antics, word games, and games in general. From all accounts, such a strategy has just about run its course.
On the other hand, the opposition is well aware of its considerable assets. It has been patient-many say too much so. It has been, for the most part, restrained, even as the clamour for a more aggressive tact grows more strident. Now that restraint is under unbearable stress from without and below. The accommodative cannot hold for much longer; it certainly will not hold for another five years. It dissolves at the mere prospect of another five years of relegation to the fringes of momentary benevolence and having no say in the collective destiny.
The PPP knows of this, too. Still it refuses to heed the alarms of the concerned. There is only the political fundamentalism that refuses to break with the past; and that rejects the consideration of even minimal and incremental accommodation. It simply refuses to open the door, to welcome to the table to chart a new pathway for those locked out.
No, the party will not make space for a place in the halls of governance; it is well pleased with the existing dynamics. This is where all roads lead, and what current portents indicate. It is to a pass long delayed, and dodged many times in the past. Time, understanding, and placidity cannot hold much longer. Thus a crisis waits to happen. As the bard wrote in Julius Caesar, “Mischief thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt.”