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The Depth of Despair

by Newsweek Pakistan

Asif Hassan—AFP

Twilight of the ungovernable state

As protesting lawyers in Multan ransacked a new Judicial Complex readied for them inside the divisional court, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq appeared on TV fearing that Parliament would not be able to complete its term. Looking forlorn, he said: “I feel something is about to happen… things are drastically different from 2002 and 2008.” He was clearly referring to a kind of “takeover” of the elected government through political maneuvering by “the powers that be.”

It is clear from Sadiq’s words that he has been shaken by developments following last year’s Dawn leak affair. His prime minister is out, facing multiple cases of corruption before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and shuttling between his hospitalized wife in Landon and Islamabad. If there was hope that his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), would survive as a rump led by his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, it has been smashed by the Barelvi uprising that threatens to become the largest anti-government demonstration in Pakistan’s history. A case pending against Shahbaz Sharif for the violent handling of a Barelvi crowd in Lahore in 2014 threatens to unseat him, and expose him to corruption charges together with his elder brother. The goose of the PMLN is likely finally cooked and Speaker Sadiq’s presentiment clearly signals it.

The economy is likewise expressing its verdict through the steep fall of the rupee in the open market, foreign withdrawals from the national stock exchange, and big last-resort investor China showing signs of impatience with projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan, ever unstable because of its ideology and nationalism, is facing an Armageddon that it may not have faced in the past: a giant dharna led by the Barelvis under Allama Tahirul Qadri, strengthened by the custodians of the saintly shrines and their ready-to-die disciples, supplemented by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), by the PPP as the second largest party in Parliament, and myriad other small but intensely aggressive organizations with their ear cocked for signals from the deep state. This could be the dammerung (twilight) of the ungovernable state that many Pakistan-watchers have been predicting.

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