I held a plastic red rose and tried to pull off a typical lover’s guesswork where the petals are plucked to determine “if she will say yes, or if she will say no”. However, I wasn’t doing it for some ‘Rahul’ in my life but for the decision of the Pakistan Supreme Court as the honourable judges once again took charge of “oh God, not again”. The country's politics is in dire need of “this is your internal matter, please don’t drag us into it”.
At this point, even politicians are desperate for some privacy when it comes to power-sharing. But the stakeholders, or what you call the ‘establishment’, are like that one father figure who gets to decide the fate of everyone in a patriarchal extended family. From marriages to who will get what size of the meat, the father-like figure, who, by the way, in most cases, is no one’s father, gets to take the final call.
PML-Q's Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who is backed by the PTI, took oath as the chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab on Wednesday, 27 July, hours after the Supreme Court struck down the deputy speaker's ruling.
The verdict delivered a big blow to the Nawaz Sharif-led coalition government.
This was the same designated Supreme Court that has given rulings on every decision regarding the PTI – and the rulings have always been in favour of the party.
I am going to spend the next few months living vicariously through the SC judges' vacations, where they sit on a beachside singing, “Nothing’s gonna change my love for you.”
Dear reader, here I venture into another political Netflix series based on Pakistan in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, according to which Punjab, the biggest province of Pakistan, has got a new Chief Minister who doesn’t belong to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) but was PTI’s candidate. The honourable judges of the Supreme Court finally understood what they meant by the law they introduced in May 2022, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They had one job and they finally did it. Let me take you to the world of “Oh, come on! Not again” of Pakistani politics and events that led to the election of Punjab’s new Chief Minister.
Pakistan's Grand Existential Crisis
“Now what?” were my first words on the morning of 10 April 2022 after Imran Khan was ousted from the premiership through the vote of no-confidence. After a week of “Imran not going anywhere” to “Imran went with the diary from the Prime Minister's house”, Pakistan witnessed a reality show that no one asked for other than the elite political leadership of the country, which I assume was bored.
The regime change amid a dwindling economy seemed a bit odd, but dear lord, we, the entertainment-starved nation, were excited. Imagine the nation staying up till 2 am to ensure that the sitting premier is gone, only to say “now what” the very next morning. At this point, I would like to thank Imran Khan for giving us not only the cricket world cup trophy but also some relief by not being our Prime Minister.
But the question remained: now what? The new government took the reins of a country that was going through an existential crisis and could have asked for annual leave.
While the new government tried to fix things under a not-very-flattering situation, the country was like, “Why am I?”
The new Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, from the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N), reeling under the weight of serious economic challenges, was like “Who am I”?
And all other stakeholders who vehemently campaigned against the now-sitting government in the previous tenure had just one expectation from the government: “Love me like you do, love me like you do”.
Punjab's Crown Prince 'Buzzy Boy'
In a grand scheme of Imran Khan's “nothing will change my love for you” for the establishment, the then-Chief Minister of Punjab, Usman Buzdar, was asked to resign. If I ever grew up, which I refuse to anytime soon, I would like to be Buzdar, commonly known as Buzzy Boy. He was a phenomenon. He was ruling Pakistan’s biggest province without knowing that he was ruling the biggest province. Punjab was the province, and Buzzy was the prince. His quiet and shy personality didn’t give us the privilege of listening to his voice. We assumed what he sounded like and now he lives in our memory forever.
His performance was so exemplary that we hardly saw anything new happening in Punjab. There was nothing new to witness. Nothing was going on. It was quiet and peaceful and everything Punjab had was rotting in peace. To remove such a guy from his position in the most powerful province of the country was unfair, to say the least.
With Imran and then Buzzy Boy going, Punjab became the centre of attention as it needed a new Chief Minister. Before I forget to tell my readers about the mysterious case of where Imran Khan was all this time: he was building a narrative that made no sense, just like his tenure. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan launched himself in a relentless 'post-mujhe-nikaal dia' rant (I have been removed), claiming that foreign players were involved in his removal. He started by blaming America.
He often dragged India into it. At one point, there was Israel. I seriously expected him to blame Manchester City for being responsible, but Imran Khan then went after his arch rivals, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari, the two political figures you will never stop seeing in Pakistani mainstream politics.
While Imran Khan built his narrative through the impressive use of social media platforms, including podcasts, Facebook lives, and sometimes TV addresses, he made sure he didn’t lose connection with his support base.
How Hamza the Hen-Man Lost
Back to Punjab. The very “loyal” electable candidates of the PTI, who were part of the Punjab assembly, chose to leave the PTI and defected. It is self-explanatory how nobody wants to be on the sinking ship, other than the orchestra that stayed on titanic while the ship was sinking. The defected candidates joined hands with the much-loved (for no reason) Hamza Shehbaz of the PMLN, son of the current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
In the family of big cats, or, as they claim, through their election symbol, Hamza Shehbaz is the only exception as he is the ‘Hen-Man’. There is a link between the poultry farm and him, which is a story for another time. The 25 defected candidates of the PTI voted for Hamza Shehbaz in the chief ministerial elections of Punjab, which gave Hamza a clear majority in the assembly.
Hamza’s appointment as the Chief Minister of Punjab was no surprise. However, the surprise came when unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court of Pakistan de-seated the 25 defected candidates, making 'Hamza the Hen-Man' lose the majority in the assembly. De-seating means byelections on the vacant seats. I remember calling 20 people to confirm whether we still had a Chief Minister, not that it mattered since Hamza was overshadowed by his father Shehbaz Sharif, who treats Punjab – and particularly Lahore – as his crown jewel and would give up American presidentship just to control Punjab administratively.
While the PMLN, the PTI, and some other irrelevant parties prepared for the byelections and rallied across cities, Imran Khan kept pushing his 'narrative'.
He went through a drastic transition from a man wearing a shalwar qameez to a man wearing red, green, yellow, and orange t-shirts with either pyjamas or casual pants. He sat with tiktokers, social media influencers, popular podcasters, and TV/film celebrities.
His relentless narrative was further supported by hyperinflation in the country as the dollar hit a record high. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) kept negotiating with Pakistan, just like a desi family says its goodbyes at the door and yet keeps chatting. I still believe I am oversimplifying the situation of the country since I am not an economist, but as a layman, I can say that Pakistan looked like an unmade bed. The bed was there. We slept on it. But the bedsheet was crumpled and we were slowly losing the pillows.
Nothing Surprises Us Anymore
To say that people were angry is an understatement. To say that the PMLN was taking some tough decisions is also an understatement. To say that we, the meme-makers and content creators, were bored, however, is not an understatement. The hangover of the no-confidence vote was harsh. We craved something new. And who else could give us something new and ridiculous at the same time? Imran Khan, of course.
Byelections took place and it was a resounding victory for the PTI in Punjab. Without exaggeration, I received 30 messages on WhatsApp saying “WHAT”, and I thought, “You’re not a Pakistani if things still surprise you."
The resounding victory, however, became a resounding ‘what-on-earth’ as once again, Punjab waited to appoint the Chief Minister. It was a numbers game that I will not indulge in, but all you need to know is that even though the PTI won the majority of seats in byelections, its Chief Minister candidate, Pervaiz Illahi, was from another party.
The Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q), is a party that would side even with Manchester United if it comes to having some power. Formerly known as best friends of dictator Musharaf, PML-Q has a history not worth discussing. In short, the numbers from the PML-Q helped the PTI so the candidate was from the former.
It is pertinent to mention here that the candidate of the PTI has a cousin, Chauhdry Shujaat, who is the party leader. When things seemed pretty much in favour of the PTI, Asif Ali Zardari entered the 'group chat' and made himself the admin of the “HA HA HA” WhatsApp group. It was a seven-hour-long meeting between Zardari and Shujaat on the Lazy Boy chairs. I’m not sure what happened in that meeting, but Shujaat directed his candidates not to vote for Imran Khan. When this news broke, I aged 178 years because I was exhausted and was part of the coverage – all I needed was my bed or that Lazy Boy chairs.
SC & Imran: A Love Story for the Ages
Law says that only the party parliamentary committee can decide who the candidates can vote for, not the party head. However, back in May, the Supreme Court had given a ruling that stated that votes against the directions of the party’s head couldn’t be counted. This law was criticised by many and misunderstood by even more people. The law failed to clarify whether the directions of the party head are equivalent to the directions of the party itself.
This mockery of law and the confusion that followed once again made Hamza Shehbaz the undisputed king of Punjab for almost 36 hours, till the Supreme Court struck down the ruling and declared Pervaiz Illahi the Chief Minister of Punjab.
Not to forget, this was the same designated Supreme Court that has given rulings on every decision regarding the PTI – and the rulings have always been in favour of the party. I need a man who would love me like this honourable bench loves PTI.
As the PTI and the PML-N indulge in meaningless political statements, the honourable judges of the Supreme Court are going on a vacation as per their usual schedule. I really think they deserve a much-needed break and some beauty sleep after amending, distorting, confusing and mending the law. I am going to spend the next few months living vicariously through their vacations, where they sit on a beachside singing, “Nothing’s gonna change my love for you, you oughta know by now how much I love you.”
(The author is a columnist and media professional. She tweets at @mahobili. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)