No, the rumour that Ch Nisar Ali has nominated the famous comic character, Mr Bean, for caretaker PM, in response to Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s letter which began the consultation process, is completely untrue, not least because Mr Bean, for all the affection Ch Nisar has for him, is a British citizen. And since caretaker PMs seem to get more thought and effort put into their choice than Prime Ministers, his being British probably rules him out. The actor who plays Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson, wouldn’t mind. After all, he is interested in politics, as those who remember his performance as Blackadder in the TV series of that name will testify. “If Raja Pervaiz Ashraf can become PM, why can’t Bean be a caretaker?” Perhaps because the country can only bear one joke in its lifetime, not joke after joke. Personally, I don’t think it was a joke. Not Mr Bean, Raja Pervaiz.
The whole democratic world has elections conducted with the incumbent government remaining in office. Bangladesh has a caretaker government consisting of retired judges. Pakistan has a caretaker government picked by the last government and the opposition. The rest of South Asia should follow suit.
But it seems that Bangladesh has led the region again, by sentencing a Jamaat leader to hang for war crimes committed during the 1971 War. It is interesting that the war crimes of 41 years ago are being punished now. It is also interesting that this allows the daughter of Sheikh Mujeeb to use these trials for political purposes. The trial has apparently allowed Sheikh Hasina Wajid to milk the 1971 War, for Pakistan a terrible memory, but for Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League a great nation-building memory, for benefit. It also helps that the person convicted belongs to a party which was opposed to the Awami League then, and now.
It should also be something of an embarrassment for a religious party to have one of its leaders convicted of a crime like rape. However, the trial was perceived as unfair. The defence offered was one of mistaken identity. In other words, someone else did the burning, the killing and the rape. Still, despite the rape conviction, 35 Jamaat protesters gave up their lives. Well, there’s a difference between the two countries. Over here, our protesters don’t get killed. They burn tires.
I wonder if any party in Pakistan would like to do down the Jamaat like that. I doubt it. Any party that gets into office is too busy seeking out perks of office to have time to do this. Of course, this might change if the Jamaat was to go from its present none to about a tenth of seats in the National Assembly. But I don’t know the excuse needed to go after them. Bangladesh has an advantage in having the 1971 War, even if it happened 42 years ago. Anyone the government wants to punish, it can throw in the can for war crimes. Us? We haven’t yet made the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report public. So we just throw people into the can, calling them ‘anti-state elements.’ Or cattle thieves. For years, the state has been rooting out opponents, but the police insists on charging them with cattle theft. Because it’s easier to investigate. Now imagine Syed Munawar Hassan trying to beat a cattle theft charge.
Karachi, as always, is leading the country. After the Shahzeb Khan murder, there has been a girl kidnapped from a shopping mall. For some reason, that hasn’t caught the imagination of civil society as strongly, as if it is now tired, or as if it has learnt that its protests will not do anyone any good.
These days, everything is about the coming elections. All the parties are launching their campaigns for them. True, while those out of office have been making promises, like the PTI, but those in power are doing things. The PML(N) has launched its schemes, like the Ujala scheme, of giving solar power kits to bright students. I hope that it doesn’t mean that the streetlights are being turned off; you know, the streetlights under which students always study if they want to make anything of themselves. Of course, the PML(N) has not only launched that scheme (as well as the laptop scheme and the Metro Bus, but has also agreed with Transparency International to review the schemes. But the real clever thing is what the central government managed, which was first to raise petrol prices, and then bring them down. That leaves them to be raised by the caretaker government.