The sit-in

Capital suggestion

To be certain, the PTI’s sit-ins have absolutely nothing to do with the blocking of Nato supply because sit-ins are not required to block NATO supply routes (all that is required is a police constable to do the job). To be sure, the PTI’s sit-ins have absolutely nothing to do with drone attacks. History is witness that in 2011 we had shut down the supply routes for seven months but there were a total of 73 drone attacks that year – th 2nd highest on record.

What then is the circus about? In the simplest of terms it is downright dirty politics. It is an attempt to maintain or build a vote bank by exploiting voter sentiments. In more complex political terminology it is called ‘constituency control’. In political history this is referred to as the ‘practice of creating and maintaining vote-banks through divisive policies encouraging voters to vote on the basis’ of negative sentiments rather than community or national interests. Or the Pakistani coinage, ‘ghairat politics’.

Generally, there are two types of politics: politics of delivery and politics of deception. Generally, politicians who fail to deliver then adopt politics of deception (in order to maintain their vote bank).

The PTI’s election manifesto had 10,160 words. The word ‘corruption’ appears 7 times, ‘law’ 31 times, ‘reform’ 19 times and ‘accountability’ 9 times. There was also a specific pledge to de-weaponise. On February 24, the PTI organised a seminar titled ‘Energy: From crisis to solutions’. Speaking on the occasion, the PTI chairman committed to “end corruption in 19 days and terrorism in 90 days.”

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s real issues are a deteriorating law and order situation, a battered infrastructure, worsening unemployment and a failing social services delivery mechanism. Is there any link between the supply route and any of these real issues?

Has there been a cost-benefit analysis of the sit-ins? For the record, the GLOC Agreement (Ground Lines of Communication) earns Pakistan $1,500 per container for around a million dollars a day; Coalition Support Funds are about $3 million a day and Kerry-Lugar funds are $4 million a day. That’s a total of Rs1 billion a day every day of the year.

Plus, our exports to the EU stand at $6 billion a year. Plus, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Rs118 billion developmental budget has a Rs35 billion grant component from Nato countries. Plus, $500 million from USAID makes Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the largest of the four provincial recipients. Then there’s Security Council’s Resolution 1386 under which Pakistan is under international obligations to provide logistic support.

The PTI’s circus is going to divert Pak-Afghan transit trade to Iran’s Port of Chahbhar. The PTI’s circus has strategic losses, credibility losses and financial losses. The PTI’s sit-ins are all about maintaining a vote bank – maintenance at the cost of national interests. The PTI’s sit-ins are all about cheap politics. The PTI’s sit-ins are all about petty politics – party interests at the risk of international isolation.

The PTI may complain that the media turns its sit-ins into a circus. As a matter of fact, the circus was already there; the media is merely demonstrating that the performers are bent upon making Pakistan a laughing stock around the world.