You can’t look away – Newspaper – DAWN.COM –

THE current state of Punjab has been described in these pages as a circus, but I strongly disagree. Such a comparison is uncalled for — and disrespectful. To circuses. At least they approach their craft with some degree of expertise.

Circuses also have the decency to call it a day and go home when the show has run its course. They don’t continue jumping through hoops, repeating the same acts, and setting things on fire long after the audience has gotten over it all.

Our story, on the other hand, involves months of twists and turns, fistfights in parliament, the en masse arson of constitutional norms, and (in an artistic metaphor for our love of democracy) the raining down of various bathroom accessories on the Speaker’s podium.

All of this has been punctuated with momentary pauses to refer to the courts, like petulant schoolchildren might shout out to a teacher as they catch their breath before the next brawl. The finale (so it seems) was this weekend’s CM election, wherein Deputy Speaker Mazari rejected the votes of 10 MPAs based on a letter by their ‘party head’ directing them to vote differently.

Are we supposed to pretend it’s normal?

Mr Mazari did so by citing a recent judgement that declared that any votes cast in contradiction to Article 63-A(1)(b) of the Constitution could not be counted. However, the text of this article refers to the “direction issued by the parliamentary party”, not that of the ‘party head’. It went back to the court to decide which interpretation prevails.

You’d be right to feel a bit of déjà-vu — it’s barely been three months since the last time we saw a deputy Speaker rejecting votes to ensure a desirable outcome for his party, allegedly at the expense of a constitutional duty. There are countless analyses taking a deep dive into the legality, or lack thereof, in both; even more about what the courts ought to do or should have done. This column isn’t one of them.

See, I’m equally interested in the philosophy at the heart of these derelictions. Ideally, the workings of parliaments and courts would be a mundane affair, devoid of the drama and theatrics that now make up the norm. Why is it then that even after the public cast their votes, they can be rubbished at the last minute with a wacky interpretation of the law, a shady drawing-room deal, and a last-minute ‘surprise’?

Here’s one hypothesis: a vampiric thirst for power strong enough to outweigh any regard for one’s own country. Consider the more recent case; Punjab is a province of over 110 million people. Those wrestling for the spot at its throne have stomped on the will of a population larger than that of the UK, Australia and Switzerland combined, condemning them to near fatal levels of instability.

What’s interesting is that far from being condemned, the opposing teams behind this instability are cheered on by their supporters for being so clever. This begs the question: are we supposed to pretend that’s normal? In her latest novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, Irish author Sally Rooney grapples with the trappings of public attention:

“People who intentionally become famous — I mean people who, after a little taste of fame, want more and more of it — are, and I honestly believe this, deeply psychologically ill. The fact that we are exposed to …….



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