They smirk and shrug it off as a surgical strike albeit a la South Asian style. Others plagued by slight brooding disposition pause and menacingly call it a drone strike. But these mismatched, aging structures of the federal capital laugh out loud when told that they are the likely target of this assault. Let them come, they continue always threatening to burst into giggles. Let them come. They know nothing of the capital, nor of the law of unintended consequences.
But what unintended consequences? I know I am testing their patience now. Long pause. And then as if speaking to a very dim child. Condescending tone quite deliberate: “Every system needs to work within a set of expected parameters. When any doesn’t, it heats up, shuts down, reboots or resets”. I am with them so far. So what are these expected parameters? “Raison d’etre. Purpose of anyone’s being”. Could you elaborate further? Filthy looks again. “Like the purpose of the MQM was to protect the rights of non-Sindhi speaking population of Sindh and not to harass it. Of People’s Party to restore system to the democratic presets whenever dictatorial regimes made a dog’s breakfast of things and not to plunge headlong into corrupt practices or to continue army baiting. The purpose of PML-N was to ensure that the PPP didn’t walk away with everything. And of PTI’s recent resurgence… Oh boy… to ensure that a Nawaz Sharif returning from exile didn’t wage war on the state or its institutions”.
I desperately want to ask them who decides these parameters but think better of it. The devastating simplicity of their wisdom is hiding in plain sight. When some part of the system heats up, they hang back, let the autocorrect kick in and system resets to acceptable parameters. The day when Altaf’s top exploded, system was reset. When Asif Zardari threatened to knock the bricks of the system down, well, the same. Nawaz Sharif, however, bellied logic and expectations. The man didn’t wage any war. He even showed readiness to work with the system. But here and there wrinkles were found. Nothing that a good old refresh could not solve. The tail was wagging the dog. Charter of democracy becoming a liability. A media group or two becoming larger than life. And there was a failure to see Modi for what he was. Trust the inherent chaos to heat things up. Then be the shelter against the fear of total breakdown. Done and done. Parameters restored.
I can see I am regaining some respect. Turns out I am not quite the numskull they take me for. I press on. So, what is the wisdom behind the unfolding story and what happens next? At once a look of contempt and a mean smile. “We never had anything to do with it. The timing is inopportune. Counterproductive when we have New Delhi by short and curlies”. So why let it come so far? “1) We don’t have means to stop it. Not so early. Not when there is nothing to stop but words; 2) Not if the law of unintended consequences for the would-be marauders still holds.”
I am at sea again. First part is understandable. Second isn’t. Does it mean Islamabad again is operating beyond the acceptable parameters? Is the ruling party becoming arrogant again? “Not really. Well, with this government you can be sure arrogance comes and goes. This is how Punjabi politics works. O’ thaneydara, et al. If the recent spell is corrected, that is an added advantage. No, there is only one head is bloated now. Reset is bound happen there.”
Swollen head? Whose? “The one leading the marauders, who else”, comes the indifferent reply. This is too much for my weak constitution. But what of the lockdown, the protests, blood on the streets? “Nothing of the sort. Our walls cannot be scaled. This is our turf. Our jurisdiction. No blood, no lockdown. Only perceptions. That too ill founded”. But, but… (I can now see I have begun to annoy them). “No harm will come to this city, this capital. But we cannot guarantee your personal safety.” Sheepishly I try to break the connection. As I do so, their parting shot sinks in. “Government can withstand external pressures. It should seek out sources of pressures within”. What? “Two references. Model Town and Cyril’s story. Casus belli.”
Disclaimer: The story above is purely a work of fiction. You know it well that building cannot speak and I am not mad.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2016.