The earliest memory of television I have is Pakistan winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup. I don’t recall what happened on TV afterwards or how things got there, but I vaguely remember Nawaz Sharif’s sombre looking face on the television set in our living room a year later. Nawaz was prime minister. That’s all I was old enough to understand.
Then one day he wasn’t.
I was in grade three and apparently a new federal election was taking place. I recognised no one except Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz when they were on television or the newspaper. Who was my family voting for? I had no idea, but I knew they didn’t like Benazir. Neither did any of my friends in school.
But then she won.
I remember the Awami Markaz in Islamabad. Was that the first time I recall using an escalator? Probably. They said Benazir built it. I didn’t know, moreover I didn’t care. I just loved the magic stairs that didn’t make you walk. I recall her awarding Arjuna Ranatunga the 1996 World Cup trophy, dressed in green and white, the elegant prime minister of Pakistan.
Then one day she wasn’t.
Everyone seemed to be happy since they all said she was pure evil.
I was in grade six and another new election was taking place. Everyone was supposed to vote for good ol’ Nawaz. Pious, patriotic and pleasant. And everyone did. A few years down the road, he gave us the atomic bomb. Nawaz was a rock star.
Then one day he wasn’t.
The TVs stopped working, the phones stopped working. What happened?
It was 1999 and Pervez Musharraf was here.
This time, I was old enough to understand what happened. And nearly a decade of privatisation fondling, cable networking sprouting and Osama bin Laden chasing, he was gone.
It was 2008, Benazir was assassinated. Nawaz was back and Asif Ali Zardari was pacing through the corridors of power.
Strange and sad yet familiar.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was in power. Zardari was president. They remained in power and there was no abrupt end this time. There was nothing on TV that would confuse me.
It was 2013 and they completed their term. They begged. They stole. They were choked. They were beaten. They held on to the last straws of life, and they crawled through. Democracy was finally here, 66 years later.
So was Imran Khan the politician; breathing fire and galvanising thousands. Making sense? Questionable.
It was 2016 and this time Panama was here. Fast forward a few months, and the scenes are all too familiar. 2008 to 2013 was an anomaly. Or was it?
Nawaz is staring at a dismissal, voluntary or otherwise.
Sirajul Haq wants him out.
Facebook wants him out.
Twitter wants him out.
Instagram and Snapchat probably do too.
Does Nawaz’s playlist have The Clash’s ‘Should I stay or should I go’ on repeat?
Will a Nawaz dismissal do any good? Probably not.
Regardless of whether he decides to resign or not, Nawaz has been hit and he has been hit hard. For a country that always appears to be a sneeze away from bringing the walls of democracy down, Nawaz must be allowed to complete his term and then face the music when we go to polls in 2018 as scheduled. The wheels of democracy, no matter how flawed, must be allowed to roll. Reverting back to the musical chairs of the 90s will destroy the little progress that has been made since 2008. Megalomaniac Populism, for all its allure and charm, is not the answer right now. The bitter pill needs to be swallowed for the greater good.
More importantly, there will always be little kids on TV and iPhones who will look at these faces and wonder what happened and why it happened so fast, and that will be sad.