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A season of discontent

In almost one year since the removal of the Imran Khan government through a much-confessed conspiracy, involving both internal and external actors, the country has been subjected to a spate of unprecedented crises in the administrative, economic, security, and multiple allied domains. While the expectations attached with a controversy-riddled change of government have been effectively dashed, the future wears an even gloomier look than the past.

The country is enmeshed in an unmitigated chaos which is understandable as over a dozen parties have combined to put together a wobbly concoction headed by a bunch of criminally complicit individuals who have now had their cases thrown out of NAB and the courts.

The very fact that such people were inducted in the first place would forever remain an ugly stigma on the face of the state and its people. It still baffles why, if at all, it became necessary to pick these crooks from among a population of over 220 million to be handed the reins of power so that they could proceed to obliterate the difference between right and wrong, between legal and illegal and between licit and illicit. They have moved quickly to raze to the ground the edifice of the state that stands on pillars rooted in the dictates of the constitution and the law. None of that is visible any longer. Instead, the country has been reduced to an unmanageable landscape which breeds crime and criminals and provides them privileged protection denied to ordinary citizens.

The manner whereby the affairs of the state have ground to a halt is symptomatic of the utter desperation which triggered the removal of the Khan government. I have often mentioned the constituent factors which necessitated the change which broadly encompassed the direction that the government was taking to assert the state’s independence in taking decisions that suited it and its people irrespective of the external pressures and internal machinations which desired otherwise.

The schism spilled into the public domain when, at the Islamabad Security Dialogue, the prime minister advocated the need to reach across to countries of the region, including Russia. Western legitimization of Zia’s martial law brought us the war with the former Soviet Union and Musharraf’s takeover plunged the country into the war on terror. On top of that, Pakistan was subjected to unremitting pressure to do more including limiting its relations with its tried and tested friend China. This led to the initiation of steps which followed in quick succession till the removal of the Khan government and planting Pakistan back in the lap of the US to serve its strategic parameters.

An equally disconcerting aspect accompanying these developments has been the absolute absence of intellectual integrity among the influential sections of society to develop an objective and non-partisan appraisal regarding the state and its options to exercise. The silence of the media stalwarts who were in the forefront of efforts demanding dismantling of the Khan government because it had been ‘brought in’ has been deafening.

In fact, they have become the most ardent supporters of the incumbent concoction which has been solely a product of intervention and even sustains itself with such continuing support. Obviously, it is not principles which dictated their position. It is profit that did it. This duplicitous approach has cast a lingering shadow on the moral fibre and integrity of those who have spearheaded this and similar other efforts in the past. A nation bereft of its intellectual mass is a nation denuded of substance and direction. It becomes a crowd that is perpetually adrift turbulent currents.

Almost a year after the flawed change, the country totters on the brink of default with no clear direction to follow to avert the disaster. In the meanwhile, and despite the draconian use of the state machinery and registering close to a hundred grossly fictitious cases against Khan, his popularity graph has continued to surge.

Today, he is decidedly the most acclaimed leader of the country. He sacrificed his own governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to force elections and come back with a decisive people’s mandate – an audacious decision which the traditional power-hungry politicians cannot even think of. Yet, instead of facing him at the hustings, and despite the apex court’s adjudication in the matter, the incumbent potpourri of sordid interests is employing every wicked stratagem to subvert the constitutional path of holding elections within ninety days of the dissolution of an assembly.

What we are witnessing in the country is the grossest travesty of moral fibre on the one hand and the constitutional and legal framework on the other. The unprovoked and inhuman brutalization of the PTI rally in Lahore, marking the commencement of Punjab Assembly elections campaign, is symptomatic of a criminal and fascist mindset which is bent on causing mayhem to escape humiliation at the hustings.

While some chosen leaders have been granted a license to hurl invective with abandon at politicians and institutions alike with no fear of being questioned for their unsubstantiated accusations, others are not even allowed to conduct political activities which are duly allowed by the constitution and the law. This is neither justice nor is this indicative of even a modicum of desire to nurture a value-based paradigm where leaders would be judged on the scale of their standing, stature and performance rather than perpetration of crimes during their tenures in power – crimes which were condoned through grant of NROs by military dictators, thus providing them with rationale to continue their acts of pillage and plunder.

Elections are the internationally recognized barometer of gauging the right of a leader to rule. But elections pose a challenge which the incumbent conglomerate remains unwilling to face as these could turn into their Waterloo. Despite the Supreme Court adjudication to abide by the constitutional requirement of holding elections within the stipulated period of ninety days to the dissolved provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP, these leaders persist in sowing seeds of uncertainty in a desperate attempt to evade the test.

In this season of discontent, Pakistan faces existential challenges. Its future remains inextricably linked with following the electoral path in conformity with the constitutional provisions. Even the slightest deviation may spell disaster. Only an elected government, with a decisive mandate from the people, can lift the gloom cast upon the country through myriad venal acts of crime and complicity. Nothing less will do.

Raoof Hasan, "A season of discontent," The News. 2023-03-10.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political activities , Dictators , Politicians , Supreme court , Imran Khan , Gen Musharraf , Pakistan , NRO , NAB